The status of women in Pakistan is the subject of human rights groups. Over the years the rights of women have slowly been eroded. The down slide was accelerated by the Hudood ordinance passed by President Zia Ul Haq about 2 decades back. This law took away the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Penal code for some crimes against women and replaced it by the Sharia (the Islamic system of justice).
Over the last 2 decades the lot of the woman in Pakistan has deteriorated and one aspect of their precarious life is the acid attacks on women. Normally the perpetuators of these crimes use sulphuric or hydrochloric acid, which is easily available and the aim is to maim the woman for life. One such case has hogged the lime light recently. On 25thMarch 2012, a 33 year old Pakistani woman Fakhra Younnus committed suicide in Rome by jumping from her apartment. She had been the victim of an acid attack 12 years back.
At that time Fakhra had been attacked by her ex-husband Bilal Khar who had poured acid over her body and face in the presence of her son. She battled for life as doctors tried to save her. Bilal Khar is the son of the ex governor of Punjab Ghulam Mustapha Khar. He belongs to a powerful political lobby and is rich. He had made use of his connections to exert pressure on the court, which led to his acquittal. One aspect of the case that attracted attention was the fact the step mother of Bilal, Tehimina Durrani and former wife of the Punjab Governor sided with Fakhra. That raised quite a few eyebrows.
Last year the Pakistan government amended the Pakistan penal code with a new law that criminalized acid attacks and on conviction an attacker would serve a minimum of 14 years in Jail. This law is however only on paper and so far not a single conviction has resulted under this act. Gender inequality in Pakistan is not likely to go away soon. Fakhra’s case is not an isolated one. The Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization in Pakistan has reported that 8500 acid attacks on women took place in 2011. The Aurat Foundation was established in 1986 and is presently headed by Need Mirza, who is the chief Operating Officer (COO). The figures are on the lower side as the Group had no access to any data except the official reports. Thousands of cases in the villages go unreported.