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The Editor


PO Box 1925




About four women a day are murdered in 'stove bursts' in Pakistan, reports CHRISTINA LAMB


Hundreds of Pakistani women are being burnt to death every year by their husbands or in-laws in an upsurge of so-called "stove-burst" attacks.


"It's the easiest way for a husband to get rid of a wife he no longer wants." Said Shahnaz Bukhari, the head of the Progressive Women's Association, an organization striving to help survivors and alert the public.


"There are no gunshots, no finger-prints.     All the husband has to say is that the wife was cooking in the kitchen when the edge of her dupatta (scarf) fell in the stove and caught fire."


Figures compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan show that the practice is increasing. This may be due in part to the country's economic woes. Men who might previously have taken a second wife now kill the first because they cannot afford to maintain both.


At least four women are said to be murdered everyday by husbands or in-laws dousing them with paraffin.  In Rawalpindi, about 40 women are admitted to hospital each month, often with as much as 90 % burns.  "This is just the tip of the iceberg." Said Bukhari.


Most victims die.  Pakistan has no specialist burns units, apart from a small private one, and hospital hygiene is often poor.


One of the few survivors is Sabira Khan. Married at 16, she was told by her 36-years-old husband that she would not be allowed contact with her family.


For two years, he beat and kept her prisoner in the house where he lived with his family, until one day her mother arrived and insisted on seeing her.


The husband and mother-in-law ejected   the mother and then beat Khan, who was three months pregnant, and set her alight.  Outside, her mother heard her screams and, with the help of neighbours, managed to rescue her.


Khan suffered 60% burns.  Her chin had fused to her chest.  She still bears the scars.


"Being burnt for such small reasons makes us feel we are not considered as human beings but as objects which can be broken and replaced," said Khan, her face half hidden behind a veil.




For survivors such as Khan, it is hard to re-enter society, not just because of their disfigurement but also because of the shame of being cast our by their husbands.


Their own families often refuse to take them back because it would make it hard for them to marry off other daughters.


Many attacks stem from arguments over money or a row between a wife and mother-in-law.  Also common are "honour killings", when a man catches his wife talking to another man.  Even wealthy, educated women can fall victim to such attacks.


Irene Gill grew up in the US and held a master's degree in chemistry.  She was sent to Pakistan to marry a distant cousin in an arranged marriage.   She soon found herself treated like a servant.


When she was pregnant for the third time, her mother-in-law insisted that the baby be given to her sister-in-law, who was childless.  When Gill refused, her in-law set her on fire.   She died in hospital.


Despite often overwhelming evidence, the association has secured convictions in barely 1 % of cases.  Attackers usually say the fire was a stove accident.


In  Khan's case, her husband argued that she was insane and set fire to herself.  He walked free.  Gill's in-laws claimed she was warming milk and the gas stove exploded.  Her case never came to court.


Recently, the association and several human rights groups launched a campaign to press the military government to introduce legislation to make domestic violence a recognized crime.


Bukhari has also setup a shelter in Rawalpindi where Khan and other survivors live.  But such efforts have earned Bukhari enemies in a society where a woman's place is very much second-class.  Critics have branded her a terrorist.


"While the rest of the world is moving forwards, we are going backwards to the Stone Age," she said.


Some help is being provided by a team of British doctors from Interplast, a Middlesborough-based charity, which recently began regular missions to carry out reconstructive surgery.


Charles Viva, a retired plastic surgeon, said he was horrified by what they found.  "Entering a Pakistani hospital is like going back 70 years," he said.


"Patients are often lying on the floor.  Anyone with 30 or 40 % burns or more is not treated because they are expected to die.  "It's shocking to see these pretty young girls damaged by burns."  The Telegraph, London



Al-Balaagh Comment:  The Almighty has granted woman a status so high that it leaves nothing for her to strive higher.  Our Nabi (S) elevated the position of woman by saying that "Jannat lies beneath the feet of thy mothers."  His advice to men in their behaviour towards their womenfolk was always:  "Give them to eat of what you eat; do NOT slap them on the face…. If you are displeased with nine bad qualities in her, then try and be pleased with the ONE good-quality she possesses….."


These so-called " Muslims" of Pakistan have certainly hit a new low in their treatment of women, which is very reminiscent of the Days of Jaahiliyyah. They have NO right to call themselves "Muslims" - a name which Allah (SWT) has given to those who obey Him and carry out His Commands as enshrined in the Noble Qur'an.


Muslims are ONLY those who submit wholeheartedly to, and implicitly OBEY Allah's Laws to the letter.  Those who disregard Allah's Laws and replace them with their OWN customs and murderous ways, are NOT Muslims, but are fuel for the fire of Jahannam!  The BURNING question now is: Will Muslims EVER learn to treat their women with love, respect and dignity as Allah and Rasool (S) have intended?


Courtesy:  AL-BALAAGH   VOL.25    NO.2   MAY/JUNE    2000

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