As you read this, a family of 13, including children are on hunger strike outside the National Press Club in F-6 Sector to protest against a false case of Karo-kari in which a former minister is involved. It portrays a sad picture of our society.
Former minister of fisheries Mir Manzoor Panhwar, sardar and head of the Panchayat (which makes Karo-kari decisions on daily basis) in Dharki Tehsil of Ghotki District, has declared a legally married couple as Karo-kari and demanded that either the couple and their one-year-old daughter be handed over to him for punishment either by ‘sangsar’ (the victim is buried up to his/ her chest under the ground and then stoned to death by members of the community) or by throwing them before starving dogs (kept unfed for eight days). The other option is for the accused Mohammad Ishaq’s brother Mohammad Essa to hand over his sister and daughter to the sardar as compensation. The sardar being a ‘kind’ person is offering them to choose how they would like to be punished.
Why has this couple been accused of Karo-kari? Because as the sardar of the village was to give his approval for the marriage even before the couples’ parents. Going against his decision means inviting his wrath. When this reporter contacted the former minister through a rights activist and journalist, Shakir Solangi, he denied his involvement in the episode saying the elders of the tribe took the decision and that Mohammad Ishaq’s family left Sindh at their own free will.
Mohammad Ishaq and Sobia were legally married in Sindh High Court Karachi. Sobia’s father had suggested this way out as the sardar’s rules were known to all. But as soon as Mr Panhwar found out about this development he sent his posse of 70 thugs including DPO Iqbal Dara, ASI Irshad Rajpar and Gul Mohammad Dandu to punish the village.
Mohammad Ishaq’s family has been fighting for its security and justice now for two years. Shuffled and shoved between the Sindh High Court Sukkur bench and the Supreme Court, the family has landed at the National Press Club, Islamabad. Mohammad Essa, a dignified man speaks at first with confidence but is then reduced to tears as he narrates what his family has had to suffer at the hands of the sardar. ‘Our houses were looted and my children were dragged out of our house. My two sons were in school, I paid Rs500 each month, one was in Islamia College and the other in Engro, they have both been out of school for two years now, they have even forgotten their alphabets now. All of us sat outside the Supreme Court, we were then shifted to Bari Imam while the sardar came and was comfortably lodged in the Sindh House. No one seems to care about us,’ he says with tears standing in his eyes. ‘How can I give away my sister or daughter,’ he says pointing towards the girls in veil.
The entire family is sitting under a makeshift tent. They have not eaten for nine days and the children and women are in poor physical condition. Mohammad Essa’s wife is spitting blood and yet their deteriorating condition has not moved anyone in authority.
‘The sardar has registered an FIR against my brother for kidnapping of Sobia,’ says Mohammad Essa behind whom sits Sobia and Mohammad Ishaq.
Sobia takes off her naqab (veil) to talk about what exactly happened. Her husband displays their nikahnama (wedding contract) both in English and Urdu. ‘The day we married in Karachi, Mir Manzoor sent his men to surround the court. The judge and police hid us…but now we cannot go back to our village, if we do, they’ll just kill us,’ she said.
According to HRCP, 17 women alone were killed on the pretext of Karo-kari in Sindh in the first two months of the year. The cases of Karo-kari have doubled from 356 to 652 across the country most frequently in interior Sindh.
One year old Alishba plays in the lap of her mother, Sobia. The baby doesn’t yet know the harsh reality of life that her parents are facing. What I wonder is, will we still be hoping for clean and sincere leaders by the time Alishba grows up, or will someone at the top wake up now and ask the family why are they on a hunger strike?