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In Depth

Pakistan

Land, Gold and Women
Part 2: The case of Shazia Khalid

Last Updated Feb. 28, 2006

From The National February 28 and March 1, 2006

Correspondent: Terence McKenna
Producer: Michelle Gagnon
Consulting Producer: Nazim Baksh

Shazia Khalid

Perhaps the most serious recent rape case in Pakistan is that of Shazia Khalid, a 32-year old medical doctor from Karachi. After graduating from medical school, Shazia married her husband, Khalid, an engineer who works in the oil industry.

Shazia was offered a job by the government-run Pakistan Petroleum Limited at a large gas facility in Sui, a remote town in the province of Baluchistan.

She began working in the hospital in Sui, while her husband, Khalid Khwaja was working in Libya.

Shazia was living in a supposedly secure housing complex inside the Sui Gas facility. Security was provided by a branch on the Pakistan Military called the DSG, the Defence Security Guards.

In January 2005, Shazia was alone, sleeping in her apartment, when she was attacked.

"I tried using all my stamina to protect myself and save myself. He used my scarf to blindfold me and he tied up my wrists with the telephone wire. I was helpless, I was completely helpless. Then, he raped me," says Shazia. "The room was completely dark, I couldn't see anything, I couldn't understand what was going on. I tried to move, he would hit me whenever I tried to move. He said, 'I have a pistol, if you scream, if you try and call someone for help, I will kill you.'"

"What was I suppose to do? I was helpless. He said I am not just any common person. Don't do anything, you stay quiet, you don't say anything to anybody. And he raped me again."

Shazia Khalid's ordeal went on all night. At sunrise, after she was bound and gagged, her attacker departed.

Cover-up

Shazia was able to free herself and get to the hospital at the Pakistan Petroleum Facility. That's when the cover-up began. She was told by company officials to remain silent.

"They said there is no need to tell anybody anything. If you do, it's your reputation that you will lose. If you report it to the police, then they'll push you around. You'll have to go to court, and you won't achieve anything. So keep quiet. I was alone. I didn't know what to do."

Shazia phoned her husband in Libya. He came home immediately.

Khalid

"I found Shazia running a high temperature, bruises on her legs, her hands were swollen, her nose was swollen, her ears were bruised, very bad situation," says Khalid.

He says Shazia couldn't face him. "I said it's not your fault. Why are you feeling guilty? It's not your fault."

The Pakistan Defence Security Guards, the DSG, took control of the scene of the crime. They would not allow the police to investigate. Other staff members at the Sui gas facility became concerned about a military cover-up. They informed local politicians that the chief suspect in the rape was a member of the Pakistan Military.

Shahid Bugti

Shahid Bugti of the opposition Jahoori Wattan Party was told the rapist's name was Captain Hamad.

"Now, he being a captain in the DSG guard, it was part of his duty to take care of the installations as well as all the people living inside the fenced area," Bugti says. "But this was very unfortunate that the person who was supposed to protect the people living in the inside area, happened to be the rapist."

In the middle of the investigation, there was a very unusual development. General Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, announced that the chief suspect, Captain Hamad, was 100 per cent innocent.

Asma Jahangir

"If the President of the country comes out on television without the investigation being carried out and says that the accused he can assure people is innocent. I believe as a citizen he has no right to say it and if he does, then he is involved in a cover-up," Asma Jahangir says.

Shahid Bugti says that once the dictator had spoken, there would be no further investigation of the accused rapist.

"Who would come up with evidence against Hamad and say, 'Yes, Hamad is guilty whereas General Musharraf has given him a clean sheet.' So it's unthinkable over here," Bugti says.

The province of Baluchistan, where the Shazia Khalid rape took place, is a fiercely independent tribal society. Many local tribes have their own system of justice and their own honour code. There is also widespread resentment of the Pakistan army here. So when it appeared that the military was covering up the rape of a young doctor by an army captain, the Bugti clan took the law into their own hands. They went off to attack the military contingent at the Sui Gas facility.

"Yes they did fire rockets, they did fire guns, they showed their resentment in the strongest possible way. This is part of their culture," Sahid Bugti says. "They were trying to attack the DSG people who had committed this rape, who were supporting Captain Hamad, and Captain Hamad was in their protection."

After the attack on the Sui Gas Facility, Pakistani military officials held a press briefing, which portrayed the damage as the result of an unprovoked attack from the Bugti tribesmen.

Attacking the victim

The story of Shazia Khalid's rape was becoming an embarrassment to members of the Musharraf regime, and so they developed a new strategy. They began attacking the victim.

Stories began appearing in the newspapers claiming that Dr Shazia Khalid was a loose woman, that she wore suggestive clothes and had many male friends. It was even suggested that she was a prostitute.

"What was very disgusting was that they tried to tarnish her character. So the victim of rape has to take that risk as well apart from the other risk that her character is going to be tarnished all the time and the president himself said to one of the editors of the newspaper that if he were to speak of Dr. Shazia, he didn't want to but he could say a few things too. I mean what kind of an insinuation is that?" Jahangir says.

Shazia was staying in Karachi with her husband Khalid and her adopted son Adnan when the stories appeared suggesting she was engaged in prostitution.

"I went to the washroom and filled the tub with water. I wanted to commit suicide. Khalid and my son started knocking on the door to find out why I was taking so long. I didn't answer," she says. "Then Adnan knocked really hard and he said, �Mom if you kill yourself then I will kill myself. Please open the door.' I opened the door."

Every year, hundreds of Pakistani women who have been raped commit suicide.

The Pakistani government's next move was to get rid of Dr Shazia Khalid. She says she was ordered to leave the country for her own safety.

"Safety from whom?" Jahangir asks. "What safety were they concerned about for Dr. Shazia. Safety from whom? From the Bugtis? But they were on her side. From the military? Well then, this is a strange one, that victims should be whisked out of their country because their safety is in danger and the perpetrators are protected by the government."

The couple were asked where they would like to go. Because they have relatives in Toronto, they chose Canada.

"My family is there," Shazia says, "My friends are there. We wanted to go somewhere where we had moral support, that's why we chose Canada. We are highly qualified people, we didn't want to leave Pakistan."

Shazia and Khalid were told it would be faster to go to London, England, and that, from there, the Pakistani government would help them reach Canada. But once in London, they were abandoned by their government. Now they are in a legal limbo. They cannot be accepted to Canada as refugees because they are in a safe country, the U.K. They are living on welfare in London and waiting to be admitted to Canada as regular immigrants, which could take a long time.

Back in Pakistan, the government has a new version of events concerning the rape.

Owais Ahmed Ghani
According to the Governor of Baluchistan, Owais Ahmed Ghani, there was no rape.

"There was violence, there was no rape," says Ghani. "We will be placing some evidence for the world, because the world keeps on criticizing us, and Pakistan and the government about this."

Last September, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf came to visit the United States on a charm offensive. He wanted to portray himself as a progressive enlightened leader, a voice for moderation in the Muslim World.

President quoted

In an interview with the Washington Post, however, when he was asked about the rape issue, he was quoted as saying, "This has become a money making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

Pakistani women immediately hit the streets to protest Musharraf's remarks.

"Well it was very sad when President Musharraf said that. We all reacted very strongly in Pakistan. I think he made a joker out of himself, which he truly is. If that is the impression that he has of the women in Pakistan, which are 50 per cent of the citizens of that country, you can easily see how much respect he has for his own citizens," Jahangir says.

President Musharraf went into immediate damage control. Before a women's group in New York, he denied having made the comments to the Washington Post. "Let me say with total sincerity that I never said that, and it has been misquoted. I happened to be where this was being quoted but these are not my words, and I would go to the extent of saying that I am not so silly and stupid to make comments of this sort."

Unfortunately for the president, the Washington Post recorded his remarks and posted the recording on their website.

General Musharraf's remarks clearly referred to the case of Shazia Khalid, but she does not wish to debate him. She just wants to get her family into Canada, and begin a new life. She does want to find some way of helping Pakistani women who have undergone experiences similar to her own.

"I didn't get justice and I'll regret that for the rest of my life. But I want to be a voice for women who've been through similar situations. I think that if I help these women, then I'll get justice. Then, when they'll be happy, I will be happy. I will think of them, I will think of them as a reward for me, as a victory for me. Even if one woman gets justice through my voice, I will have won," she says.

Mukhtar Mai

The case of Mukhtar Mai is still working its way through the Pakistani courts but most observers believe she will win and her rapists will be punished.

"I believe that Mukhtar Mai may find justice at the end of her case because it has been picked up by the media, by people within the country that are very much looking forward to seeing that this case does receive some kind of justice. But it doesn't change the legal system unfortunately. I am happy for Mukhtar Mai, but I don't think that it changes the legal system for the rest of the victims." Jahangir says.

Mukhtar Mai has already received a financial compensation package from the Pakistani government which she is putting to good use.

She believes that illiteracy and the lack of formal education is the key to the subjugation of women in Pakistan. Young girls are much less likely to be sent to school by their parents and there are almost twice as many illiterate women as men.

And so, with the help of a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency, Mukhtar Mai has opened a school for girls.

Every morning school begins with a religious song.

In class they are studying to read and write and learning English.

Women like Mukhtar Mai and Shazia Khalid see this as the best hope for Pakistan. They are determined that the lives of these young girls will be much better than their own and that their country can open a new chapter after so many years of women's oppression.

Go to the Top

Quick facts:

Population: 159,196,336 (July 2004 estimate)

Capital: Islamabad

Currency: Rupee

Major languages: Although English and Urdu are the official languages, the most-spoken languages are Punjabi, Sindhi and Siraiki.

Major religion: 77 per cent Sunni Muslim, 20 per cent Shia Muslim. Some Christian and Hindu.

Location: Southern Asia.

Area total: 803,940 sq. km, slightly smaller than B.C.

Border countries: Bordered by the Arabian Sea, between India on the east, Iran and Afghanistan on the west, and China in the north.

Natural resources: Pakistan has extensive natural gas reserves, some petroleum and poor quality coal.

Government: Federal republic, bicameral parliament consisting of a senate and national assembly.

History: In 1947, British India was separated into India and the Muslim state of Pakistan, with its east and west sections separated by mostly Hindu India. East Pakistan seceded in 1971 to become Bangladesh.

Origin of the name: "Pakistan" was coined by Muslim students at Cambridge University in Britain in 1933 as an acronym for the regions and nationalities that would make up the country: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Iran, Sindh, Turkharistan, Afghanistan and Balochistan.

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