July 31st, 2021
In the wake of the brutal and horrific murder of Noor Mukadam in Islamabad, activists have been mobilizing for a movement against the prevalent culture of gender based violence (GBV) in Pakistan.
Noor’s murder along with that of Quratulain Baloch in Hyderabad, Bushra Raza, the mother of Saima Ali, in Peshawar and others within just days of each other has resulted in women raising their voices even louder than ever, demanding that the state fulfils its constitutional duty to protect their lives, property and dignity.
Noor Mukadam is neither the first nor the last woman to be subjected to such depravity and cruelty.
Pakistan is ranked by the Global Gender Gap Index 2018 as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women and the second worst in the world in terms of gender equality. While there are no official statistics on crimes against women, making it difficult to correctly ascertain the prevalence of this violence, Pakistan’s highly patriarchal society and resistance to women-friendly laws is indicative of the vulnerability of women in the country.
Reports of horrific assaults and attacks on women make the headlines in numerous papers in Pakistan every day, the volume of which represents a mere fraction of the actual number of incidents which go unreported due to peer pressure and a callous indifference of the police, courts and the state toward women. Of the more depraved forms of violence are ‘honour’ crimes, where women are murdered, mutilated and raped among other ‘punishments’ for acts perceived as having brought shame to their family or community.
One such case is that of 21-year-old Aimen from Muzaffargarh in South Punjab, who in February of 2019 was killed via live burial while her infant son was bashed against the ground and then strangled to death by her father and brothers.
A year prior to her brutal murder, Aimen had eloped with her lover Mukhtiar Hussain and began a happy new life together, a decision which scandalized her family. When she bore a son, whom she named Hussain Ali, she tried reconnecting with her family and burying the hatchet.
On February 9, 2020, her father and two brothers along with four unidentified persons barged into her marital home in Kot Addu and dragged away mother and child in a car. They were taken to Aimen’s ancestral home in Alipur where she was shot and then tossed into a shallow makeshift grave in some fields. According to her brothers, the 21-year-old was still breathing when they turned to her 40-day-old infant and bashed him against the earth and threw in his body with his mother. The two were buried under the cover of darkness.
When Aimen’s husband along with the police exhumed their bodies, they saw her arms were wrapped around little Hussain Ali in a protective embrace. Mukhtiar resolved to take his late wife and son’s killers to court for swift justice: while Aimen’s father and brothers were arrested, police were unable to apprehend their four accomplices. Not only are they still at large, but Aimen’s father was also recently granted bail by the Lahore High Court while proceedings are still on going. The Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell extended free legal assistance to Mukhtiar and helped toss out Aimen’s brothers’ bail pleas.