By Shaukat Korai
Arifa cannot forget that horrendous day when she saw her own sister being burnt to death in front of her. It was a shocking incident, and it seems that she will never get over it – especially since she herself could also be in danger.
On April 25, twenty seven year old Humaira Jokhio was burnt alive by her own husband Wali Muhammad, and her mother in law. She was a resident of Malir area in Karachi. Her sister Arifa has married to the Wali’s brother three years ago, and they both lived in the same house.
Arifa insists that it was Wali Muhammad who burnt and then killed Humaira over a complaint by his mother that she had stolen some ration.
“I will not tell a lie in the month of Ramzan,” said Arifa. “My in-laws, burnt her alive in front of my eyes.” Wali Muhammad got some petrol from his motorcycle and grabbed her from the hair and dragged her to the kitchen. I tried to intervene and save my sister but my mother in law locked me inside the room,” wept Arifa.
Meanwhile, the police have registered the First Information Report (FIR) and have arrested Wali Muhammad on charges of murder. But the Jokhio family alleged that the police did not initially cooperate with them and refused to register the FIR.
Humaira’s family conducted a press conference at the Malir Press Club on April 28th and urged the authorities to have their case registered.
Finally four days after the incident on April 29, the police finally lodged the FIR.
When contacted, the police dismissed the claim that the FIR was registered after a delay. Instead, they blamed Humaira’s family saying that they had contacted the police late – three days after the incident.
Humaira’s father, Ghulam Rabbani also told Voicepk.net that Wali Muhammad and his mother burnt his daughter cold-bloodedly.
“They locked my daughter in the room and then sprayed petrol over her then set her on fire,” he said. “She writhed in pain but her husband fled the scene on his bike,” Rabbni said his voice choking with tears.
“When my daughter came out, she was engulfed in flames. My second daughter Arifa tried to save her life by throwing water over her but by then Humaira had been severely burnt,” he said. “Then they had the audacity to call me and say to me that my daughter had been burnt due to the fire caused by the gas stove leak.”
Humaira’s other sister Noorunnisa who was elder to her, who accompanied her to the hospital said that, in her last statement from her death bed, Humaira said that to her that they (her in-laws) had burnt her alive and that she must not allow them to be let off. Noorunnisa said that the doctor on duty also recorded this statement.
The chairperson of Sindh Commission on Status of Women (SCSW) Nuzhat Shireen said that Humaira’s family was very depressed and that she stands in solidarity with the family for them to get justice.
“Even today, in our society those from the low socio-economic class are taken for granted,” she says. “The police station culture must change now even though there have been some improvements in it. The police have registered a case in many similar incidents and given relief to the bereaved families. I just hope Humaira will also get justice,” Shireen said.
Senior lawyer Farooq Ahmed lamented the delay in the registration of the FIR and said that during a court trial such delays always go in the favor of accused.
“Investigation can only be started once the FIR is registered. The delay gives benefit to the culprits,” said Ahmed. “The court also assumes that they registered the case after deliberation and consultations and they nominate the accused due to the previous enmity.”