October 19, 2023
By Maryam Missal
It seems as if Tilawat has taken a vow of silence only to speak if her mother’s killer is caught. Ironically, however, it seems that the 10-year-old child was the only person who saw what happened.
It was late at night and Asiya Bibi had been at home. An unidentified man entered the house, and before anything could happen, poured petrol on the young woman, mercilessly setting her on fire. While Asiya’s father Zulfiqar says the child had not seen the incident happen, Asiya’s sister Shagufta says that Tilawat had gone so far as to point out the person – an acquaintance named Sohna. But since then, the girl’s face mirrors only the flames of her mother’s burning body and her echoing screams of pain.
Aasia was taken to the nearest hospital in the Jandiali Bangla tehsil. After receiving initial treatment, Asiya was referred to the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital in Vehari and later transferred to Nishtar Hospital in Multan. But by then she had succumbed to her injuries.
It was after her death that a First Information Report (FIR) was finally lodged at the Mian Channu Saddar police station. With no real suspects, the FIR was filed against an ‘unidentified man’ under Section 302 (committing murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
During the initial investigation, the police had managed to track down Aasia’s phone log, which had certain phone numbers blacklisted. These phone records led the police to Sohna, who had already fled the area but was eventually located and taken into police custody. However, no official claim of arrest was made by the Mian Channu police.
Voicepk met with Aasia’s father, Zulfiqar who told them that he had been looking after the cattle overnight, something which had been his routine for a long time. He had never encountered any problems with Sohna.
“When her mother died, Aasiya came to live with me, to take care of the house chores,” his bleary, old eyes glistening with tears. “From time to time, her husband would visit her, but she never mentioned any problems to me.”
Zulfiqar had not known about the incident and had actually been informed by relatives about the incident, and upon his return to the house, Aasia had already been taken to the hospital.
Their last conversation had been earlier that night, during dinner. but even then she had not mentioned any problems that she had been facing. But Zulfiqar adds that his granddaughter had not witnessed the incident. She was woken up by the sound of chaos and as she pushed through forward she saw her mother burning.
Manzoor Hussain, who is the complainant and the husband of the deceased says that he had been married to Aasia for the past 15 years, but she never mentioned to her husband that she was facing any trouble with any man.
“After her death, we tracked her phone data, which led us to him,” says Zulfiqar. “Soon after the incident, this man [Sohna] and his family, fled from the village it seems, giving us the impression that they were directly involved in the crime,” says Manzoor. “Then later on, he himself came and gave himself up to the police and confessed to his crime.”
Manzoor says that when he arrived at the crime site, he made a call to the police, who arrived and began the inspection.
According to Manzoor, Tilawat was not in the right state of mind to recall what had occurred. The only thing she remembers is her mother’s burning body and people coming in to put out the flames.
Manzoor also revealed that according to the information he had received from the police, Sohna also got his own hand burned in the incident.
“Police are not cooperating well with us. We are afraid that this murder will be lost in their investigation and there will be no justice.”
Manzoor had a second marriage after the birth of his child with Aasia, but according to him, his second marriage had no significant implications on his relationship with his late wife.
Meanwhile, the FIR reads that Aasia was first found by her neighbour, Muhammad Rafiq, who told Voicepk.net that he heard screams from the house and when he came, Aasia had opened the door herself and by the time Rafiq saw her, clothes on her lower body had already burned off of her and she was trying to put out the fire with water.
“When I came in, the child was crying. I called the women of the neighbourhood. The men only entered the house after the women had helped to put clothes on Aasia,” said Rafiq, another brother.
Rafiq also admitted to never having any interaction with Sohna. He had lived there in the same neighbourhood with them for a long time. Yet when he thought about it he clearly remembered there were times when he saw sitting near Aasia’s house, using his phone.
“I am sure it is him because when we traced his number, we also found out his mother, sister and other relatives have also gone into hiding. Now we are sure that it is him,” says Rafiq.
Will She Never Talk?
Tilawat wears her silence like a shroud. There is one other thing she wears now – a wristwatch that belonged to her mother. It dangles on her skinny wrist as if the moment her mother was murdered, has been frozen in time.
Shagufta Bibi, the sister of the victim, was one of the first few people who had arrived at the crime scene. According to Shagufta, Aasia’s daughter had already pointed out the man to her accusing him.
“She told us that this is the man [Sohna]; she had seen them fight and saw him throw petrol and setting her on fire, right before he climbed off of the wall.”
Shagufta says that when she arrived, Aasia’s clothes had completely burned off her body and she was unconscious. After the fire was put out, Shagufta helped cover her sister’s naked, burnt body with clothes.
As she recalled the time Shagufta said, “We had never suspected anything ever before. We used to see each other almost daily but we never suspected anything. Whatever must have happened, had happened that night.”
Sohna worked as a waiter in a restaurant in the village, and his employer Muhammad Nasir says he was present at work on the day of the incident and the day following the incident. It was only after Aasia’s death that Sohna disappeared.
Nasir is also a relative of Sohna. He told Voicepk that Sohna had been working for him for seven years now and used to go back home around 7 or 8 pm in the evening.
“On October 3, too, he went home at around 7 pm, and came to work the next morning but handed over his shift to someone else. He did however stay in the restaurant.”
Nasir believes that he is in no position to say whether Sohna committed the crime or not.
A conflicting report has surfaced from the doctor who first examined the victim.
Dr Ramsha at a local hospital, said that when Aasia arrived at the hospital she was fully conscious and gave the medical history herself.
“The patient was conscious, her Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) was 15/15, and her clothes had signs of some accident but they gave the history of [burn by] electric shock 30 to 40 minutes ago,” she said.
The doctor even said that Aasia gave her medical history herself while her body was burnt 30 to 40 -nothing fatal. All her burns were superficial and no significant damage to the organs, no pungent smell was observed in the initial observation.
From her initial examination and analysis, the doctor in fact did not expect the patient to die.
Meanwhile, police have assured the victim’s family that all efforts are being made to officially arrest the culprit and they are currently awaiting the results of the forensics.
According to Investigating Officer Waseem Riaz, a final opinion regarding this case can be formed only after the DNA report of Asia’s clothes comes. However, the police confirmed that they had seized a bottle of petrol from the incident.