Doctor Talks to The Guardian on Phone: Scared to Death
Pakistan Army Captain Declared
Not Guilty of Rape in Dubious DNA Test
February 22: Visitors are not welcome at the house in Karachi
where Dr. Shazia Khalid is living; not even with an invitation.
A police team is posted at the gate and army rangers prowl the
grounds inside. "You need the permission from the bosses
at the top," says a moustached officer firmly. "The
very top." Hours later Dr Shazia picks up the phone inside.
Her strained voice crumbles into
sobs. "We are very scared," she says, her husband at
her side. "In Pakistan there is no law, no protection, nothing.
Who can we trust? Nobody."
She has good reason to worry.
Until six weeks ago the 31-year-old was a company doctor at the
Sui gas plant, at the farthest reaches of remote Baluchistan province.
On January 3 she was raped in her bed.
Normally in Pakistan, where crimes
against women are rife, such an act would barely raise an eyebrow.
In her case, it nearly started a war.
of the local Bugti clan saw a rape in their heartland as being
a breach of their code of honor - especially when the alleged
rapist was a captain in the despised national army. They attacked
the gas field with rockets, mortars and thousands of AK-47 rounds.
President Pervez Musharraf sent
an uncompromising response: tanks, helicopters and an extra 4,500
soldiers to guard the installation. If the tribesmen failed to
stop shooting, he warned on television, "they will not know
what hit them".
the guerrilla attacks have escalated, propelling a long-ignored
province into the headlines and threatening civil war. Every day
sees a new attack on military and government targets across the
province. Insurgents have blown up railway tracks, toppled pylons
and fired rockets into army camps. Sui supplies 45% of Pakistan's
gas, so supplies to Karachi, Lahore and other cities have been
The fighting is motivated by more than the rape. For decades the
Baluch tribes have demanded a greater share of profits from their
resource-rich but cash-poor province. The Islamabad government
ignored them, and a year ago Baluch nationalists started bombing
police stations, courthouses and checkpoints.
Since the violence sparked by
the rape, their demands are being taken more seriously. President
Musharraf's belligerence has given way to softer political promises.
Envoys have been dispatched, and there is talk of increased profit-sharing
and greater autonomy. But tension remains high.
Government officials accuse Iran
and India of helping to arm the rebels. They say there are about
50 training camps, each with between 20 and 200 militants, in
the province. The army has announced plans to establish a permanent
garrison in Sui. The attacks continue.
The Bugti leader, Nawab Akbar
Bugti, says the question of Dr Shazia's rape comes first. "As
long as the perpetrators of this heinous crime are not dealt with,
there can be no talks," he said.
The explosive case is a matter
of extreme sensitivity for the government. Only a handful of family
visitors may enter the house where Dr Shazia and her husband are
living. A senior police officer said: "You have to understand
that in this matter we answer to the president."
That is small consolation to the
confused and frightened couple. Speaking publicly for the first
time since the rape, Dr Shazia told the Guardian that officials
from Pakistan Petroleum (PPL), which runs the plant, at first
drugged her to cover up the case.
the police came to take a statement, the [company's] chief medical
officer said: 'Don't give them any information.' Then they injected
me with a tranquillizer that made me drowsy," she said.
At the time PPL officials said
Dr Shazia was unable to file a statement because she was unconscious.
Despite her injuries, Dr Shazia was offered no medical treatment
by PPL and she had no contact with her family for two days. Then
the company flew her to Karachi and checked her into a private
Three PPL doctors have since been
arrested on charges of obstructing justice. But despite weeks
of police investigation, Dr Shazia's rapist remains at large.
said she did not know his identity. "He tied my hands with
a telephone wire and blindfolded me with a dupatta [scarf].
But I could feel that he had a moustache and curly hair. And I
know his voice."
Early this week President Musharraf's
spokesman said an army captain was "under investigation"
but had not been arrested. Meanwhile Baluch police have re-interviewed
Dr Shazia - this time insinuating she was engaged in prostitution.
"They asked me where I got
the 25,000 rupees [£225] that was stolen and when I wore
my jewellery. And they said that a cleaner had found used condoms
in my room," she said.
Since then the police have announced
that DNA tests on the main suspect did not match that found at
the scene, heightening fears of a cover-up.
ago Dr Shazia's husband's grandfather said the rape had rendered
her kari - a disgrace to the family honor - and so she must be
divorced, and preferably killed. Such "honor killings"
remain common in rural Pakistan.
But her husband, a pipeline engineer,
says he is standing by his wife. His grandfather, he said, "is
just a bad man, and this has made my wife even more scared. She
cannot sleep at night, so I sit by her bed to take care of her."
For human rights campaigners,
the kari rubs salt in the wound of a case combining politics,
violence and regressive traditions.
"In this country a woman
has no status," said Shershah Syed, of the Pakistan Medical
Association. "She is an object, like a cow or a bucket."
Having lost their jobs and fearing
for their lives, the couple want to leave Pakistan.
are politicizing this issue, the whole country, everyone,"
Dr Shazia said through tears before hanging up. "How can
I face anyone any more? We have to get out."