Ghazala Erum, an ordinary Islamabad citizen, died following a botched abortion in the back streets of a residential sector in late May. She left behind a story of police indifference, and peculiar characters and family relationships in society.
Ghazala was a divorcee living alone in Sector G-6/1-2. Her brother Israr Hussain suspected foul play. Four days after burying her and making private inquiries, another brother, Rizwan, went to Aabpara police on June 4 to lodge a case. It took the brothers months of visiting senior police officers and securing court orders until they pushed the police to formally register a case on October 1.
But Aabpara police did not register just one case. It registered two FIRs – the other one filed by one Agha Amjad who claimed to be Ghazala’s husband. Hussain claims that he was the man who had informed Pakiza, his other sister, that Ghazala had had an abortion and was gravely ill, but had vanished as his inquiries into the tragedy got deeper.
Police investigations into the two cases, registered on separate charges of PPCs 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab) and 338-B (abortion for ulterior or criminal motive), have yet to start. Sub-Inspector (SP) Tahir Niazi has been appointed investigation officer.
Asked what is delaying the investigation, SP Niazi said police were waiting for “the results of samples sent for examination”.
Which begs the question, what samples are being examined when an autopsy was not conducted?
“There were samples retrieved during the (post-abortion) operation. The motive behind any killing has yet to be established,” he told Dawn.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Khalid Virk stated that the paramedic who conducted the illegal abortion was the prime suspect. “But she has disappeared,” he added.
When asked if this disappearance was similar to the disappearance of Ghazala’s self-proclaimed husband Agha Amjad, the officer disagreed. He believed the man was still in Islamabad.
Israr Hussain, Ghazala’s brother, spoke to Dawn and shed some light on the background of the tragedy.
“My father had two wives. We are seven siblings and our stepmother has a son.”
Ghazala had been living with him after her divorce in 2014. Seven months ago she moved out to live alone. Her sister Pakiza joined her during a brief period of estrangement with her husband.
“On the night of May 28, Pakiza called me and said Ghazala was ill and asked me to reach her house in G-6/1-2. When I reached I found Ghazala gravely ill, with Pakiza, her husband and our stepmother Shehnaz Gul present. I was shocked when a person by the name of Agha Amjad was introduced to me as Ghazala’s husband. I wasn’t aware that she had remarried.”
“While I was being informed that it was a miscarriage, the self-proclaimed husband left, saying he was going out to buy some medicine. We waited for him to return but in vain, and I took Ghazala to my house,” he said.
The next morning he left for work where he received a call that Ghazala had been taken to the Polyclinic hospital and that the doctors required his presence there.
“When I reached, the doctors told us that the abortion had caused internal injuries and infection and that they intended to go into immediate surgery. Her husband was called in for some paperwork before she was wheeled into the operation theatre,” he said.
But Ghazala did not survive the operation. Doctors had told the family that there was no hope that she would.
Hussain said he demanded that Agha Amjad show him the certificate of his marriage to Ghazala, but only received excuses.
Although Agha Amjad later did produce a marriage certificate, its bride’s column mentioned “Ghazala Erum present name Saba” whereas the CNIC issued to her on March 26, 2014, with the expiry date of March 26, 2024, identifies her only as Ghazala Erum.
The certificate also stated that the marriage was solemnised in a court on February 26, 2015 and registered on May 6, 2015.
“I asked my lawyer about this, who said court marriages get registered within three days,” Hussain said.
“I took it to be a forged, backdated marriage certificate and my brother Rizwan Hussain approached Aabpara police on June 4 to lodge a case against our stepmother, her son and Ghazala’s husband as suspects in her killing. But the police registered a complaint in their daily diary instead of an FIR,” he added.
The following month, invoking CrPC 22-A, he said he approached the district and sessions court to seek an order to the police to register their case, which the court did.
But the police still did not register the case and upon his inquiries, he was told that his ‘complaint’ was forwarded to the prosecution department for their opinion, he said.
At this stage, Agha Amjad also joined the litigation process and went to the district and sessions court, and later Islamabad High Court, to register a case against Mr Hussain, his stepmother, Pakiza and her husband, for being responsible for Ghazala’s death.
On the high court’s directives, Aabpara police registered separate cases for both sides, but in the meantime, the paramedic who conducted the abortion, a key figure in the resolution of the case, disappeared after closing her clinic in G-6/1. According to Hussain, the whereabouts of Agha Amjad also are unknown.
“My sister was two month pregnant and the abortion took her life. It was yet to be established who took her to the illicit clinic, her husband or our stepmother,” he said.
“I received information that Agha Amjad is in the habit of taking wives and has been married seven times. One of his wives is living abroad with children,” he said.
“Our stepmother arranged Ghazala’s marriage with Amjad, who created the circumstances in which she died. We had a dispute with our stepmother over a two marla house in Rawalpindi worth Rs1.5 million,” Hussain claimed. He also suggested that Agha Amjad had an insurance policy for Ghazala and could have benefited from her death.
The police’s alleged inaction despite registering a case was frustrated him.
“I met the SSP Operation and asked him to give the case to the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) for investigation. But he said that he could change the police investigation officer instead.”
That too was only done after he went higher up the ladder and met the SP and city SDPO.
“But even they could not budge the Aabpara police station house officer (SHO), who has asked the incumbent investigation officer to continue,” he said.
Hussain claimed that the lack of an autopsy and police inaction allowed the accused to tamper with evidence.
He said: “However, we have the medical record, which says the injuries and infection from the abortion caused her death.”
Agha Amjad was not available for comments. In his complaint with the police he stated that after he married Ghazala, her stepmother and her sister Pakiza with her husband, started visiting his house and offering his wife alarming suggestions that affected his family life.
According to the complaint, the stepmother told Ghazala that she could get her a wealthy husband.
“On May 28 Ghazala left for her stepmother’s house and upon my return home I discovered that she had aborted her two-month pregnancy.”
“I showed displeasure over the act. Israr Hussain, Rizwan Hussain, Pakiza, her husband, and the stepmother later took my wife to their house. The next day I was informed that she was in the hospital where her condition deteriorated and she died,” he stated in the complaint, accusing her siblings and stepmother of killing her over the family property.
Shahnaz Gul, Ghazala’s stepmother, denied that she had any relationship with Ghazala. When told that her name appears in both the FIRs as the stepmother, she said: “I am a neighbour of the victim and nothing else.”
She also denied that she took the victim to the clinic or had any property dispute with the family.
Published in Dawn, October 12th , 2015