KARACHI: A day after receiving the body of her youngest son, Aftab Ahmed, who had died in the custody of Pakistan Rangers, Saleema Bibi said she wouldn’t appeal for justice but would demand the authorities that whoever did this to her son be treated in a similar manner.
“My son was killed for no reason at all. I have no answer to give to his children. Whoever did this should be treated in a similar manner,” said the frail elderly woman, holding a small plaque that had her son’s photo in the middle, while speaking to Dawn on Wednesday evening.
At around 5:30pm, a few of the mourners, mostly family friends and relatives, were sitting with her in the small living room of Ahmed’s mother-in-law’s home in Federal B. Area (Dastageer). Saleema Bibi was repeatedly chanting a prayer under her breath. At the back of the home, work on an under-construction two-storey building was left midway after her son had been picked up by armed men in plainclothes a few days back, according to her. She said the structure was being built by Ahmed who wanted to stay near both the families. “We used to live in Malir but moved to this place two years back because he wanted me to be near him,” she added before bursting into tears.
Ahmed was the youngest of the four siblings, two sisters and two brothers, and had five children. Tehreem Aftab, 13, was sitting next to her cousins on a sofa in the living room; while five-year-old Ashna pointed out the names and ages of her other siblings including Huda, 8, Abaan, 10 and Ayan, 3. According to Ashna, the three-year-old is not leaving their mother’s side and “is scared of coming out in the living room.”
Ahmed had been associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement since 1990 and worked as a coordinator of MQM deputy convener, Dr Farooq Sattar, since 2002.
Saleema, who had stopped crying by this time, spoke once again and narrated how Ahmed lost his father when he was just six. “I raised all the four of them by working as a maid in a nearby school in Malir. I was standing at the doorway when he was dragged away,” she said.
According to her, it was around 3:45pm on Sunday when two vehicles, both four-by-four, stopped near the back entrance of Ahmed’s mother-in-law’s home. “He was busy giving instructions to the labourers working on the under-construction building at the back when four armed men in civvies asked him to come along with them. The men dragged him before he could say anything. His father-in-law went after them but was pushed back as well,” said Saleema.
While other relatives living in the same home and neighbours came out after hearing the commotion, they couldn’t stop the paramilitary officials from taking him away, the sobbing mother added.
A bit hesitant to speak in the beginning, some of the family members spoke up around this time explaining that they did lodge an FIR the same evening under the category of missing persons but it was perhaps too late by then. “He was produced in an anti-terrorism court the following day that weakened our case in comparison,” said Maria Khan, sister-in-law of Ahmed.
His niece, Surraya, said she saw a ticker on a news channel and informed others that he was produced in the ATC and was given time by the court to meet his family members. “By the time we reached the court, he was being taken away in a hurry after the ATC granted 90 days remand to the paramilitary force. Since his face was covered, I could only get a glimpse of his blue slippers which he was wearing the day he was taken away,” she added.
After remaining unaware of his whereabouts for two days, the family came to know only at around 7:55am on Tuesday that Ahmed’s body was shifted to the mortuary of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. “He was dead by then,” added Saleema. “I am told that he died of heart failure. There’s no truth to it. My son had no such problems when he was taken away. We received a packed coffin after a post-mortem examination. It took an hour to open the coffin and see the tortured body of my son,” she said.
Ahmed’s brother-in-law, Mohammad Azeem, who was present at the funeral held at Numaish on Tuesday evening, said: “His teeth and nails were missing. His body bore torture marks. We took time to open the coffin because we wanted to see for ourselves what was done to him before he passed away. And it was torture that killed him in custody.”
On Wednesday noon, reports of a few Rangers’ personnel getting fired from their duty started circulating which was later confirmed by a press release issued by the Rangers’ office. However, Saleema said, “This is not enough. The same treatment should be meted out to the men who tortured my son under their custody. It happened to him because he was a Mohajir. There’s no other reason or justification for this brutality other than this fact,” she said.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2016