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Justice after Fakhra?

Published Mar 26, 2012 06:19pm


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In April of 2000, 20-year-old Fakhra Younus poured acid all over her face, burning her skin, melting the flesh and bone underneath and mutilating her face and her body. It seeped into her clothes dissolving them, melting her breasts, fusing her lips to her chin and burned her hair off, while her five-year-old son witnessed the ordeal.

That’s the only version of truth about Fakhra that may ever be acceptable. In a society where the victim is ridiculed, moral policed and counter questioned while the accused enjoys the freedom to hurl abuse and sit on high ground; Fakhra’s mere existence is a crime.

After struggling for 12 years and undergoing over 30 corrective surgeries, Fakhra lost hope for justice. The man accused of putting her through this ordeal, Bilal Khar, shared his grief by spending a few hours giving interviews to news channels yesterday.

He said he was sorry that she was dead but that he isn’t responsible for her murder. That she was a sex-worker, a woman he had married despite her past but she insisted on returning back to her ‘usual routine’. He isn’t responsible for her murder. She had stayed in his house for four months before she left for Italy. He is innocent. Fakhra used his name to take amnesty in Italy, to make money and it benefited the women who were helping her to ‘cash in’. Because no one would give her amnesty and funds if they had used a Kanjar’s name, it was his name that gave this case a media trial, it was his name that gave her amnesty and it was his name that brought Musrat Misbah four villas in Europe and a yacht. He is innocent. If people are so bothered about justice for Fakhra why don’t they go to Napier Road and ask which ‘kanjar’ had done it? It couldn’t have been him, Bilal Khar, son of influential politician and feudal lord. It wasn’t possible because he is from a respectable family, he is Bilal Khar, and only Kanjar’s from Napier Road could commit such atrocious crimes.

The same Napier Road that Bilal Khar frequented. The same street where he had met, 18-year-old, Fakhra and promised her a life of love and comfort. For Fakhra, who became a dancing girl at the age of 11 to support her heroin addict mother, and a sex worker as soon as she started menstruating, this was a chance to a whole new life.

But little had she known that the ghosts of Napier Road would come back to haunt her even in her death, that the man who once praised her innocence and bought time just to speak to her would toss her right into an abyss so dark that even her mutilated face would not be a sufficient witness to her atrocities.

When people speak of Fakhra they undoubtedly speak of her past, it allows people like Khar to taint her pleas, to shift the blame onto the victim herself, to suggest that the world is only concerned about Fakhra because of his high-profile preference. I don’t know if Bilal Khar will ever be tried for causing grievous harm to Fakhra that inevitably led to her death. He may never be charged with the crime Fakhra accused him of, but we owe it to ourselves to speak out against Bilal Khar and others like him. Others who may not be from influential families, and still walk free.

Bilal Khar, moral policing a victim doesn’t absolve one of their crimes. It only makes your guilt brazenly obvious, your moral high ground conceited and your allegations concocted. How does any sex worker deserve the horrific fate that Fakhra met? If Fakhra’s profession or past makes her a suspect despite her ordeal what does it make you, a frequenter of the same street where Kanjars abide?

For every Fakhra there are over a dozen Bilal Khars that make sure that she continues to be sold from one man to the other, night and day. It isn’t about who she was, it is about who she becomes, it is about her struggle for justice not only for herself but the hundreds of others who suffer the same fate; burned to the bone because they refused a marriage proposal, fought against violence or simply said no.

Many have rightly pointed out that Fakhra was forgotten until her death. Fakhra knew that too. In her death, perhaps, she had hoped that her story would resurface, that hundreds of other women would receive justice. We abandoned her in her life; let’s not abandon her in her death.


Sana Saleem blogs at Global Voices,  Asian CorrespondentThe Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Sana Saleem is the co-founder of Bolo Bhi & Stories Beyond Borders.

She's on the board of advisory for Courage Foundation, Edward Snowden's legal defence fund.

She can be found on Twitter & Facebook.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (38) Closed

Faraz Mar 26, 2012 05:56pm
One question, with this incident and all those incidents that had been happening silently since I dont know when. Can you reply me with one line solution that would prevent such incidents in first place?
raika45 Mar 26, 2012 06:29pm
Pakistan is becoming an enigma.Nobody in the outside world can understand you.Here you are a nation.Yet here you are where the world is wondering as to what is wrong with you.You never hear good of Pakistan.Why? What is it with you 180 million people that you cannot get your act together?Where are your people with love for the country and the we can do it mentality.Or have they left for overseas?Is this the land of the pure.Unless you have a different meaning of the word.
Tarun Mar 26, 2012 07:17pm
Pakistan never sees to amuse us non muslims. How can things be worst it can be seen in nation, where people of same religion moral policing each other in spite of all the Islamic scholars preachings, the very same crime which are banned in Islam are taking place openly. This makes us appreciate what we have in our society is so unique and appreciable, and should not take it for granted and treat this as normal.
Ajmal Mar 26, 2012 07:29pm
It is one of the many victories for feudals,a curse in Pakistan. They are bpowerfull because people of the country are willing to work for them while they do nothing except evil things. It is my advise to all people, stop working for them and cut their supply of the oxygen.
BK Mar 26, 2012 07:45pm
Equal Justice...Its just a two word solution.
Rajesh / Bangalore Mar 26, 2012 08:00pm
Fakhra should not be abandoned. I only pray that this will give rise to a people's movement in Pakistan demanding justice for her.
Nadz Mar 26, 2012 08:01pm
I can reply to all the questions you asked here. Pakistan's problem is deep rooted unlike India. I can understand that corruption is on both sides of the border but atleast in India politicians are questioned and brought to justice. In Pakistan politicians are the worst kind of animals. From the President to an ordinary resident of the country has become corrupted. While such people rule the country they like to increase the junta's problems to the heights where they can not think of anything else apart from the problems they are facing. The justice system has collapsed completely and has become a joke. Raika I am a non-resident Pakistani but I totally agree with your comments "WHY" whether any Pakistani politician has the balls to come out clean and tell the whole world why or they haven't? There will be loads of killing and no justice for anyone in Pakistan what a shame.
Kdspirited Mar 26, 2012 08:11pm
Tarun dont forget the case of the bar girl shot by a big shot in Bombay who almost got away with it. That was also something that happened in your society by your people. Are you trying to imply that India is void of all human right violations or are you implying that women in India are not victims or atrocities at the hands of the Men they live with or are associated with. I feel that your comments are a bit exaggerated no?
Kdspirited Mar 26, 2012 08:15pm
Raika yes we are not perfect but neither are you. What you dont hear about are the stories of hundreds of Pakistanis working just as hard to stand up for justice. As long as we have people like Abdul sattar Edhi and Sharmeen Obaid Imran khan and musarat misbah we will survive. For every atrocity there is a Paksitani fighting for the right and resolution of injustice. You would have to take the biased goggles of the great divide off to listen to those stories and appreciate those people. Try harder next time
Syed Mar 26, 2012 08:21pm
Tarun, you should visit Times of India. Cases like these happen in India as well. Religion of Islam has nothing to do with this. The people that commit these crimes are not following any religion. there is no justice for the poor. rich can get away from anything. May Allah help the helpless
masroor Durrani Mar 26, 2012 08:21pm
What happens in Sindh is most horrifying. You knew nothing.Disappeared. Vaderaa and peers watch where the girl is growing and the send the Pagri to the inmates get the desired results. Very influential killers using evry tactic what to call religion
Anonymous Mar 26, 2012 10:37pm
It is easy for such a creature to accuse her honor to defend his deeds. Well now she is dead, I hope she will find peace in heaven with Allah the merciful and for you Bilal, You can lie as much as you can but one thing sure, your judgment day will come soon and hopefully god's mercy will never reach your soul.
salarmaiwand Mar 26, 2012 11:03pm
the question is: who committed this crime? who inflicted this terrible and immense pain on her and her kid? who is responsible? that person must be brought to justice. I am appalled that how little people have spoken about Fakhra's terrible fate. Thank you Ms. Saleem
Niaz Betab Mar 27, 2012 03:00am
It is really tear jerking. Terrible. I feel something holding my breath, while it is not stopped yet, I would like to write what is on my mind. I have noticed that woman is taken as a sex toy by the silly men of our society. I blame all, you know why, because they are part of this painful injustice being silent over it. They all are equally involved in these grievously wounding crimes. We have to realize that we are involved in killing humanity, the most sacred part of humanity. I'm 24 right now, but what I've noticed in this short span of life, it is not too little. I'm saddened by the fact that woman is taken as property of man. When a girl enters the age of puberty she is isolated from the male members of family put aside the society. It is hurtful for me. It is something that haunts me always, honestly it makes my tears come out with a great sharp flow like the water of a waterfalls. I'm concerned about the issue a lot but I'm not that much powerful to make laws that give women a rightful place in our obsolete society. What I can do, I can read, as everyone who is helpless can read their miseries, the stories of the victimised girls. My tears are flowing right now. If it was a blank page, the ink would have been shattered and I could not be able to write. The little I know is that I'm helpless like those girls who can't get justice, but I'm hopeful that we can, at least try to get somewhere very soon, if we remain committed to our cause of equality. And I dream like Martin Luther King that One day the woman will be free, can do what she likes, can choose her husband, and can get the place what they deserve. Keep this tireless effort up everyone and we can do the impossible. I don't know what I have written, as I'm righting what my heart is dictating. I have long before left or rejected taking help from my mind. If any mistake is committed or I exceeded, forgive me.
Caitlin Malik Mar 27, 2012 03:57am
This is an excellent piece, acknowledging important issues, however I'd like to make one correction. Given that Faqkhra was a minor when forced into the sex industry, she was a child sex slave, not 'sex-worker'. Sex worker implies a voluntary choice of occupation has been undertaken. We want to avoid that type of implication when it comes to children.
Tahir Mar 27, 2012 04:14am
Very well written Sana, as always. Men like Bilal Khar disgust me and I feel ashamed to be a Pakistani man. We should demand justice for Fakhra from the government and the politicians. If they are unable to give justice to Pakistanis, we should think twice before voting for them again.
Rajesh Mar 27, 2012 05:41am
Women are still treated as commodity with no social rights. Islam should recognize woman in equal status to a man. Even other religion treat women at a lower level but the status gap in Islam is high. Women are controlled by men, exploited by men and again judged by men alone.
AAhmed Mar 27, 2012 06:07am
And no big budget needed to treat others fairly.
EQ8Rhomes Mar 27, 2012 07:40am
A solution is to EASE up on people moral "policing". Give them room to be individuals and quit dictating their private lives. Human "vices" will NEVER be eliminated, but they can be regulated when we stop trying to be perfect. Please study the 1692 witch hunt in Salem USA. Pakistan can learn much from Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE.
Tahmina Mar 27, 2012 11:44am
Pakistan has recently passed the laws dealing with acid crimes, however the deep rooted problem is how we see women, as objects owned by men. Criminals like Bilal Khartoum can proudly say that they visited Mapier Street, still are respectable citizens and above the law, while young undersgae girls pushed into sexual servitude are looked down upon as if it makes them less human. There is nothing moral about crimes irrespective of who the victim is, be it Bilal Khar' s mother, sister, daughter or Fakhra, they are all equal human beings and deserve to be treated and discussed like that.
Abbas Mar 27, 2012 01:53pm
There will be no justice as justice is not for poor, needy and ordinary people of Pakistan...we all know that ..
Subhash Mar 27, 2012 04:19pm
Its true, well written. A true human heart will respond like yours
Sheikh Mar 27, 2012 04:45pm
Another sad story with tragic end!! To expect Justice from the LAW which is made by MAN, it is totally nonsense. Justice will came from LAW which is made by the Biggest Justice itself. Please implement that one, you will definitely find Justice here and hereafter!!!
sheikh Mar 27, 2012 05:46pm
There is no law or justice in Pakistan. Law is made by the strong only for the weak to follow. In this case; we should not expect any action from the Government. Chief justice should take so moto action in this case.
mehmoona Mar 27, 2012 05:58pm
when we say who committed this crime ..the answer is the society as a whole committed this crime, when we talk of the Siallkot incident it wasnt t just the two who publicy bludgeoned the two teenagers it was the whole society that watched the spectacle and did not stop it.. the glaring fact that is coming out of incidents like these is not only our failure as a society but our cowardice or apathy to stand up for what is right what is profoundly distressing is that it is only the price tag that makes anything right or wrong if you are rich all wrongs are right,and all laws are yours to use as you please!!!! time for us to wake up and change...let there be no more sufferers like fakhara...
T Khan Mar 27, 2012 09:06pm
I wonder what Fakhira was thinking on her way down to her death. Certainly not about the animal (s) who ruined her life, perhaps the Angel who brought her to life – her mother! I don't know who wrote this poetry, but I am sharing it with the due respect and credit to the author. Main choti si ik bachi thi teri ungli tham kai chalti thi tu door nazar se hoti thi main aansoo ansoo roti thi khabon ka ik roshan basta tu roz mujhe pehnati thi Jab darti thi main ratun ko tu apne sath sulati thi Maan tu ne kitne barson tak is phool ko seincha hathon se Jeevan kai gheray bhedon ko main samjhi teri batoon se Mein teree yaad kai takia per ab bhi rat ko sotee hoon Maan me choti see ik bachi teri yad mein ab bhi rooti hoon
AHA Mar 28, 2012 05:09am
Hasn’t Zia ul Haq given Pakistan all the Islamic laws we would need for all times to come
M5 Mar 28, 2012 09:58am
Please do not blame this on Islam. Islam does not put women at lower level than man (correction for those who think this way). Islam gives much more protection to women as compared to other societies. This is a problem with social setup in Pakistan where the rich and influential seem to be above the law and justice.
isha Mar 28, 2012 06:25pm
how beautiful .God bless her wherever she belongs and god bless u too :)
isha Mar 28, 2012 06:28pm
Tarun I'm from india too - what do u mean by "Pakistan never sees to amuse us non muslims" . We have more muslims than there are in Pakistan. Secondly, crime against women in our own country is not anywhere close to being addressed so why are we making it a matter of religion or country . ITs a crime .Full stop
ali ahmed Mar 28, 2012 07:39pm
whether it is Mustafa Khar or Bilal khar character is same..if we go back father was involved in kidnapping of college girl in Lahore,when he was governor
Adnan Mar 28, 2012 08:01pm
I second @M5. It is the poor state of the society, which is there because it has left Islam. I am a husband, you should read on the rights of wife on a husband. The behaviour we witness, is the amalgamation of lack of education, empathy, ignorant of the teachings of Islam and society (which we are a part of). Every individual needs to stand up for Fakhra.
Hassan Imam Mar 28, 2012 09:02pm
You are right, Rajesh!
Sami Mar 28, 2012 11:03pm
I think the biggest problem of Pakistan that everyone think they are a very good Muslim in the whole world. I would say they may be Muslims but they dont act as a Muslim and think do 5 time pray and roza in ramzan will be good enough and I think Mohammad PBUH present the hoqu qul Ebad first and pray after that. I believe performing the pray 5 time and reading Quran is not effecting on you its mean you are wasting you time and those Aammal will slap back on your face at the day of judgement. Our leaders should emphasis and use their influence to do the good deeds all the time not just for their Jalsas
vinny Mar 29, 2012 08:10pm
To all of you, not denying crimes against women do not happen in India; but crimes of this monstrosity so common in Pakistan is still something rare to see in India; one or two shooting cases or dowry deaths cannot compare to the way acid is thrown on women in Pakistan. But let this not be much publicized; and thank god a vast majority of Indians still do not either know or have the courage to commit this most cruelest crime of all.
diva Mar 30, 2012 05:54pm
I'm happy pakistani women are treated as second class citizen.No newspaper talks about the plight of minorities.It a biased society and your people deserve to be stripped of their dignity.
aysha Mar 30, 2012 09:19pm
I agree with Rajesh. We need ijtihad when it comes to women's rights in islam. Islam does not recognize women in equal status to men (nor does any other religion). As soon as a girl is born discrimination starts, one goat is sacrificed on aqeeqa ceremony for girl and two for boy…why is that??? She has to obey her father before she gets married and has to obey her husband after getting married. She is not allowed to make any decisions or do anything without her husband’s permission. She cant work without husbands permission, consequently, she always stays financially dependent on him. An adult who is not able to take care of herself financially will always be a weak person. If a husband and wife has a disagreement, a husband can be a judge and can even physically hit her if she "disobeys" him. She gets half the share in property than her brothers get and half the share in property of her kids as a mother as compare to what her husband gets as a father. A husband can have four wives and she cant even divorce her husband. She has to go to court and prove it to the judge why she wants khula; on the contrary, a husband can divorce her anytime without justifying his act to any court/qazi. Her witness is considered half as if she does not have any mental capability. List goes on and on and on….
Mohammed Mar 31, 2012 06:20am
Yesterday it was phathans doing the same, Today it was this girl, tomorrow it would be other girls in punjab then it would be baloch then sindhis and you and after that it would be me. If this is what people do after reading QURAN 5 times a day and this is how ISLAMIC STATE should be then I am proud to be a MUSLIM in INDIA.