New York Times
July 31, 2005
Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is supposed to be our valued ally in the war on terrorism. But terror takes many forms, not all of them hijacked airplanes or bombed subways.
For the vast majority of humans, terror comes in more mundane ways - like the violent hands that woke Dr. Shazia Khalid as she lay sleeping in her bed, and the abuse she's suffered at the hands of Mr. Musharraf's government ever since.
I mentioned Dr. Shazia briefly in June when I wrote about General Musharraf's quasi-kidnapping and house arrest of Mukhtaran Bibi - the Pakistani rape victim who used compensation money to open schools and start a women's aid group. But at that time Dr. Shazia was still too terrified to speak out.
Now, for the first time, Dr. Shazia has agreed to tell her full story, even though this will put herself and her loved ones at risk. Her tale is simultaneously an indictment of General Musharraf's duplicity, a window into the debasement that is the lot of women in much of the world - and a modern love story.
Dr. Shazia, now 32, took a job by herself two years ago as a doctor at a Pakistan Petroleum plant in the wild Pakistani region of Baluchistan, after Pakistan Petroleum also promised a job for her husband there (that job never materialized). Dr. Shazia's family worried about her safety, but her residence was in a guarded compound and she felt strongly that the women in that region needed access to a female physician.
Then on Jan. 2, Dr. Shazia woke up in the middle of the night, and at first she thought she was having a nightmare. "But this person was really pulling hard on my hair, and then he started pressing on my throat so I couldn't breathe. ... He tied the telephone cord around my throat. I resisted and struggled, and he beat me on the head with the telephone receiver. When I tried to scream, he said, 'Shut up - there's a man standing outside named Amjad, and he's got kerosene. If you scream, I'll take it and burn you alive.' ... Then he took my prayer scarf and he blindfolded me with it, and he took the telephone cord and tied my wrists, and he laid me down on the bed. I tried hard to fight but he raped me."
The man spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections. A 35-page confidential report by a tribunal describes Dr. Shazia tumbling into the nurse's quarters that morning: "semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear." Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.
"They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation," Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested.
That was a genuine risk. Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape.
Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi.
"They wanted to declare me crazy," Dr. Shazia said bitterly. "That's why they shifted me to a hospital for crazy people."
Dr. Shazia's husband, Khalid Aman, was working as an engineer in Libya, but he finally was notified and rushed back 11 days later. Dr. Shazia, by then freed, couldn't face him, but he comforted her, told her that she had done nothing wrong, and insisted that they report the rape to the police so that the criminal could be caught.
That was, perhaps, na´ve, particularly because there were rumors that the police had identified the rapist as a senior army officer and were covering up for him.
"When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police," Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told me. "Because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her."
That's the way the world works for anyone unfortunate enough to be born female in much of the world. In my next column, on Tuesday, I'll tell how our ally, General Musharraf, then inflicted a new round of terrorism on Dr. Shazia.
Frank Rich is on vacation.