AUGUST 5-11 2012
AUGUST 5-11 2012
18 Shades of Grey The frequency with which terrorists are slipping through the cracks of Pakistan’s judicial system is alarming but where does the fault truly lie?
27 Rough Justice Pretending to be a militant wasn’t the best idea Ibrahim ever had
30 Dust in the Wind Afghanistan’s Kochi nomads are being forced into extinction by both war and nature
35 Servants or Slaves? The nightmares faced by Nepali female migrant workers in the Gulf
6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 44 Reviews: In search of the promised land 46 End Of The Line: The morning show dilemma
Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editors: Batool Zehra, Zainab Imam. Sub-Editors: Ameer Hamza and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Maha Haider, Faizan Dawood, Samra Aamir, Sanober Ahmed. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: email@example.com Printed: firstname.lastname@example.org
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Erum Ahmed and Nina
Kamal Limited launch their lifestyle store in Lahore Mishal
6 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Junaid Younas and Sarah Gandapur
Qasim Yar Tiwana and Natasha Hussain
PHOTOS COURTESY FAISAL FAROOQUI
AUGUST 5-11 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
PHOTOS COURTESY FAISAL FAROOQUI
Sadaf Bushra Aftab Naila Bhatti
Amber Gohar Imtisal
8 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Babloo and Rachel
AUGUST 5-11 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Warda readyto-wear outlet launches in Lahore
Mrs Shazia Ammar, Riffat and Sheema Khan
10 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Minahil and Saba
Mary Ali Khan
PHOTOS COURTESY UMAIR
AUGUST 5-11 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Shazia and Alaina
Irum and Natasha
New fashion house, Maison Stylistica, showcases its collection at a red carpet event in Lahore
12 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Guest, Dr Nusrat and Sadia
AUGUST 5-11 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
14 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Quatrina Hussain and Sabah
Salaeha and Shahida
AUGUST 5-11 2012
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AUGUST 5-11 2012
18 AUGUST 5-11 2012
The frequency with which terrorists are acquitted by courts is considered one of the major failings of Pakistanâ€™s judicial system. But where does the fault truly lie?
BY ASAD KHARAL AUGUST 5-11 2012
COVER STORY Fida Hussain Ghalvi’s long fight to put Malik Ishaq, the leader of banned militant outfit Lashkar-eJhangvi, behind bars appears to have been in vain. Despite having warded threats to his own life for several years and losing dozens of family members, today Ghalvi is resigned to the fact that Ishaq will walk free. Fifteen years ago, Ghalvi was one of the four men who had
boldly testified against Ishaq, under arrest for killing 12 members of Ghalvi’s family in a sectarian murder. Ishaq and several other
It was only after the September 2011 attack in Mastung, Balo-
chistan, for which the LeJ claimed responsibility, that the Punjab government finally detained Ishaq under the Maintenance of Public Order Act. Ishaq was released in January after several stints in
detention, during which his family was provided ‘sustenance’ by the Punjab government. Although under the watch of intelligence
agencies, Ishaq attended a Jamaatud Dawa-Difa-e-Pakistan Council rally in Multan in February.
Today, Ishaq is a free man despite also being named in at least
accused men were on trial in 44 different cases for the murder of
two attacks on foreigners in Pakistan — the Sri Lankan cricket team
moned for an identification parade. At long last, justice seemed to
his jail cell, and the assassination of the Iranian cultural consul
70 people from the Shia sect and Ghalvi and others had been sumbe at hand.
“At the very onset, all of us pointed to Ishaq [as the killer], but
he appeared least perturbed,” recalls Ghalvi. “In the presence of the
judge and the deputy superintendent of the jail, Ishaq brazenly turned to us and said: ‘Dead men don’t talk.’”
attack in Lahore in 2009, which he allegedly planned from within Muhammad Ali Rahimi in Multan in 1997.
But he is not the only known terrorist to have slipped through
the cracks of Pakistan’s judicial system (See other cases, other acquittals on page 22).
There is also the notorious Akram Lahori who, along with Basra
Despite this blatant threat and other, often violent pressure tac-
and Ishaq, was one of the founders of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
witnesses and three of their relatives — were killed [during the tri-
well as in the Gojra riots, has been under trial in various cases for
tics, the four witnesses refused to back down. “Eight people — five al],” says Ghalvi. “Ishaq unleashed his entire network against his
opponents, killing witnesses, threatening judges and intimidating
police, leading to the eventual collapse of all prosecution against him.”
“Over the course of the trial, which went on for a decade, we ap-
peared at least a hundred times before the court,” recounts Ghalvi.
And yet, predictably but no less disappointingly for Ghalvi, Ishaq
was acquitted despite the testimonies and identification. “He es-
caped conviction in every case due to ‘lack of evidence’ and was eventually released from jail,” says Ghalvi, with resignation.
Ghalvi’s resignation is perhaps borne out of what he went
through after the case was closed. The vengeful militants were bay-
ing for blood and for his defiance, Ghalvi was in their direct line of fire. “Ishaq, with seven others, attacked a majlis that our family had
Lahori, who is named in the killings of many Shias in Karachi as years without a single conviction as yet. Even when we look beyond
these admittedly high profile cases, we find that terrorism cases,
in general, tend to fail in the courts. In the court of public opinion, this results in disdain for what is seen to be an overly politicised judiciary. When sentences are handed down to politicians
the question is always asked: why do the courts move so quickly in
these cases but drag their feet when it comes to terrorists? A similar reaction was seen when the rangers accused in the shooting of
Sarfraz Shah in Karachi were convicted and awarded punitive sen-
tences. Once again the question was asked: why do the rangers get convicted while others like Malik Ishaq walk free? Well, it seems that the Punjab public prosecution department, counter-terrorism department and Punjab police have been asking this very question, and The Express Tribune has now obtained a copy of a report prepared
organised for a deceased aunt in our native village of Kot Chaudhry
by them to analyse just why terrorism cases tend to fail in court.
in the attack,” he says.
cism over court acquittals of terrorists contains some disturbing
a free man and believes that there was a lack of cogent evidence in
sulted in acquittals. That amounts to 74% of all cases during the 19
Sher Muhammad Ghalvi. Twelve of my family members were killed
Aggrieved he may be, but Ghalvi is clear about why Ishaq walks
the case. “Poor investigation and prosecution as well as the case file lacking concrete evidence led to the acquittal,” he admits.
The report, which was prepared following mounting public criti-
facts: it states that, between 1990 and 2009, out of 311 cases, 231 reyear period.
“While acquittals deny justice to the victims of terrorism, they
In July 2011, amid intense public outcry, the Supreme Court ac-
also increase police problems, because the acquitted terrorists
prisoner. Outside Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore’s central prison, Ishaq
the report reads. An example of this is Ishaq’s vendetta attack on
quitted Ishaq after he had served 14 years in jail as an under-trial
was given a hero’s reception by leaders of yet another outlawed mil-
itant group, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (now operating freely as
a so-called ‘preaching’ tour throughout Punjab.
the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) and soon after his release, he went on AUGUST 5-11 2012
mostly recidivate to terrorism or join other organised crime gangs,” Ghalvi’s family.
The report analyses the judgments of 178 cases in which the ac-
cused were deemed not guilty to conclude that most cases end in
Delay in FIR
Material Evidence Not Mentioned
Role Not Specified
No Description of Accused
Defects in Registration of Cases
“At the very onset, all of us pointed to Ishaq [as the killer], but he appeared least perturbed,” recalls Ghalvi. “In the presence of the judge and the deputy superintendent of the jail, Ishaq brazenly turned to us and said: ‘Dead men don’t talk.’”
21 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Statements u/s 161
Contradictory medico-legal & ocular evidence
In most terrorism cases, suspects have been acquitted or released on bail by the Anti-Terrorism Courts and superior courts. •
In the Sri Lankan cricket team attack case, apart from Malik Ishaq, Qari Ashfaq, Zaubai alais Naik Muhammad, Amanullah, Mohsin Rasheed, Abdul Rehman, Javed Anwar, Ubaidur Rehman and Wahab were released on bail by the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court.
Hijratullah, accused in the June 10, 2010 attack on the police training school in Manawan, Lahore, has been acquitted by the Anti-Terrorism Court.
On May 13, 2010, Muhammad Ilyas alias Qari Jameel, Osama Bin Waheed alias Hadayatullah and Muhammad Jameel were acquitted by the Anti Terrorism Court Rawalpindi in the case of the killing of Army Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig who died in a suicide attack on Rawalpindi Mall Road in Cantt on February 25, 2008.
Malik Ishaq, Ghulam Rasool Shah, Usman alias Chota and others including Riaz Basra who were killed in an encounter in 2002 were previously acquitted by the Anti-Terrorism Court Gujranwala on May 20, 2010. Ironically, the same trial court had earlier awarded capital punishment to these persons for the murder of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Gujranwala Ashraf Marth. The LHC upheld the sentence but when the SC remanded the case back to the ATC Gujranwala, the trial court acquitted the accused in the 11-year-old case due to missing evidence and resiling of witnesses.
Accused Muhammad Rizwan alias Shamsul Hassan, Muhammad Jameel, Osama Bin Waheed alias Hadayatullah, Ilyas alias Qari Jameel were also acquitted by the Anti Terrorism Court Rawalpindi in a case of a bomb blast near the Headquarters of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) in Rawalpindi in 2008 owing to inadequate evidence.
Alleged al Qaeda member and former Pakistan Army Major Haroon and two other co-accused who were imprisoned on charges of murdering Major General (retd) Ameer Faisal Alvi and his driver in 2008 were also acquitted in both cases.
Dr Niaz Ahmed, Mazharul Haq, Shafiqur Rehman, Mohammad Aamir, Syed Abdul Majid, Abdul Basit, Syed Abdul Saboor, Shafique Ahmed, Saeed Arab, Gul Roz and Tahseenullah, who had been arrested in 2008 in the cases of suicide attacks on ISI buses, firing anti-aircraft rounds at the plane of former president General (retired) Pervez Musharraf and firing rockets on the Kamra Aeronautical Complex were all acquitted.
Nine men have already been acquitted by an ATC in the case of the killing of Army Surgeon General Mushtaq Baig in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi on February 25, 2008 for want of evidence.
In 2009, an ATC acquitted the accused in the 2004 suicide attack on former prime minister Shaukat Aziz in Fateh Jang. The ATC-II judge Sakhi Muhammad Kahut in his judgment said that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. The government of the Punjab filed appeals in the LHC in June 2010 and the then LHC chief j
ustice Khawaja Sharif issued orders to constitute a special bench to dealing with such
high-profile appeals. Despite the lapse of more than two years, this special bench has not been constituted. AUGUST 5-11 2012
acquittals due to defects in the registration of cases i.e. the lodg-
a terrorist crosses over to another province, police and LEA person-
termed ‘doubtful’ by the court, simply because an FIR was regis-
the home department of the respective province,” says Mohammad
ing of the FIR at the relevant police station. Five of these cases were tered with an unexplained delay. However, the leading reason for
acquittals, the report says, is that the accused are often not even
nominated in an FIR, an objection raised by anti-terrorism courts in
36% of the judgments. Even when suspects are named in the FIR, it is without a description of the accused or of the role that that person
is believed to have played in an attack, rendering the report almost useless before the court.
nel are unable to chase him as they require formal approval from
Azhar Chaudhry of the Federal Investigation Agency who was the
main prosecutor in the Benazir assassination case as well as the Mumbai attack case.
“Terrorism is a national issue and provincial governments are un-
able to deal with it. The entire cadre — investigators, prosecutors and judges — should be a federal subject,” says Chaudhry.
Perhaps due to his own frustrating experience with a long-drawn-
“To ensure convictions in terrorism cases, there is a need for bet-
out case like the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, Chaudhry lays
prosecution with police. Prosecutors should be involved in the case
terrorism. “Terrorism investigation is totally different from other
ter infrastructure and skills enhancement, and also of combining
right from the beginning, starting with the registration of the case,” says Chaudhry Muhammad Jehangir, chief prosecutor of the
Punjab prosecution department. “A crime scene investigation unit
should be established that consists of prosecutors, medical and forensic experts as well as the police,” he says.
Jehangir corroborates the findings of the report and says that
special emphasis on training police investigators in dealing with
cases so traditional police is unable to deal with it. A qualified and
dedicated force needs to be established that will work only on cases of terrorism,” he says. “Because most evidence is circumstantial,
the role of forensic evidence as well as intelligence is most important to ensure convictions in terrorism cases.”
But Chaudhry does not lay the blame squarely on investigators
in most high-profile cases that have ended in acquittals, faults in
and believes that existing laws need to be strengthened as well.
consult prosecution officers [in these cases], evidence could not be
well as the Evidence Act of 1984. A witness protection programme
investigation have weakened the case. “Because the police did not
collected properly from crime scenes, which were in turn not preserved properly, and witness statements were also not recorded cor-
“Amendments need to be made to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 as should also be instituted and properly enforced,” he says.
The need for a strong witness protection programme is felt
rectly,” he says.
in police quarters too. “In various cases, witnesses have resiled
es, the actual attacker is a suicide bomber who dies in the assault
cused,” says a senior police officer on condition of anonymity ow-
Further undermining the cases is the fact that in many instanc-
thus complicating the process of finding out the attack’s financiers,
planners, abetters and others who may have extended logistical help. “Such connections can only be proved in a courtroom when
due to fear or were forced to agree on a compromise with the ac-
ing to his current direct involvement in a number of terrorism cases.
The report corroborates this claim: 27% of the cases ended in ac-
basic formalities regarding the preservation of crime scenes and col-
quittals because witnesses changed their statements or struck an
investigation as well as admissible evidence but when the founda-
that of witnesses refusing to show up for hearings. The report also
lection of evidence have been fulfilled. Conviction is based only on tion of the case is this weak, prosecutors can do only so much before the court,” says Jehangir.
By the time prosecutors are brought on board, it is too late to take
corrective measures that would make the evidence strong enough to prove guilt in court. “When the police is ready to submit the charge-
sheet before an anti-terrorism court, there is no time to correct the errors in the recovery memo and other proof such as reports of DNA tests and finger and footprints etc,” Jehangir explains.
The capacity and competence of government officials to handle
high profile cases is also questionable. A case in point is the Benazir Bhutto assassination case, where the Supreme Court issued orders
to suspend senior police officials for hosing down the crime scene
agreement with the accused. The number is almost as high as
recommends that instead of section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, under which witnesses are required to record statements before a police official, testimonies should be recorded under section 164 which requires witnesses to record a statement before a magistrate before a trial begins. This would make it difficult for witnesses
to resile or change statements as the testimony will become a part of the legal record and the witness will be charged with perjury.
Nonetheless, says the officer, the police force is now seriously fo-
cusing on strengthening its investigation procedures, weaknesses
in which he admits lead to acquittals, and on collaborating with the prosecution in high-profile terrorism cases.
and possibly hampering investigations. And a logistical nightmare
cross one province’s boundary into another.
ever being acted upon. Still, if the state is serious in fighting the terrorists that
makes the process even more inefficient if a terrorist manages to “Police and other law enforcement agencies are controlled by
provinces but terrorist networks are spread across the country. So if
meaning reports that have never seen the light of day and have little chance of have killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis then immediate action is needed to finally close the loopholes that allow murderers to walk free.T
AUGUST 5-11 2012
rough justice Lend an ear to the story of Ibrahim Koga who could never have thought introducing himself as one of the feared Taliban militants would backfire on him the way it did BY RIAZ AHMAD
For some people, the chance to spend a few hours on the banks of the River Kabul in Sardaryab, Charssada is something they look forward to. It’s quite a romantic spot and a great chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You also might get the chance to sink your teeth into some Sher Mahi, a delicious and rare river fish much loved by the discerning palates of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa residents. In the good old days local Hakeems advised their ailing patients to live in sheds on the bank of the river for a few weeks as they believed that the air coming from the river had healing properties. That alone is worth the proverbial price of admission. But I wasn’t here to heal myself, watch the river flow past or
munch on fish, no matter how yummy. I was on a mission to
Why was I looking for him? Because this otherwise unremark-
able man had been at the receiving end of the Taliban’s rough ‘justice’. More specifically, the militants cut off both his ears. To discover why that happened, read on.
Having been unable to find him in his native village of Angor
Kor, I went to the village of Bela Mohmandan where Koga had fled after the ear-cutting incident only to discover that he had
left that village some seven months back. Apparently he now lived in the Sardaryab area with his brother-in-law and that’s what had brought me to this particular riverbank.
Finally, lady luck smiled on me when a college student named
Naheed Khan recognised him — not by his name but by his miss-
ing ears. Khan led me on an unpaved road to a one-room ‘house’ made with concrete blocks. This was where Koga’s brother-in-
law lived and worked as a share-cropper on a nearby piece of land. Koga himself has to satisfy himself with a threadbare tent erected nearby.
This area was once a fairly peaceful spot, but about five years
back it became a hub for Mohmand agency based militants who
established a firm foothold in the Bady village of Michni. While a military operation ‘cleared’ the area, the militants still maintain a strong underground presence, one that Koga fell foul of.
Koga then told me his version of the story, saying that about
eight months back he was wandering in a forested area close to his village when he was accosted by two local men.
“I had taken some [intoxicating] pills and was heavily under
find a chronic drug addict and alleged thief called Ibrahim alias
their influence and I didn’t know what was going on,” he says.
and what he was doing there. Despite (or perhaps because of) the
Koga. Thus far, he had proved to be as elusive a catch as the Sher
The two men, who lived nearby, began asking him who he was AUGUST 5-11 2012
drugs he had taken, Koga thought the best way out of this situa-
Sabzal and Jamroze called the Taliban to confirm if Koga was re-
“I may have told them I was a militant just to get them to let
police officer also said that they wanted to produce both the ac-
tion was to try and frighten them away.
me go. Instead they phoned the real militants who came immediately and took me away,” he recalls.
Unfortunately, for Koga, he didn’t quite realise who these
masked men were.
“These masked men also asked me who I was and I told them
that I was a militant to try and scare them off. I had taken a
bunch of pills and had also drunk a lot of tharra (moonshine) and
cused before the court but then Koga and his family dropped the charges.
“We were informed that Koga and his family had received
Rs25,000 and settled the dispute in a local jirga,” says the official.
Once again, Koga and his family have a different version of events.
“One of my married sisters lives in the Michni area of Mohm-
I wasn’t thinking straight. Then they started saying I was giving
and Agency and her husband was told by the militants to settle
ing I was a militant.”
me,” claims Koga, saying that he was forced to drop the charges
them a bad name by demanding money from people by pretendThat’s when things really started going south. Koga was beat-
en for a day and a night before the militants let him go. But as
the dispute peacefully through the jirga or else they would kill in order to save his life and those of his family members.
Most locals say that Koga is lucky to have escaped alive, but
a punishment for his trespasses, they cut off both his ears first.
this whole story also brings into focus the way that the rise of
else could repeat such a thing,” says Koga.
settle scores in this area.
“They wanted to make me an example for others so that no one When the unfortunate man returned to his village, the news
militancy, and the subsequent military operations, are used to
“People are conveying incorrect information about their op-
of what had happened to him spread like wildfire. After the in-
ponents to the military, police or Taliban just to have them ar-
and registered an FIR against the people who had handed him
says a local elder.
cident was reported in a local paper the police paid him a visit
to the militants. Those men, Sabzal and Jamroze, were promptly
rested, tortured and even killed and this trick is working well,”
He claims that many people have been killed by the militants
after being falsely accused of working for the authorities. Simi-
police that Koga was a thief who had broken into their house in
and then arrested.
But they had a somewhat different story to tell. They told the
the middle of the night.
larly, people have also been wrongly accused of being militants
“Both the militants and the authorities need to stop relying
“They told us that when Koga entered their house they woke
solely on such claims as 90% of the time, the accusations are fab-
en coop along with the hens,” says a police officer on condition
But whatever the truth of the matter, Koga certainly doesn’t
up and searched for him. He was finally found hiding in a chick-
ally one of them. They showed up immediately,” he reveals. The
ricated,” he says.
seem to be lying when he says he is too scared to cross the Kabul
to come to such a deserted area so late at night. That’s when
took his ears. Next time, they may take his very life.
“The two men then called the police, but the local cops refused
AUGUST 5-11 2012
river and return to his hometown. This time the militants just
in the wind
Afghanistan’s Kochi nomads are dying out, spelling the end of an ancient way of life TEXT AND PHOTOS BY ZAHRAH NASIR
The first small Kuchi camp emerges and disappears just as quickly from view, obscured by the dust raised by the churning wheels of the police and army convoy that I am travelling in. We speed on, for this is known to be Taliban territory and slowing down to take in the sights is not an option. The low-slung nomad tents, made of animal skins, patched cloth or canvas (the last provided by
various aid agencies) blend in the harsh environment of scree slopes, stony steppes and scrub land nestled at the feet of spectacular mountains locking the world of the ‘others’ out on all sides. Camels
stand around, some loaded with the Kochis’ worldly goods, others masticating cud as they wait their turn, while flocks of Karakul sheep search out invisible sustenance under the sharp eyes of gaily at-
tired women and children herding mules. The men sit around smoking or fiddle with the tractors and
30 AUGUST 5-11 2012
Recent figures suggest that the overall number of Kuchi nomads, who mainly belong to the Ghilzai, Kakar, Lochi, Ahmadzai and Durrani Pashtun tribes, has decreased to just below one million and the numbers are only expected to fall further trailers which are fast replacing camels as a means of getting from one camping ground to the next. For a very few, brightly decorated trucks are another option.
All this is soon enveloped by the dust, just as the Kochis themselves will inevitably disappear into
the all-consuming chaos of unwritten history. The deep and indefinable longing that pulls at my soul whenever I witness the seductive rhythms of nomadic life is now mingled with regret as we pass them by.
But then we turn a corner and another camp emerges into view.
Nomadic life is not still â€” not for a single second of daylight is there cessation of motion. Animals
must be herded, milked, slaughtered, skinned and the skins cleaned and dried for trade. There is ghee to make, tough fodder to find, meager meals to cook, bead work and other sewing tasks to be completed, and water to be searched for before dusk. These and other life-sustaining chores, in addition to the daily treks from one pasturage to another, comprise the daily battle for survival that is the life of a nomad â€” a far cry from what an outsider may perceive as an otherwise idyllic existence.
Just eight years ago, a survey estimated that there were approximately 2.4 million Kuchi nomads
in Afghanistan, with 1.5million of them fully nomadic and others semi-nomadic. But recent figures suggest that the overall number of Kuchi nomads, who mainly belong to the Ghilzai, Kakar, Lochi, Ahmadzai and Durrani Pashtun tribes, has decreased to just below one million and the numbers are only expected to fall further.
Ever since Soviet and American aid resulted in the construction of road arteries and the trucking
fleets began to ply what was once wilderness, the Kuchis have seen their traditional caravan culture
severely eroded. Then came the closure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the early 1960s which
A severe drought between 1971 and â€˜72 and another one from 1998 to 2002 took a terrible toll on the nomads, with the latter drought killing at least 75 per cent of the flocks that provided them daily sustenance
impeded their cross-border routes and hence the trading that is the lifeline of their meager nomadic economy.
Then came the Soviet Invasion of 1979 and the death knell of the Kochis took on a keening note
as the nomads were routinely bombed, shelled and shot at. Their pasturages became infested with
both the live and dead debris of war and today. Their plight is further exacerbated by continual civil war, the presence of foreign troops and an astronomical number of US cluster bombs which make mountain treks and grazing an often deadly affair.
And nature, it seems, also has it in for the Kuchis. A severe drought between 1971 and â€˜72 and
another one from 1998 to 2002 took a terrible toll on the nomads, with the latter drought killing at least 75 per cent of the flocks that provided them daily sustenance. This drove a sizeable number of
nomads into camps for internally displaced persons adjacent to major population centers such as Kabul.
The high mountain steppe world of traditional Kochi nomads, a place of unbelievable grandeur
and mystical collective memory, is being forced into extinction by the twin perils of warfare and
modernity. Heartbreakingly, these proud remnants of an ancient race who adhere to an equally
ancient way of life will soon disappear from the pages of this harsh reality. AUGUST 5-11 2012
slaves? Subjected to the worst forms of physical and sexual abuse, female migrant workers have little respite working in the Gulf BY SUDHARSON THAPALIYA
Maya Limbu* has been to hell and back. And the road to that hell was paved with her own good intentions. Working as a cleaner in a private hospital in Saudi Arabia for
two years was what this Nepali woman had planned. “I dreamt
of giving a proper education to my kids, as I had abandoned my studies after the eighth standard because my parents could not
afford my education,” she says. So she borrowed Rs65,000, paid it to an agent who made arrangements for her employment and travel and flew off to the kingdom with a dream that she would
single-handedly change her family’s future. The dream soon beAUGUST 5-11 2012
FEATURE gan turning into a nightmare.
permission to work in the Gulf. As a result, travelling through
if she would work at his relative’s house next. Wanting to return
ing migrants even more vulnerable to abuse. And because of this
When Limbu’s initial contract ended, her employer asked her
to her husband and two children in Nepal, Limbu declined the
offer. There was another reason: the working conditions at the hospital had not been good and she expected little to change with her new employer.
trend, the data of migrant female workers cannot be ascertained,
though some unofficial sources claim that more than 12,500 such women are currently working in the Gulf countries.
When Limbu was one of these invisible, nameless women, she
“I have heard that working in a house is dangerous. Most do-
spent 11 days of solitary confinement in the dark, dingy room that
owner,” she says. “Moreover, they force workers into immoral
day, another woman was brought in. Her story was eerily simi-
mestic workers suffer inhumane behaviour at the hands of the activities.”
Limbu’s refusal, however, did not go down well with her em-
ployer. The man grabbed her by the hand and dragged her to a
small room. He threatened Limbu, saying that she would have to
spend the rest of her life in that very room unless she complied with his wishes. “He threatened to kill me if I tried to run away,”
her captor kept her locked in, crying constantly. On the twelfth lar to that of Limbu’s: she had refused to continue working at
another doctor’s house and was being punished for it. “When I met her, she was traumatised. She was afraid of everything and her eyes were red because of crying and [her] body was trembling because of weakness,” Limbu recalls.
“That woman was in her mid-forties. She told me that she had
she says with tears in her eyes.
to do dirty work for [the] house-owner’s wife and for his son,”
When that door was closed it was so dark that Limbu could not
the head of the household and the son, and if she refused, they
The tiny room had only a single door and no windows or lights.
even see her hand in front of her face. She was on a diet of dried food — mostly noodles — that left her starving most of the time.
Limbu says. The woman was forced to perform sexual acts on would beat her.
This way, Limbu got a friend in captivity. They shared their
She was not allowed to go outside, even to the bathroom, so she
miseries, wept together and hoped for something better to hap-
could only empty it in a nearby bathroom in the presence of her
number grew to seven — all women originating from rural Ne-
used a small pot when nature called. Once the pot was full, she former employer or someone else sent by him to watch over her.
The man had snatched her cell phone, so she couldn’t contact anyone.
Ironically, Limbu’s ordeal is not rare in a land that champions
ultra-orthodox Islam. The increased demand for manual labour
pen. As days went by, more girls arrived. At one point, their pal.
Their employer would visit them once every week and ask if
they would cooperate. Upon hearing their rejections, he would threaten “to leave you here until you die”.
It was nearly three months in captivity, when one day Limbu
and the prospect of foreign exchange earnings for poor immi-
saw a Nepali man outside her room through the crack of the door.
developing countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Ne-
security guard and called out to him, grabbing his attention. She
grant workers have attracted the influx of migrant workers from pal. But these workers often suffer physical, sexual and mental
abuse at the hands of their employers. Their suffering goes unde-
tected when workers do not speak up for fear of reprisal or when they employ illegal means to travel and seek work in the Gulf, and thus fall off the radar of their native countries. Such illegal
Judging by his looks, she presumed he worked at the house as a told him they were trapped in this room and were being subjected to horrible abuse. Upon hearing their story, the guard went
on to inform other Nepalis of these women and with their help, established contact with the Nepali embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, after the three-and-a-half month long ordeal, Limbu
means include travelling to the Gulf States via India to avoid de-
landed in Kathmandu in September 2011 with the help of travel
arrange travel and employment with insufficient or fake docu-
other documents still lay with her former employer, while her
tection or availing the services of unregistered agents who can mentation.
In 1998, a Nepali domestic worker committed suicide in Kuwait
documents provided by the Nepali embassy. Her passport and salary from the last month, 500 Saudi Riyals, also went unpaid.
While she has managed to escape, hundreds of women con-
after repeated physical and sexual abuse by her employer. Fol-
tinue living this nightmare everyday in the Gulf due to intimi-
ban on women working in the Gulf countries. Though this rule
physical or sexual abuse, like so many immigrant female work-
lowing huge public uproar in Nepal, Kathmandu imposed a strict
was relaxed in 2010 — requiring Nepali embassies in the United
Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to certify that there is demand for Nepali female workers in these countries
illegal channels to the Gulf has become even more rampant, leav-
and that the conditions of basic wage, insurance, accommoda-
tion and security are met — it is still difficult for a woman to get AUGUST 5-11 2012
dation and poverty. She was lucky not to have suffered serious ers from the third world do. But her captivity, the use of coercion
and the time spent with other unfortunate women have still left
her scarred for life. Now that she is home with her family, Limbu wants to forget the days she spent in Saudi Arabia. *Names have been changed to protect identities.
a world of her own BY SADAF PERVEZ
First-time authors created quite a stir in 2011 and the trend seems to be continuing this year with Grace McCleen’s impressive debut book The Land of Decoration. The book is narrated by Judith McPherson, a 10-year-old girl of above-average intelligence who is being raised by her religious, yet remote father. Judith has no friends at school and is routinely mocked, shoved and otherwise physically abused. The world does not have much to offer to her so she builds her own. Judith is trying to find where she belongs in this world. She longs to feel her father’s love as evidenced by one of the passages in the book: “There was one day when I thought father loved me. On that day father and I walked hand in hand for eleven miles.” Of course, that’s only because the McPhersons belong to the Brothers, a sect that studies the Bible daily and walks door to door to warn people of the coming of Armageddon. “It’s a good thing Armageddon is coming,” Judith says, “because polar bears are starving and trees are dying and if you put a plastic bag in the earth it will never go away. And because in the new world I will see my mother.” Using her unique understanding of her religion, Judith finds solace in her room where she creates a miniature re-creation of the land of milk and honey (which she believes will come after Armageddon) out of bits of nature and trash. Mountains are made of papier-mâché, rivers of cling film, seas from mirrors and houses from cartons. When Judith begins to be tormented by a bully at school, she prays for snow so that she will have to miss school. When it does snow, she is convinced she has the power to create miracles but Judith soon discovers that having power may not be as desirable as she once thought. While the initial pages might make one feel that the book is for children, this is not case. In fact, the plain style and short chapters rather enhance Judith’s innocence and dramatise her view of the world. The Land of Decoration is philosophically sophisticated but is also something that everyone can relate to. Judith becomes a friend, a character to root for throughout the book. Twists of evil infused with goodness provide dimension to the tale. The result is a powerful story that will leave you thinking.
44 AUGUST 5-11 2012
END OF THE LINE
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laughter? If youâ€™ve answered yes to all those questions then send in your creations to email@example.com AUGUST 5-11 2012