www.sacw.net | February 9, 2005

Joint Action Committee for People's Rights [Lahore, Pakistan]

Press Statement | 8 February 2005

The Dr. Shazia Case

Once again, a Pakistani woman has been subjected to rape and torture. Once again attempts are being made to spare the real culprits. Once again, a woman, traumatized, her life endangered may be forced to leave her country. The woman is Dr. Shazia Khalid.

The Joint Action Committee is deeply disturbed at what appears to be concerted efforts to defeat justice in the Dr Shazia rape case by covering up matters and delaying the recording of evidence that is tantamount to its destruction.

We are concerned that now that the matter is being pursued at multiple forums including a Tribunal, will cause further delays, impeding the actual legal case of rape.

Joint Action Committee believes those culpable in this crime include the rapist, those who have/are concealing the facts and those providing "protection" to the people implicated.

Facts of the case

Dr. Shazia Khalid, an employee of Pakistan Petroleum Limited, has been working at the company's Sui hospital for the past 18 months and lived in accommodation provided by PPL. Security services for the entire facility is provided by the Defence Services Group (DSG).

On the night of 2 January, a masked intruder attacked and raped Dr. Shazia, threatening to call in an accomplice if she raised an alarm. She was severely injured on resistance and left tied up with telephone wires. When she finally freed herself from her bonds she related what happened to Sister Sakina of the PPL medical staff (who informed the administration) and several other doctors, including the PPL Chief Medical Officer, Dr Usman Waddah, and Deputy Medical Officer, Dr Mohammad Ali (two doctors subsequently accused and arrested for concealing/destroying evidence). Shazia was stopped from returning to her room where the incident took place to even recover her clothes and the staff did not comply with her plea to have her brother and his wife flown in from Karachi to be with her. No medical examination was carried out, nor was the police called by the PPL staff.

Shazia was kept sedated by PPL officials and doctors who did their level best to conceal the incident of rape. In the meantime, the police of the Sui Police Station learnt of the incident and came to investigate on the 3rd evening, but when the police party reached the PPL hospital, they found Dr Shazia unconscious. On searching Dr Shazia's room, the police did recover evidence of likely rape but no proper a medical examination of Dr. Shazia took place despite the police request.

PPL officials and doctors also obstructed the police from recording Dr Shazia's statement subsequently when the police returned on the morning of January 4th. Then, despite the specific request of the police that Dr. Shazia not be shifted before her statement could be recorded, PPL personnel shifted Dr. Shazia to Karachi before the police returned that afternoon and feigned ignorance of where she had been shifted. In fact, PPL officials had admitted Dr. Shazia into Asghar Psychiatric Hospital, Karachi claiming she was mentally disturbed and needed medical attention. It is only on the 4th that her family was contacted by PPL officials and wrongly informed that a "dacoity had taken place". The Police could not record Shazia's own statement until January 9th in Karachi.
Dr Shazia was later shifted to another location where she is being held incommunicado, denied access to all support, even legal.

During this time the PPL Company representatives tried to dissuade Dr Shazia and her family from registering a case of rape, and kept denying to the media that rape took place. However Shazia's medical examination in Karachi by the police surgeon confirmed rape. Only when PPL doctors were accused of concealing/destroying evidence and arrested by the police, did the PPL GM acknowledge the rape.

The police allegations of non-cooperation are very serious and support the contention of there being concerted efforts to subvert the whole case and protect the perpetrators.

Furthermore, reports in a section of the media and the statements of the local and elected representatives from Balochistan and Sindh indicate the involvement of an officer of the Pakistan Army serving in the DSG at Sui. It is not known whether he has been questioned or apprehended. The fact that, according to Shazia's statement before the Tribunal, a colonel of the Military Intelligence contacted her brother and met the brother and her husband on the 11th suggests the implication of some army personnel.

The case may have been hushed up by the company and the security agencies, if it had not become embroiled with the ongoing agitation by the Baloch nationalists for a fair share of resources controlled by the center. Protest campaigns and pressure by various leaders, media and civil society finally led to the institution of a judicial tribunal on 11 January to inquire into the case and to submit a report within fifteen days. The tribunal recorded Dr. Shazia's statement in Karachi on 24 January. Three officials of PPL, including two doctors, have been held for interrogation.

The different actions taken lack cohesion and transparency, suggesting that the attempts to cover up the facts may go up to the highest echelons.

The persistent efforts to defeat justice in the case reflect the existing tendency to further repress people of the smaller provinces.

We fear that vested interests will once again ensure the denial of justice to a Pakistani woman, a survivor of violence.

We therefore demand:

* The safety and security of Dr Shazia and her family be ensured and that Dr. Shazia be allowed:

- to exercise her fundamental rights of legal counsel of her own choosing in all proceedings related to the case;
- to avail of all medical care required for her wellbeing;
- to interact freely with women's rights and human rights organizations and with doctors' associations.

* An inquiry be held to establish why the police is being prevented from doing its job
* All proceedings be made transparent, allowing observers from women's rights and human rights organizations and doctors' associations;
* The contents of the FIR be made public and the names of those accused revealed;
* Those obstructing justice be apprehended and prosecuted under the law;
* Dr Shazia's case not be made an excuse for intensifying militaristic operations in Balochistan.

We urge

* the Pakistan Medical Association to take immediate steps to ensure that none of those doctors and medical practitioners found to be responsible of obstructing justice are allowed to continue in the medical profession.

Joint Action Committee for People's Rights

Go to the South Asia Citizens Web | Return to Womens Rights Pages