=> Nineteen-year-old victim of intra-country traffick -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

=> Nineteen-year-old victim of intra-country traffick

Nineteen-year-old victim of intra-country trafficking, Sajida, and her 18-monh-old daughter Rida will be returning home to Gujranwala along with her neighbour Rana Saleem’s sister-in-law, Aswad Tabassum.

Sajida had been sold into an arranged marriage by her family when she was 15 years old. A couple of weeks ago, her husband Tariq and his friend Aslam, sold her to two unknown men for a sum of Rs 100,000. The men had raped Sajida all night before she managed to escape around 06:00 a.m. the next morning, and found refuge at the house of a peasant, Gulbahar.

Sajida was recovered from Gulbahar’s house in Nawabshah by Madadgaar Helpline, a local NGO that has since been trying to locate Saleem. Sajida had refused to go back to her family, and had named Saleem as the only person she could trust.

Saleem finally contacted the NGO on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Madagaar Helpline had been receiving a number of dubious phone calls from people who claimed to be Sajida’s relatives. The calls had come in response to public service announcements that Madadgaar officials had placed in several newspapers in Punjab in order to contact Saleem. Until the latter got in touch the NGO, Sajida and her daughter had been staying at a shelter home in Karachi (since December 18).

At a press conference held Thursday, Sajida told journalists that Saleem was like a brother to her, and she would be safe with his family. She had stayed with them earlier too, for around a year while she had been temporarily separated from her husband over a domestic dispute.

She appeared calm and content at Thursday’s press conference, and said that she had lost faith in her blood relatives because they had sold her into a marriage with Rafeeq.

“I can trust Saleem because I have lived with his family before for a whole year. He is like a brother to me,” Sajida said. She was accompanied by Tabassum, who came all the way from Gujranwala to take Sajida and Rida back with her. “Saleem could not come to pick them up because he could not take time off from work,” Tabassum said.

The two later showed some photographs of Sajida with Saleem’s son and the rest of his family (during her one-year stay at his home previously) to verify that she was returning to safety. Madadgaar officials have, however, kept photocopies of Saleem and Tabassum’s NICs for their records. An FIR has also been registered in Gujranwala on Sajida’s behalf so that she and her daughter can be protected.

Sajida was initially reluctant to lodge an FIR, but after having understood her husband’s intention to sell her, she reconsidered her decision and has also decided to file for divorce. “Referral letters have been provided to her in order to facilitate the Gujranwala police as well,” said Advocate Zia Awan of Madadgaar Helpline.

Rafeeq (alias Tariq) is still absconding, however. Tabassum said that he had been missing since the couple left for Sehwan Shareef (where Sajida was sold). Two older daughters of his (from a previous marriage) are curently living alone in his house.

“They say that their parents have not returned since they went to Sindh,” Tabassum said. “We later saw Madadgaar’s advertisement in a newspaper and contacted them.”

“Saleem is employed in the police force and his family is financially sound as well, so Sajida and her daughter’s stay would not be an economic burden on the family and she would also be secure with them,” Tabassum said. Sajida said, however, that if Saleem’s family refused to keep her after a specific time, she would find a separate house for her daughter and herself and start working to earn a living. “But I will not go back to my husband now,” she reiterated.
Source: The News
Date:1/11/2008