London: (Hannah Chowdry and Juliet Chowdhry) A young Christian woman of only 19 years of age had acid thrown onto her face in response to rejection of the romantic advances of a Muslim man.
The young nurse was being harassed by her Muslim neighbour for several years and her siblings had often complained about the unwanted interactions of Kamran Allah Baksh, with his parents.
The family had reported the stalking and harassment undertaken by the young man to local police. But nothing was done to curb Mr Baksh’s behaviour.
19 year old Sunita Munawar began her journey from Hazara Colony (Kala Pull) to Cantt, where she worked as a healthcare attendant, as per usual on 1st Fabruary 2023. She left her home at 7:30am, got on a bus and arrived at the district bus station at Cantt at around 7.45am.
While at the bus stop she noticed that Kamran Allah Baksh a local neighbour who had been stalking and harassing her for several years, was already waiting at the bus stop. Despite a sense of foreboding, Miss Munawar bravely exited the bus and headed towards her workplace.
As she passed by Mr Baksh without warning he threw something on Miss Munawar’s face. She could feel intense pain in her eyes and on the skin of her face, arms, torso and legs and knew immediately, that something was seriously wrong. She screamed and tried to wipe away the acid but found that the pain would not stop, a pain so severe that at some point Miss Munawar fainted and collapsed to the ground.
Local people horrified by the incident called emergency services and Sunita was taken to the Trauma Centre at Civil Hospital Karachi, for treatment.
After Munawar had been treated and recovered somewhat, she was able to report the crime to local police at Frere Police Station, Karachi and FIR No. 26/2023 was registered. Mr Baksh was arrested and charged under 336-B (punishment for hurt by corrosive substance) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Whoever with the intention or knowingly causes or attempts to cause hurt by means of a corrosive substance which is deleterious to human body when it is swallowed, inhaled, comes into contact or received into human body or otherwise shall be said to cause hurt by corrosive substance.
Explanation:- In this sub-section, unless the context otherwise requires, “corrosive substance” means a substance which may destroy, cause hurt, deface or dismember any organ of the human body and includes every kind of acid, poison, explosive or explosive substance, heating substance, noxious thing, arsenic or any other chemical which has a corroding effect and which is deleterious to human body.
He will also be prosecuted under Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act (click here) and The Acid and Burn Crime Act 2018 (click here). Mr Baksh has already confessed to the crime during police interrogation and now faces up to 7 years in prison or longer.
Miss Munawar, lost both her parents three years ago and was brought up by her siblings from the age of 16. Her siblings had repeatedly complained to Kamran’s parents about his harassing behaviour and urged them to stop him from doing it. The parents failed in their attempts to dissuade Mr Baksh and eventually he simply refused to listen to them and began stalking Miss Munawar.
With no option open to them a few months ago Sunita’s aunt took her to Mehmoodabad Police Station and reported the harassment there. The police filed a report but it is believed they took no action. Miss Munawar, spoke with British Asian Christian Association, she said:
He wanted me to be his girlfriend but I refused his advances.
“I cant believe what he has done to me, I did nothing to deserve this.
“It feels like he has destroyed my life.
“I have bright scars everywhere he sprayed the acid on me, it’s so hard to take.
“I just want him to be prosecuted so he cannot attack me or anyone else again.”
Kamran, who was on Thursday remanded into police custody for two days by a local court, has confessed to throwing acid at the victim for refusing his proposal, police said.
British Asian Christian Association, are aware that under The Acid and Burn Attack Act ratified by the National assembly in 2018, Miss Munawar can claim damages to compensate for treatment and loss of earnings from the Government of Pakistan. The Government will then try to retrieve this compensation back from the culprit. All Government hospital treatment costs for her treatment and rehabilitation will also be free under this statute law and also legal cover to pursue justice. This is one of the few crimes in Pakistan where the state takes full responsibility for victims.
While Miss Munawar awaits compensation she will be without work and her family who are all struggling financially have asked for some financial support. We have opened an appeal for a love offering that will be given to Miss Munawar who is for now fully dependent on her family. If you have been moved by this account and would like to donate to this appeal please (click here).
NGO the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), between 2007 and 2018 there were 1,485 reported cases of acid attacks in Pakistan. Close to a third of victims were children splashed with acid when family members were attacked.
Most acid attackers are men, and the majority of victims are women. The attacks often happen because women are perceived to be shunning gender traditions, by refusing a marriage proposal for example. Women have also been attacked with acid for giving birth to girls.
The prelude to the Acid Control and Crime Act 2011 (click here) states:
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“Acid throwing attacks are extremely violent crimes.
“Perpetrators seek to inflict severe physical and mental suffering on their victims, the large majority of whom are women.
In Pakistan, the most common reasons for such attacks are domestic violence, refusal of a marriage proposal, or the denial of a sexual advance.
“These attacks are vicious, pernicious and involve a high degree of premeditation.
“More responsive police could have prevented this attack when Sunita first reported stalking and harassment.
“Instead their inability to act, now means that Sunita will suffer years of disfigurement and treatments.”
In 2018 a Christian woman named Asma Yacoob suffered a similar acid attack and was then set alight (click here). Asma later succumbed to her injuries and passed away in hospital only 12 days later .