A Bangladeshi woman who says she was sold to her husband has fled her home in the mountainous district of southern Sindh province in Pakistan, seeking refuge at the Hyderabad Press Club.
Arian Parveen wept as she told reporters that she was afraid her in-laws might kill her if she returned home.
“I want separation from my cruel husband. I cannot live with him any longer. I cannot tolerate more anguish,” she said.
Parveen, from Dhaka, Bangladesh, was brought to Pakistan’s port city of Karachi by her cousin on the pretext of marrying her. Instead, he sold her to one Abbas from Manjhand for 20,000 rupees (about U.S.$350). Since then she has been living with him.
“I was sold like a goat and have forgotten my mother tongue (Bengali) as well as the address of my home in Dhaka,” Parveen said.
She says she is the daughter of a lawyer and recalls that her father’s name is also Abbas. “I don’t know more about my parents there because I didn’t have postal access to communicate with them. I have been under tremendous pressure,” she said.
Parveen is unable to recall the exact year when she was brought to Karachi.
“I had compromised with in-laws since I have five children from my Pakistani husband, two daughters and three sons. I am afraid that I will not see the children again,” she said, bursting into tears.
“During the Nikah (marriage) ceremony, I was given tranquilizers to keep me silent over the secret deal,” explained Parveen. “I cannot excuse my cousin who betrayed me. I don’t know his whereabouts.”
She says she sought help from the local police station but that authorities were “reluctant” to take action against her in-laws.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan representative Aftab Ahmed told reporters the agency will go to the court to seek justice for the woman.
There are many Bengali women sold in Majhand and other parts of the Sindh province who have been facing a similar situation. There reportedly is a big market for the sale of women in Karachi.
Parveen sought help at the Hyderabad Press Club just three days after a 10-year-old Pakistani girl named Najma, a peasant’s daughter, fled from the same town, telling a similar story about her adult husband.
Najma reportedly was sold for 20,000 rupees after her father failed to pay a payment for a buffalo he had borrowed.
Ishaque Magrio, a Sindhi folklore writer, says babies sometimes are sold long before their birth.
National laws in Pakistan are ineffective in tribal systems where chieftains decide every matter from cattle theft to murder and kidnapping. As a result, women are being sold like animals as the ancient traditions of the tribal chiefs go unchallenged.
Sahar Rizvi is a women’s activist in Hyderabad.
“The tribal chiefs through [dishonest] means get elected to Parliament. They are lawmakers here. They defend themselves through the [national] laws. They want to support centuries-old traditions instead of changing the system,” said Rizvi.
Arian Parveen is one of the hundreds of victims who either have been killed or are living under brutal conditions.
According to official data, about 1,100,000 Bengalis are residing illegally in Karachi. Moreover, there are 200,000 Burmese and 2,500 Iranians. Afghanis are not considered aliens, as the government of Pakistan recognizes them as refugees.
Jan Khaskheli is a freelance writer in Karachi, Pakistan.