At 9:00 pm on 12 September 2017, Beenish Sharif got off from the Dentist’s Clinic where she worked in the posh Defense Housing Authority area of Lahore. By 9:05 pm she was outside where as usual her father was waiting to pick her up. As she came out of the gate she was surprised to see Asmat ullah the boy whose parents had asked for her hand in marriage standing there; her father – Muhammad Sharif – stood across the road and witnessed what happened next. The boy asked her to sit with him on the motor bike on her refusal, he threw acid on her face and body changing her life forever.
Beenish Sharif was the bread earner of the house. She would stitch clothes in the morning and work as an Assistant at the Dental Clinic in the evening. With over 25% acid burns on her body with her face and eyes being most effected, although she has been discharged from the hospital after initial treatment she has to go frequently for checkups and change of dressings. As time passes she is losing morale and courage. Even though the Smile Again Foundation of Mussarrat Misbah has promised help yet Beenish Sharif is losing faith in her future.
Speaking to The Nation Beenish Sharif said, “Everytime I think of it, I cannot believe that my face has been destroyed forever. I still can’t get over the fact that this has happened to me.”
Talking of her feeling when acid was thrown on her she said, “When Asmat threw acid on me, it felt as if I was pushed into a fire it burnt so badly. I screamed for help but no one came forward. I banged on the gate nearest to me, no one came out however the gate still has the handprints with my peeled skin on it as my hand was burnt. I walked to the post of Rescue 1122 nearby, and after about 10 minutes I was taken to the hospital.”
Talking of punishment Beenish said, “Those who destroy others’ lives should be made an example of. They should never be spared and should be awarded the harshest punishment so that no one else ever spoils someone’s life like this.”
She lost her voice for a while, and tried to control her tears as she thought of her situation. She complained that no one from the Government had contacted them, “I am under treatment that will last a long time, yet my face will never be the same again as I can’t afford the expenditure.”
Khadija Siddiqui, who was stabbed 23 times by her university fellow Shah Hussain last year and later won the case against him, has requested friends on social media to help the family on urgent basis.
About her relationship with Asmat ullah she said, “We worked in an office together about two years ago and while I did not like him much, he proposed to me. I told him send his parents to talk to my parents. When my parents agreed to the proposal I accepted it. Later his and his family’s attitude changed due to which we backed off. Since then he started threatening me and forcing me to meet him but I did not which resulted in this.”
Perveen Kauser, Beenish’s mother sounded defeated when she spoke to The Nation, “Beenish was our only bread winner as my husband was a scrap seller and my son was a small contractor, but now both are not well and do not work. I don’t know how we will get her treated.”
She shared her thoughts about Asmat ullah and her family, “Asmat ullah was a property dealer, when his family came with proposal we were not ready but his mother convinced us. They wanted to move out of Lahore after the kids got married so my husband said no. Instead asked them to buy a house in Beenish’s name and live in Lahore. They agreed but asked us to give them the money for the house and later they would pay back. With lot of hardships we managed the money for the house and bought it, but later Asmat sold it without asking us and did not return the money also, due to which we ended the relationship. However on Eid they came back and convinced us, and said the marriage should take place immediately, howver we told then to wait till after the Islamic month of Safar, not knowing what he would end up doing.”
Rabiya Sharif, Beenish’s sister spoke to The Nation and expressed her feelings, “Every day when I pass by those places where Beenish and I walked through, it hurts. She cannot go with me now. We use to be so naughty. Is this life? She can’t eat, sit or see. She can’t even move on her own. If something had happened by Allah’s will then we would have endured it but how do we bear this trauma?”
About Asmat ullah Rabiya angrily said, “He has not only destroyed my sister’s life but our whole family is shattered. If he ever comes in front of me I will not spare him. I will punish him so badly that not only in Pakistan but abroad also people will be afraid to throw acid. Why is our government so weak that everyone can buy acid easily and destroy someone’s life.”
She highlighted a very disturbing behavior of Asmat’s mother when after visiting on Eid, “Asmats mother wanted to take Beenish for shopping but instead they took her to a house and beat her black and blue, threatening her and told her to get married immediately. When she returned home she was scared and told our mother. Since then we stopped talking to Asmat and his family. Beenish stopped attending his calls and one day he called at the clinic and came to know that she works there. That is when he reached the clinic and burnt her.”
Advocate Gul Abbas, Regional Manager Punjab at Peace and Justice Network is working on Beenish Sharif’s case. Speaking to The Nation he said, “The accused, Asmat ullah son of Atta ullah has confessed his act. Soon we would know which Anti-Terrorism court the case would be heard in. All evidence is against the accused and soon the forensic report will also be received. In acid attacks, Sections 336 B or 788 is applicable, which carries life imprisonment and fine. There should be capital punishment for this crime, however it is not prescribed punishment under these acts.”
Regarding possibility of reconciliation he said, “There is no option of reconciliation. The SSP Defense Dr. Anush Masood, has also assured that the accused would not get away.”
Acid attack is one of the worst means of taking revenge. Most cases are linked to relationships between boys and girls especially in cases of refusal of hand. A study by the Acid Survivors Foundation shows that there has been a 50 % decline in acid attacks since 2014-2016, compared to previous years for various reasons.