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I curse the moment when I decided to move to Fatehjang
 

Sobeea's sisters and brother combed the usual path to the school, but found no trace of their sister. Noreen and Robina, sisters of Sobeea, started searching the nearby fields.

In for a shock of their lives, the two young girls found the dead body of their sister in one of the fields, strangled to death after rape.

"I feel if I have lost everything. I curse the moment when I decided to move to Fatehjang," says Mohammad Banaras, Sobeea's father who moved to the city from his ancestral village two years back. A labourer, Banaras put up his family of eight in a one-room house in a slum in Fatehjang.

"Now I live in fear for the safety of my three other daughters." One of his daughters was to be married on October 24, but now that has been postponed indefinitely.

Police arrested Abdul Jabbar for rape and murder of Sobeea, saying he has confessed his crime. "The case was a challenge for us," says Chaudhry Riaz, Fatehjang police's Station House Officer. "We will soon produce him before courts."

However, the city of Fatehjang is still trying to grapple with the rape and murder of Soeeba, who was also learning Quran by heart.

"Such incidents make people insecure. First, the police probe would look at it as blind murder. You are worried about the unknown enemy, and then someone among you is blamed for such frightening tragedies," says Dr Khalid Mehmood, head of a local social organization. "The culprit according to police has been arrested, but people's trust in each other has been shattered."

The house of Muhammad Banaras became centre of the city's attention after the incident, as the family decided to move out.

For many, the incident also provided an opportunity for hogging some media coverage. District government officials and local politicians announced some cash for the Banaras family and vowed "exemplary punishment" for Abdul Jabbar.

"This is the first such incident in our city," says Iftikhar Ahmed Khan, Fatehjang's tehsil Nazim (mayor). "We will see that no one provides Jabbar any help."

Lawyers of the city also met and passed a resolution vowing free legal aid for the Banaras family.

Local leaders of political parties were also quick to visit the house of Banaras, condemned the incident, and announced some aid for the family.

A "probe team" of Khabrain, a mainstream Urdu newspaper, claimed it was welcomed by the Fatehjang people for "timely intervention".

In its October 29 issue, Khabrain carried the Sobeea's incident on the front page, but instead of the girl, it is the chief editor who is being congratulated in every third line for sending a team to the city and highlighting the case.

Unfortunately, the picture carried by Khabrain with a caption that "people of Fatehjang sloganeering" for its chief editor Zia Shahid was in fact a snap of students protesting against the government's decision against privatisation of public colleges!

It seems nobody is worried about the Banaras family, which has retreated back to its ancestral village.

"I have no enemy. I only want justice," says a weeping Muhammad Banaras. He is oblivious to the attention the case has got. He only knows one thing that his daughter would never come back. "I can't control my tears whenever I remember her".

31-03-2008 20:49 Online News
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