Acid accessibility behind increase in burn cases
By Nadia Usman
LAHORE: The number of acid-burn cases (with women being the main victims) has almost steadily increased over the past three years. The easy access to dangerous chemicals and acids is one of the major reasons for this trend.
According to an HRCP report, the number of acid-burn cases has steadily increased. In 2005, 10 cases were reported; in 2006, 22 cases; and in 2007, 33 cases were recorded, four of which were minor victims.
The report also says that the main reason for the increase in the number of cases is that acid is sold freely and widely in markets and the mandatory identity card check is also not performed.
Similarly, according to Madadgar Helpline data, out of the total 229 burn cases of women in 2007, the acid-burn cases were 30 with 19 in Punjab alone.
Human rights activist Shahtaj Qizalbash, while talking to Daily Times, said that acid burning was one of the worst forms of revenge a man could take from a woman. She said that the main reasons for acid-burn cases were to avenge honour for refusals in marriage proposals and sexual advances, apart from domestic and property issues. “It is the worst form as it has the potential, and in many cases it does ruin an individual’s life for good.”
According to the survey conducted by Daily Times, the city’s biggest chemicals and acid markets are located at main Grand Trunk (GT) Road about one kilometre away from the city railway station towards Minar-e-Pakistan, and at Circular Road from Shah Alam Gate to Dehli Gate. About 1,000 main chemical and acid dealers are running their business without checks and balances. Apart from that, a market also exists in Kot Lakhpat near the industrial area. A bottle can be purchased for domestic use by anyone and the district administration has no check over the sale of a commodity which has the potential to permanently ruin one’s life.
One of the dealers of the acid market at GT Road said that they usually sold acid only to regular customers for industrial use on showing an industry certificate, but other individuals also came to buy acids or corrosive substances from them. “We only do our business and it’s not our responsibility to check whether that person is using the acid for good or bad motives.”
Nisar Ahmad, a chemical engineer by profession, who is also running his business in the acid market located in Kot Lakhpat, told Daily Times that they usually sold the substance to known industrial customers. However, if some unknown customer came along, they first asked him for what purpose the acid was required.
“All we can do is ask that person about the purpose. We cannot go along with each and every customer to his residence to find out what they are using it for,” he said.
Regarding any regulations or bans on the sale of acid, he said that no such no such directions had been issued to them by the government.
The personal staff officer to the district coordination officer, Tariq Zaman told Daily Times that in 2004, the city district government had closed the acid market near the Railways Station, but no rule existed regarding the selling of acid in the market except for a limitation of quantity for selling. However, he said that a month ago, a direction had been passed on regarding the issuance of licenses to people selling acids.
When asked if the open operation of acid markets was the reason behind the acid-throwing incidents, he said, “I do not think that issuing licenses to dealers will do any good to stop the menace. One can buy any drug (medicine) in Pakistan without a prescription. Same is the case with acids. It is easily available, even at a paints shop.”
The Punjab Assembly passed a resolution in August 2003, proposing that acid-burn cases be treated as attempted murder. However, the subsequent legislation is yet to be enforced and the perpetrators of this inhuman crime either go unpunished or get minor punishments.