Sir: Self-immolation is not a recurring phenomenon anywhere in the world and there is a simple reason behind it; the physical pain of burning to death. One of the most excruciatingly painful ways to die, self-immolation is hardly a convenient suicide option. Amina bibi, an 18-year-old girl from Muzzafargarh who set herself ablaze in front of a police station and died the following day of severe burns, did not die because she wanted to put on a good show, or because she was ignorant of the pain, or because she had conquered the fear of pain. Instead, a greater fear had overcome her, that of shame, indignity and injustice. Only a mind tormented by desperation and utter hopelessness can prompt a person to do such a thing against their own being. Amina had claimed that she was raped, and the influential accused had been wrongly set free by the police. Seeing that her verbal appeals only resulted in inaction and indifference, she did what she perhaps felt would prove her case beyond a shadow of a doubt and pave the way for the culprits to be held accountable at last, whether or not she was there to see it. We learn today that she might have been wrong about that.
In the report submitted by the Punjab police during the Supreme Court (SC) hearing of the case, it has been claimed that Amina was in fact never raped at all, that she did it all for show, driven by the malicious agenda of entrapping her family’s rivals — merely a case of cold and calculated self-immolation, according to the police. Every day, similar responses are faced by women in different parts of the country who seek action against rapists. Amina was one of them, and remains one of them even after her horrific death. The judges of the court rubbished the report, and snubbed officials over their performance. In a display of the lack of faith even the highest office-bearers of the land have in the police department, one judge went on to remark that the officials would even contest Amina’s existence and the incident itself if they could manage it. The SC has ordered the Multan district and sessions judge to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, and present a report in the next hearing. Now, the court must not only ensure the arrest and punishment of the rapists, but also make an example out of the officials complicit in so macabre a crime.