Even time, the great healer, is unlikely to erase the scars on the mind and body of 47-year-old Sabiha Khan, who was in Pakistan’s jails for seven years.
In an exclusive interview to HT, she narrated how she was brutally tortured, sexually assaulted and locked up like a beast in an undisclosed cell for six and half years. She was finally shifted to the Kot Lakhpat Jail six months prior to her release through Wagah border on December 23.
"Had I found a piece of cloth, I would have committed suicide the very first day they started subjecting me to third degree torture coupled with sexual assault as per the free will of the interrogating team. But believe me, I died every day for six and half years," Sabiha said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Born in Bhopal to a Hindu father and a Muslim mother, Sabiha’s life was like a dream. After graduation, she shifted to Delhi, got a job, a caring husband and two children.
The nightmare began with a visit to her maternal grandmother in Karachi in 1999. Not knowing that travelling outside Karachi could prove costly for her, Sabiha accompanied her grandmother to the Indian embassy in Islamabad for procuring her a visa. And, the police picked her up as soon as she came out.
"I was taken to a secluded place with my eyes covered with cloth. I was given third degree torture for weeks together and was raped by the interrogating Army officers. How can I forget those moments of inhuman torture? There were occasions when I would sing the national anthem and then hear some more painful voices joining me from other detention cells," said Sabiha.
“Caring little that I was a vegetarian, they used to offer me cow meat. Or I had to take chapatis with water," she said. "I would have died or turned mad but for the meditation and yogic exercises that I continued to do in the cubical detention cell with no window or fan," she said.
She used to be shifted, chained and eyes covered, from one place to another every six months and everywhere, the torture continued.
In May, this year, she was sent to the Kot Lakhpat jail from where she wrote to human rights organisations in Pakistan. Indian embassy officials then visited her.
"We were then produced in the Supreme Court where I spoke continuously for two hours in front of Justice Kokhar. He ordered our release," she said.
Showing the scars and cigaratte burns all over her body, Sabiha said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Parnab Mukerjee should see these before extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan.
"I don't know whether my family or my parents would accept me. But, I am determined to give birth to a son and then send him to Pakistan to take revenge," she said.