Karachi: An Indian woman, who left her country and religion to marry a Pakistani man, claims that her husband has locked her up in a small room on the roof of their house here for the past 13 years.
Shirley Ann Hodges married Gul Muhammad Khan, a Pakistani money lender, after meeting him in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, in the summer of 1997. She changed her name to Shabnam Gul Khan and came to Pakistan in 2000 with her new-born daughter. At the time, Khan said they were going to Pakistan to meet his family and that they would return to India within six months.
However, as soon as Shabnam landed in Karachi, she was abruptly introduced to Khan’s first wife and their six children, she told The Express Tribune.
Shabnam’s Indian passport was seized and she was given a burqa and locked away on the top floor of her in-laws’ home.
Shabnam has been confined in the top floor of the house for the past 13 years and is not allowed any visitors.
Her only contact with the outside world is through the internet and her mobile phone, the Tribune reported.
“I am a prisoner and this is a hell. For years, I have not gone out from my room. I want to go back to my family in India,” she said.
Shabnam’s sister-in-law, who lives in the same five-storey house in Landhi area of Karachi, said, “Shabnam observes purdah. She cannot meet anyone.” The woman, however, said she was being forced to remain indoors.
“I don’t know why my husband did this to me, why he fooled me. What was my fault? My daughters are not allowed to go to school. We are beaten with sticks and hurled abuses. Our life is very suffocating,” she said.
For years, Shabnam was forced to hide her husband’s cruelty from her family as she could only speak to them in front of him.
A few months ago, Shabnam managed to get through to her family independently by using Skype.
Speaking from Ahmedabad, Shabnam’s brother Noel Hodges said he was shocked when he saw her after all these years. “She weighs
100 kg now. She keeps crying all the time. We are very worried for her,” he said. Shabnam’s family has made frantic efforts for her release.
Letters have been written to the Indian Home Secretary, the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad and Pakistani human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir.
In Karachi, Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said his organisation had received letters about Shabnam and was seeking legal help.
After police questioned Khan about his wife, he filed a petition in Sindh High Court last month and accused police of harassing him.
“We observe strict purdah in our family, which is why Shabnam is not allowed to go out,” said Khan, who owns an electronics shop.
He claimed that he had done a “great deed” by converting a non-Muslim to Islam.
“I am a heart patient. When I become alright, I will take her to India but for now she has to take care of me,” he said. Shabnam claimed her husband’s promises of taking her back to India will be broken again.
“I regret marrying him, and the day I come out, I will file a case against him and make him suffer the same way,” she said.