Defence of Human Rights

Justice in a Limbo

Uzma “Shehzadi” means an “honorable Princess” in English and her parents would have wished for a princess-like fate for their daughter. Uzma was beautiful, lively, and eager to get an education but she was married off at a young age to Shafeeq Ahmed, without completing her education. Today, she has come a long way from her happy household to living an isolated life alone and going through psychological sessions to help her survive the pain and grief beyond her control.

Here is the story of how grief became Uzma’s life partner:

One ill-fated day her husband decided to separate from her and move to Lahore, another city of Pakistan, she bore this shock bravely and came to terms with the harsh reality in which she was raising her two teenage sons as a single mother. Talha and Maaz were happy naughty kids who kept her occupied and happy – far from any kind of depression or regrets. The boys were growing up fast and getting an education, and soon became young men who were eager to help their mother and take up the household burden. 

Talha, after doing intermediate education, started working in a security company as a security guard at the young age of 22 years. Maaz at 24 however, was doing a diploma in Automobiles while looking for a job. In the afternoon of 6th April 2014, Talha called Maaz sounding frightened and saying that a double cabin high roof van was following him and had tried to capture him. He was afraid of returning to his home alone so asked for the elder brother to come and pick him up. Before Maaz could reach the security company’s office, the same white van with armed security personnel inside abducted Maaz.

Talha, now called his mother, rushed to the security company’s office and found Talha in a terrifying condition. Uzma was totally shattered and shocked after Maaz ‘s disappearance. Desperately in an attempt to save Talha, she took him to the airport and bought a ticket for Lahore, so that she could send Talha away to his father and save him. At the airport, only half an hour short of boarding, an ASF guard at the airport took Talha in the control room for some queries. After 1 and half hours, he took Talha away in a double cabin high roof van without any explanation to his mother. 

Uzma ran pillar to post, registering her disappeared sons’ cases in the police station; requesting and writing letters to all the higher authorities. She further got the cases filed in the Sindh High court and in the Commission of Inquiry but to no avail. Uzma’s struggle continued for 6 years without a break, in which she became affiliated with the Defence of Human Rights. 

Uzma along with her aged father was involved in the monthly activities of Defence of Human Rights. She actively participated in protests, consultation meetings, conferences, and press briefings. Uzma mentioned that while participating in the protests she felt some sense of empowerment. She mentioned that she is not alone in this, and shares the same grief with thousands of mothers.

The case of Uzma’s two sons was going very well in Sindh High Court as the judges ordered the authorities to find the disappeared brothers at once. The judges said that the two brothers cannot disappear from the face of the earth just like that. These strong remarks gave hope and courage to Uzma’s long struggle. Finally, justice was being served to her.  

However, suddenly the world was struck by the pandemic Covid -19, and quickly cases started growing creating panic across Pakistan. Uzma too was horrified and just couldn’t settle down with the fact that all the hearings and efforts for the release and tracing of her sons went into limbo.

During the first few weeks of the lockdown, Uzma kept calling the members of Defence of Human Rights in search of answers. She kept asking us about the reopening date of her cases. The fact that her case was going so strong made her even more devastated due to the impact of Covid-19. She called, visited, and shouted to get her sons back in the offices of the Commission but they were helpless in the pandemic. Uzma collapsed and went into severe depression. She had no hope left, no diversion, not much work to keep her occupied. All she could think was the event and all that followed after the abduction of her sons.  It was as if a long tunnel which has no light at the far end. 

One fine morning, Uzma received a call from the Defence of Human rights office telling her the possibility of psychosocial counseling online. Gradually after months and hours of intense sessions, Uzma’s hope and interest in life resurfaced. She found her real self back, one that was resilient and brave enough to take every possible measure to find her sons.

Today, Uzma is out in the field with a super will and the iconic power of her courage, determined to find her sons. One day sooner or later Justice will be served to Uzma Shehzadi- the honorable Princess.  

Written by Amina Masood Janjua, Chairperson Defence of Human Rights Pakistan

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