Two Pakistani women killed themselves along with their children recently. Bushra of Lahore wrote a suicide note explaining that she wanted to end her life because her husband was not earning enough to feed her two children. She lay down on the railway tracks with her kids and was run over by a speeding train. The other woman was Rehana of Azad Kashmir who couldn’t bear the thought of her husband taking another wife. First she threw her three little sons into a well, then jumped into the well herself.
Of course the media didn’t highlight this issue, it was more concerned with what happened to Dr. Arbab Rahim and Dr. Sher Afgan, both of whom are not the type who would be moved by the plight of poor women like Bushra and Rehana.
But the question arises, why did the two women have to kill themselves? One thing which we hear time and again is that no one in Pakistan has ever died of hunger. If Bushra’s husband (a welder), couldn’t earn enough to feed his family, something is seriously wrong somewhere. I had a hard time recently when I had to sack a peon. It took me a whole month before I found someone suitable to replace him. As for semi-skilled people, like those who know a bit of accounting, you have to pay them ten thousand a month, even if they have only six month’s experience. Nowadays you can’t get a driver for less than six thousand rupees a month. I myself used to pay welders a hundred rupees a day thirty years ago, so I’m sure nowadays welders earn at least three hundred rupees a day, if not more.
So why is Bushra’s husband so poor? As for Rehana, killing herself was not an option. If her husband wanted a second wife, she could at least have appealed to her relatives for compensation or equal treatment. Although I can understand her feelings, in Islamic societies the husband has the upper hand and she has to agree to his demands. But then, if a man wants to take another wife, he has to take permission from his first wife, as per the laws of Pakistan. In any case, a Muslim has to treat all his wives equally. Rehana could have insisted on this in the presence of local leaders before her husband married again.