Steal a baby, sell a baby

Published: March 27, 2012

Given the lack of penetration of pre-emptive birth control options, abortion still remains the only choice of family planning by many women.

Fact is stranger than fiction. At least with fiction, you can chew out the author for writing a predictable ending or for using outlandish plot twists. Sadly, some stories in life seem to be built entirely on outlandish plot twists.

On the 22nd of March, the police in Bhara Kahu, right outside Islamabad, busted a couple who stand accused of conducting illegal abortions, including dangerous late-stage ones, and selling the babies that survived. Sounds a lot like Hell’s version of the sustainable development model.

To top it off, the couple shares a bond of blood with one of the accused in the Sialkot lynching case, who for some inexplicable reason, is currently serving as one of the top cops of Islamabad.

Perhaps the capital felt deprived of mob-based hate crimes to avoid taking action, because this is the same guy who told his men to stand by and watch the mob cut loose instead of using their firearms to break up the crowd, no doubt inspired by the adage,

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

Anyway, while his past record shows that his policing skills are questionable at best, he still managed to use his clout to get a name erased from the original FIR.

One version of the story is that the main accused, the so-called better half of the criminal couple and the one against whom the initial complaint was lodged, has not been charged — just dear hubby.

According to an SP, however, both were implicated in the case, where a baby was bought for Rs45,000 from the couple in a sting operation. Apparently, the biological mother had paid Rs10,000 to have the child aborted, so a pretty straight-up case of fraud might be brought. That is, if the procedure was legal in the first place.

Abortion – there I said it. Among the most taboo subjects in Pakistani society, it is a topic that most people avoid due to the uncomfortable nature of the religious-feminist schism, but unfortunately, it is a social reality.

Estimates from 10 years ago suggested that Pakistan had an abortion rate of 890,000 per year, or one every 35 seconds. Given the lack of penetration of pre-emptive birth control options such as condoms or the Pill, these figures are unlikely to have changed, considering the number of women who claimed to be using abortions for family planning as the only option.

Abortions are a lot more dangerous than birth control, but certain segments in society consider the latter taboo because it might lead to ‘illicit activities’ and the corrosion of family values. Meanwhile, maternal mortality and unsafe abortions mean that a woman with an easily avoidable unwanted pregnancy is disproportionately at risk of dying during the ‘remedial’ process.

But at least that solves the family values problem. Women can’t go on a contraceptive-fuelled bender and put the family’s honour at stake if they’re dead. 

Read more by Vaqas, or follow him on Twitter @vasghar.


Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abdul moiz

    Doctors in pakistan get away with a lot of things for which they would be jailed in the civilised world.They exploit their position in society by closing down hospitals when they want their demands met,they fleece patients in the name of consultations.No one can take action against them because then the doctors scream that the messiahs of humanity are being targetted.

    Media is scared of doctors as we’ve seen examples in the recent past when doctors went on strike and the public had to suffer a lot,just so that the doctors who had been arrested and suspended were put back on their jobs.Recommend

  • Food for Thought!

    @Express Tribune

    Do you realize what kind of an impression this page that says “Welcome to Pakistan – Steal Babies, Sell Babies” appears on the international front?!

    Maybe saucy scandalous headlines are not worth it all the time!!!Recommend

  • Ali

    @Food for Thought!:
    Since when does tribune care about that my friend?
    Contraceptives (both oral and condoms) are pretty easy to obtain from any medical store where I live, a middle class neighbourhood in Lahore. Where did you come up with the theory that they are not? In villages its a totally different story, but then, it is hard to obtain an asprn in underdeveloped areas let alone birth control. What we need to do is improve our health care system’s overall efficiency. Recommend

  • Voice

    Research is very important before you write.
    Abortion is even allowed in Islam as the fetus is believed to become a living soul after four months of gestation.
    So the circumstances in which abortions your mentions should also be clear.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Difficult subject but you at least made good sense.
    The police issue is a classic case of political patronage – way to go Shabaz Shareef !
    The abortion issue is a governance issue and in an environment where governance does not exist, its a free for all, do what you can situation. Recommend

  • A. Khan

    @Food for Thought!

    I am glad that some paper has started highlighting issues that are usually hushed up in Pakistan. All you seem to be worried about is Pakistan’s “image”. Having lived abroad, I can say that Pakistan would need make a lot of effort to improve its image at international level, if that is your main concern. Sweeping issues under the carpet will not improve the image nor will it make any of us angels by sticking our heads in the sand. You seem to follow the philosophy of “see no evil, hear no evil”.Recommend

  • Saira K.

    @Ali: In cities at least, it’s less about availability and more about the taboos surrounding them. A married friend of mine told me a few years ago that she didn’t want to use birth control because her doctor told her it “dries up the ovaries”. More importantly, while there are women in Pakistan who are open to using it, too many men and mother-in-laws oppose the ideas. My aunt is an NGO who works on educating poor and uneducated families on birth control and condoms as a way of family planning and educating them on HIV/AIDS. For years she says the biggest problems she faces is convincing the men in the family to even listen. Birth control is something that both the man and woman need to agree on and as long as there is a taboo and general ‘birth control is bad’ attitude, it’ll be difficult to get more women to use it. Recommend

  • Food for thought

    @ A.Khan
    This article is not about stealing and selling babies but more about the lack of contraceptives’ availability in certain parts of the country.Please e-read the passage once again!Recommend

  • Muhammadd

    What more can be expected?Recommend

  • H.

    “But at least that solves the family values problem. Women can’t go on a contraceptive-fuelled bender and put the family’s honour at stake if they’re dead. ”

    If that is not the darkest and funniest line ever written on one of these blogs ever, I don’t know what is.Recommend

  • J.

    maybe it would help if visuals would be shown on television what actually happens when a baby is aborted after the 3 months period. do i need to continue or shall i explain that the baby cannot be just suctioned out of the womb (and thus suffocate). just because you do not hear the baby cry, doesn’t mean it is not in excruciating pain.Recommend

  • H.


    Being three months old and being able to feel pain still doesn’t make it human. An acorn is not a tree, a tadpole is not a frog, and a fetus is not a human… it’s not that hard.

    Also even with visuals it might be hard to communicate if it feels anything at allRecommend

  • J.

    you leave me speechless. Recommend

  • Anaa

    I am Pro choice…. why bring a child in this world if you cannot provide it with love & careRecommend

  • J.

    I agree with you absolutely. I am not against abortion, but surely you realize within 3 months you are pregnant. Recommend

  • Farah Shafi

    @Food for Thought!: international front??? you assumed, they are waiting for tribune to tell them. It is the result of this hushing up that has given freedom to crimes and malpractices in our society. Voicing a crime, unfairness, injustice or just your opinion are the indicators of educated civilized communities. Vaqas should be commended to bring up this issue!!!!Recommend

  • Farah Shafi

    @Anaa: Better phrase it ‘”why conceive a child when you cannot give birth to it, and provide it with love and care”.Recommend

  • H.

    Well, what happens during an abortion?

    a weird unformed vaguely-human possibly even tadpole-like thing that is barely capable of perceiving it’s surroundings or understanding what’s going on is removed from a woman’s body.

    showing people visuals of an operation before they have it (right after they have decided that they will have it and have understood the implications) is quite insulting to their intelligence by the way.Recommend

  • J.

    A foetus of 4, 5, 6, 7 or even 8 months is not a tadpole. The insult is to the one who is hurt most but never heard. Recommend

  • Food for thought

    @Farah Shafi

    ET being a widely read e-paper/blog and being run by Pakistani’s has a huge responsibility to do what they can to counter the image created by the international media.My response is not limited to this article but the entire theme of negativity and scandals prevalent in all our if this is a post written by someone you know..stop getting touchy, admit the facts, stop spreading un-needed negativity in the world.

    A WELCOME TO PAKISTAN page should not be headed by such a title which doesn’t even cover the topic effectively but in fact veers to another, but should have highlighted the girl who just scored a gazillion A’s on O’levels and created a world record.

    A WELCOME TO PAKISTAN page should be highlighted with photo features of its scenic areas, the gorgeous islands or the meadows that look like they have been plucked out of an illustration.

    @ET (Primarily you for your inclination for sauciness)
    Learn from the international newspapers and TV channels which are manned by authorities & internal PR depts to make sure that the internal national issues stay between mediums that are not easily accessible to the international audience and if they do get out, they are instantly countered by a dozen positive campaigns for their country too.Recommend