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.