CSI: Lahore!…well, kind of (Part 1)

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In our new and fledgling community of 30 families, about 15 km outside of Lahore, we had our first ‘scandal’–referred to as such by our residents.

As I approached our site office at about 2pm, one of the elder employees and residents stopped me half way and said,

‘Last night was a terrible night for Khuda Ki Basti (the name of our development)…the entire community is quite shaken and have been up all night trying to make sense of the situation.’  Pointing to one of the residents sitting in front of the office…’He tried to poison his wife last night..he put something in her tea and she picked up on it early enough..and we have preserved the evidence…the wife is in the office, you have to deal with this now’.  Now I am thinking, ‘Oh My God, I didnt sign up for this!’

When I get into the office I greet the women and ask her the story.  She says she found a pill in her tea…and ran to so and so house who gave her immediate medical attention…and saved her life. 

So what pill was it….a tranquilizer…which is really bad, but really could not have killed her, especially if the pill was still intact (had not dissolved)…nevertheless, we took everything at face value at that stage.  But this is not the end…

A rumor had been spread within the community that the husband was abusing his daughter while the wife was at work…the wife is asked the question and she passively confirms it has happened in the past.  Now I am even more taken aback by the whole situation.  For now I ask her to leave the office and go home while we try to figure out what should be done. But that is not the end, either…

After she leaves, one of the employees tells me that this womens ‘character is not right’ and everyone in community knows this as well. In Pakistan, when someone says this womens ‘character is not right’, it either means she sleeps around or is a prostitute. 

Now, I am totally freaked out! Murder, child abuse, prostitution–all in one house!!  As I look out of the site office, there are several community members waiting to see what decision Saiban makes about the household–all are quite upset.  Some are saying our children are not safe if that man stays here, the women are saying we dont want a women like that in our community–essentially everyone wants us to expel them from the community.

Realizing that this problem is not going to be solved in one day, I asked the ‘accused’ family to leave the development for a period of one week, while we look into the matter AND upon returning, bring your elders with you (a Pak/islamic tradition)–because we do not really know the entire background and Saiban is in no position to make judgements.

The following is what I tried to explain to staff and residents: All residents of Saiban come here out of a need and are generally desperate.  Ills of society are rampant everywhere, not just here–they exist in your old neighborhoods and mine as well.  Saiban does not have a guage to check the moral uprightness of all individuals coming here–all residents are coming from within society, they are not coming from the heavens above.  So we have to deal with those problems accordingly and cannot be reactionary all the time.  Saiban will get ‘good’ residents and ‘bad’ residents and we have to manage.  It may very well be that ALL of your accusations are baseless and incorrect–but you have insisted on expelling them.  IF we are wrong and take such action, we will be answerable one day for this injustice.

It ‘seems’ the community accepted this explanation and have cooled down a bit.  During this process we have tried to ensure a message gets across to all: the above issues are very serious for all members in our community and will not be accepted by anyone. 

The fact that this got across to everyone early on is comforting for me, but am aware that this is only the beginning. So, now we wait for the family to bring their elders next week.  Thus far, based upon preliminary investigation, it seems that this was a domestic fight that got out of control, but we shall see next week…

The entire situation is difficult and am open to any comments, suggestions, feedback.

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