LAHORE – Some staff nurses and paramedics were sitting on wooden-benches at a corner of the intensive care unit of the Mayo Hospital Wednesday night, after administering regular injections and medicines to serious patients.

None of them had any idea that they themselves would be on hospital beds within a few minutes as they gossiped and chattered after the round-visit. Right then a man barged into the emergency ward and splashed acid on them.

As a result, staff nurses Rehmana Liaquat, Shazia and Shama Naz; Aaya Bashiran Bibi; ward cleaner Imran; and patients Sabran Bibi and Muhammad Imran suffered severe burns. When the attacker tried to flee, other hospital staff and attendants of the patients caught him. They gave him a good thrash and handed him over to the police.

The police have booked him under the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2010. The attacker, identified as Imran Babu from Sheikhupura, has confessed that he carried on the attack on his wife Rehmana in retaliation against her refusal to reconcile with him over a dispute.

Imran told the police that he wanted to target his wife alone but all went wrong suddenly because he hurled the acid bottle at Rehmana when she was escorted by her colleagues. He told investigators in lockup that he descended into brutality because his wife had developed differences with him and she had been unwilling to settle the dispute for the past two years.

The condition of four people, including all the three nurses, was reported to be critical till Thursday night.

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif took notice of the incident and directed police authorities to submit a report to the CM Secretariat at the earliest.

There is no letup in acid attacks on women in the Punjab province despite the introduction of a new law, recommending harsh punishment for the criminals.

Last year, the National Assembly had unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 that recommends 14-year imprisonment sentence and up to Rs 1 million fine for those who commit this crime.

Before this act, there was no law to regulate the manufacture, supply and access to acid. The purpose of the bill was to control the import, production, transportation, hoarding, sale and use of acid to prevent the misuse of acid and provide legal support to acid and burn victims.

Women parliamentarian including MNAs Marvi Memon, Begum Shahnaz Sheikh and Advocate Anusha Rehman had introduced the bill in a bid to prevent growing incidents of violence against women.

On May 27, two women and a girl suffered burn injuries when ‘unknown’ miscreants threw acid on them in Lahore. The motorcyclists had hurled acid at two women who were busy shopping in Islampura area of the City along with a minor girl and fled. No arrest has been made so far.

On April 3 in Faisalabad, Azra Miraj came under such an attack by two motorcyclists when she along with her seven-year-old daughter Noor Fatima on her way home. The attackers fled after committing the crime. The acid burnt parts of Miraj’s face and arm while her daughter also suffered burns on her leg.

Early this year, the whole of Pakistan went into jubilation after the announcement was made that the first Pakistani women, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, had won the Oscar for best short documentary ‘Saving Face’ for the first time in the country’s history.

Though Pakistanis celebrated the Oscar win, the award revealed the world that the women had been targeted and punished brutally in this society.

According to a non-government organisation (NGO), about 8,000 incidents of violence against women were recorded in Pakistan last year. Out of total documented, there were some 44 cases related to acid attacks, many perpetrated by assailants on motorbikes who drove up to victims on the street and threw acid on their faces and bodies.

Another Pakistani advocacy group estimates that 150 acid attacks occur each year across the country. The majority of victims are women. Independent observers say the NGOs only highlight the acid attack cases to grab fund from the international donors but no on ground efforts are made to stop the crime.