Why 80 Women Threw Themselves in Front of a Train in 2006

In the wake of the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Pakistanis suspect that the United States is trying to dominate Pakistan as well, Mr. Rizvi said. Mr. Musharraf — who is already widely unpopular — would lose even more popular support.

“At the moment when Musharraf is extremely unpopular, he will face more crisis,” Mr. Rizvi said. “This will weaken Musharraf in a Pakistani context.” He said such raids would be seen as an overall vote of no confidence in the Pakistani military, including General Kayani.

The meeting on Friday, which was not publicly announced, included Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and top intelligence officials.

Spokesmen for the White House, the C.I.A. and the Pentagon declined to discuss the meeting, citing a policy against doing so. But the session reflected an urgent concern that a new Qaeda haven was solidifying in parts of Pakistan and needed to be countered, one official said.

Although some officials and experts have criticized Mr. Musharraf and questioned his ability to take on extremists, Mr. Bush has remained steadfast in his support, and it is unlikely any new measures, including direct American military action inside Pakistan, will be approved without Mr. Musharraf’s consent.

“He understands clearly the risks of dealing with extremists and terrorists,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “After all, they’ve tried to kill him.”

The Pakistan government has identified a militant leader with links to Al Qaeda, Baitullah Mehsud, who holds sway in tribal areas near the Afghanistan border, as the chief suspect behind the attack on Ms. Bhutto. American officials are not certain about Mr. Mehsud’s complicity but say the threat he and other militants pose is a new focus. He is considered, they said, an “Al Qaeda associate.”

In an interview with foreign journalists on Thursday, Mr. Musharraf warned of the risk any counterterrorism forces — American or Pakistani — faced in confronting Mr. Mehsud in his native tribal areas.

“He is in South Waziristan agency, and let me tell you, getting him in that place means battling against thousands of people, hundreds of people who are his followers, the Mehsud tribe, if you get to him, and it will mean collateral damage,” Mr. Musharraf said.

The weeks before parliamentary elections — which were originally scheduled for Tuesday — are seen as critical because of threats by extremists to disrupt the vote. But it seemed unlikely that any additional American effort would be approved and put in place in that time frame.

Administration aides said that Pakistani and American officials shared the concern about a resurgent Qaeda, and that American diplomats and senior military officers had been working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to help bolster Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.

Shortly after Ms. Bhutto’s assassination, Adm. William J. Fallon, who oversees American military operations in Southwest Asia, telephoned his Pakistani counterparts to ensure that counterterrorism and logistics operations remained on track.

In early December, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the new leader of the Special Operations Command, paid his second visit to Pakistan in three months to meet with senior Pakistani officers, including Lt. Gen. Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Admiral Olson also visited the headquarters of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from border tribes that the United States is planning to help train and equip.

But the Pakistanis are still years away from fielding an effective counterinsurgency force. And some American officials, including Defense Secretary Gates, have said the United States may have to take direct action against militants in the tribal areas.

American officials said the crisis surrounding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination had not diminished the Pakistani counterterrorism operations, and there were no signs that Mr. Musharraf had pulled out any of his 100,000 forces in the tribal areas and brought them to the cities to help control the urban unrest.

For a flavor of the Asian subcontinent you can’t beat Southall, just west of London. Indian music wails from loudspeakers, and the stores and street-side stands sell saris, gold bangles, exotic produce and very sweet cakes.

The aromas coming from Indian restaurants fill the air. You can hear English, but most likely it will be Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. That’s what visitors see, smell and hear. But something else is going on behind many of the closed doors: A growing number women – mostly Hindu and Sikh Indians – are suffering in silence.

There’s a stretch of track near Southall where express trains roar past at 100 miles an hour. It is where a third of all suicides-by-train occur in Britain, and many of those who kill themselves here are Indian women who feel it’s the only way out.

In 2006, eighty Southall women threw themselves in front of trains.

The most publicized case was that of a young woman who took her two children to the Southall station, telling staff she was going to show them the “fast trains.” Instead, she used one to kill them all.

“Asian women’s suicide is linked to abuse within their families,” the advocacy group Southall Black Sisters says bluntly.

U.K.-based Indian journalist Sanjay Suri writes that victims are often well-educated women from India who were married off to men living in Britain who don’t have the same professional backgrounds.

Suri explains that when brides arrive in Britain, they “are trapped into domestic slavery, suffering abuse with no one to help them.” He says “a death makes no difference,” it just paves the way for more dowry for the family with the next marriage.


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That point is echoed by writer and advice columnist Kailash Puri, who says some mothers-in-law actually push the wife into suicide to snare a further dowry from the next wife.

Puri explains that live-in mothers-in-law rule the home, often deliberately making life unbearable for the new wife. She says “many young wives commit suicide because they believe divorce insults their parents who paid for the big wedding and the dowry.”

The wife could never return home, she says, because of the family shame it would bring, and they have no one to talk to about their problems, leaving them feeling caged and trapped.

When it doesn’t look as if the wife will kill herself, she may be tricked into going to India on a visit where the husband’s family arranges a fatal accident. Last year, a 70-year-old Sikh woman and her son were convicted of murder by a London court. They lured the wife to India where a relative strangled her and threw her body in a river.

So when they can’t bear to stay any longer, have no place to go and carry the shame of perceived dishonor, for many, the only recourse is to jump in front of a speeding train.

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