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When Actor Shabnam Left Pakistan After Being Gang-Raped By Influentials And Denied Justice

Jharna Basak (Shabnam), Pakistani stage and film actress, moved to her hometown Bangladesh in the late 1990s after going through a traumatizing ordeal. On May 13, 1978, five armed men entered her house in Gulberg, Lahore and committed robbery. After forcibly taking away one lac cash, jewellery and other household articles, the accused also gang raped Shabnam, in front of her husband and their only son Ronnie Ghosh.

The seven accused in this case included influential individuals Mohammad Farooq Bandial, Wasim Yaqoob Butt, Jamil Ahmad, Tahir Tanvir, Jamshed Akbar Sahi, Agha Aqueel Ahmad and Mohammad Muzaffar.

All the accused were tried by the Special Military Court under section 412 PPC. This group of convicted robbers and rapists belonged to influential families. They managed to influence local police to not register the case for gang rape. Five of the accused, convicted of robbery were sentenced to death. Agha Aqueel Ahmad was awarded ten years’ imprisonment and Mohammad Muzaffar was acquitted, on October 1979.

General Zia-ul-Haq, the then President of Pakistan had reportedly commuted the death sentence handed over to the five accused. Shabnam and her family were pressurized by the culprits into pardoning them.
After her failure to get her tormentors punished for the crime, the Lollywood poster girl chose London as another place of residence for her family but moved to Dhaka, when she left Pakistan in the late 1990s.

One of the accused Farooq Bandial, as a politician from district Khushab, Punjab, joined Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) ahead of General Elections 2018. Within a few hours, the news of Bandial’s involvement in rape and robbery case at Shabnam’s house resurfaced on social media. The growing outrage on media forced Imran Khan to expel him from PTI. While addressing the issue, Senior PTI leader Naeemul Haque (Late) said: “Farooq Bandial’s entry into PTI was unfortunate. We have no place for people with such a record in our party. He should not even be in any political party

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Introduced by legendary actor Waheed Murad in the Pakistani Film industry, Jharna adopted her famous stage name Shabnam. She started her career from film Samundar (1968) and appeared in over 160 movies till she left Pakistan in 1997.

Born on 17th August 1942, Shabnam ruled Pakistani cinema for three decades and worked in a dozen diamond jubilee and more than 20 golden jubilee films. She is the only Pakistani who holds the record for the most (13) Nigar awards, one of the prestigious awards in Lollywood. At the very start of her career, she got married to famous Bangladeshi music composer and director Robin Ghosh.

Even after the separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Jharna Basak, reportedly wanted to go back to Bangladesh but some influential people from film industry feared that she will abandon Pakistan, requested higher authorities to not grant her a visa. The popular actress had to assure everyone publicly that she will not leave Pakistan. After that Shabnam and Robin Ghosh continued to live in Lahore and work in movies.

After 13 years, in 2012, the top film-star Shabnam along with her husband arrived in Pakistan and they were awarded lifetime achievement award by the Pakistani government. In 2017, one year after the death of her husband Robin Ghosh, Shabnam revisited Pakistan to attend Karachi Literature Festival. While talking to the press, she said Pakistan was her second home and offered her services to revive Pakistani cinema.

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