A Pakistani man, who already has 35 children from three wives, recently launched a quest for his fourth wife, saying he wants to father a total of 100 children. Speaking to Atheist Republic, 46-year-old Sardar Jan Mohammad Khilji, a resident of Quetta in Balochistan, said it is part of his religious duty to bear as many children as possible. Khilji, who is a medical technician by profession, claims each of his wives completely support his decision to marry a fourth woman and birth as many children as he likes. However, when asked if he would allow them to speak for themselves, he was quick to refuse.
Proudly flaunting his two latest additions to the brood, two baby girls who were born only a week apart, Khilji said he rarely confuses the names of his 35 children. Juggling the affections of his children, who are all aged below 15 years, Khilji apparently takes turns to attend social gatherings with them and their respective mothers. Insisting that his current wives completely support his ambitions to marry and procreate, Khilji said his entire family lives in harmony. Still, none of the three wives were allowed by him to speak with Atheist Republic.
According to human rights activists, women and children are the ones to suffer the most in a polygamous setup.
While Islam permits Muslim men to take up to four wives, they must seek the permission of their first wife and an arbitration council before marrying another. Even though it is rather rare for a man to take multiple wives in Pakistan today, when a polygamous arrangement does arise, it often results in despair and depression among the women involved while their children struggle to seek affection from the father.
Human rights activist Rafia Zakaria explained that the Koran allows a man to take multiple wives only if he can ensure complete justice to each of them and harmony among them.
“Well, perfect justice is impossible, and for this reason polygamy is never a good situation,” said Zakaria, who opposes polygamy. “Someone always suffers and almost always it is the women and children.”
Family lawyer Mohammad Bilal Kasi, who practices in Quetta, too agreed with Zakaria’s opinion.
“We lawyers are well aware of social problems surrounding polygamy,” he said. “Women and children undergo mental agony due to these affairs. The tension can lead to serious legal disputes over property and rights after the father's death.”
While Khilji’s wives were not allowed to describe what it is like to live together in a five-bedroom mud hut on the outskirts of Quetta, at least two of his eldest children voiced their support for their father’s goals.
The eldest daughter, 15-year-old Shagufta Nasreen, said, “A large family is like Allah bestowing a case of mangoes.”
The eldest son, 13-year-old Mohammad Esa, said he too would like to follow the footsteps of his father and hopefully outdo his target and bear more than 100 children.
As a medical technician, Khilji runs an unregulated clinic, where impoverished patients from the vicinity continue to seek treatment for minor ailments. Claiming to serve humanity, Khilji said he charges only $2.50 per patient and offers treatment free of cost to the downtrodden. He also runs a seminary, backed by donations, where approximately 400 students, including four of his own sons, study the Koran. That is not the only education he offers them as he claimed to be paying steep fees for 20 of his 35 children to attend private school.
As Khilji’s household expenses continue to grow, he said it currently costs him nearly $2,000 each month to provide for everyone. This is more than 10 times of Pakistan’s average, especially in a neighbourhood where there are no basic amenities, including drinking water and proper sewage facilities. Even though he insisted that he has never faced any financial trouble caring for his brood, Khilji was unable to specify exactly how he manages to cover all expenses with his sole job as a medical technician. Khilji did agree that his needs are likely to increase as he continues to father more children and that is the reason he cited for apparently having sought help from the government to allocate funds for food, education and healthcare for each of his family members. However, a request like this is unlikely to be fulfilled.
Still, Khilji, who has blind faith, said, “If the government does not listen, I trust God to provide.”
Khilji said he owes his fertility to daily doses of fresh fruits, dry fruits, meat, milk and a religious lifestyle, which constitutes praying five times a day and reading the Koran.
Pakistan accounts for the highest birth rate in the whole of South Asia. Even though an accurate census has not been conducted in over 30 years, government figures and World Bank estimates speculate every woman in the country gives birth to roughly three children.
Photo Credits: Sinclaire Storyline