When Lawyers are Lawbreakers

24Jan10

Photo: Dawn Newspaper - Protesting human rights activists and relatives of Shazia are being jostled by the police in Lahore

The failure of the Lahore police to register a case against the alleged and likely murderers of twelve-year-old Shazia, giving them the time to escape is a glaring example of the complicity of authorities in crimes against the underprivileged. The details of Shazia’s story are horrific. She first turned up on the national pages of Dawn on Saturday, where she was described as the teenaged niece of an Amanat Masih (Masih literally meaning Christian – a common name for lower-middle class Catholics in Pakistan), indicating her minority status. Of course, being of the female gender, she was already a minority. But a girl-child domestic worker of the Christian faith in Pakistan – did she even stand a chance?

Shazia was in the employment of a lawyer and former President of the Lahore Bar Association (2005-6), Chaudhry Naeem. As you may have seen in the article in Dawn, she was paid Rs 1000 a month. That’s about four cups of coffee at Espresso or three tickets to watch a movie at the Cineplex in Karachi. Masih says that he ‘was informed on Friday that Shazia was in the hospital.’ When he got there, she had already died. Her employer, Advocate Naeem, handed him Rs 15,000/- before rushing off. This was her ‘outstanding’ salary.

And how did Shazia die? Dawn tells us in graphic detail:

Her family says Shazia’s body has several marks of a sharp-edged weapon, her right arm and a rib are fractured, her skull is damaged and her nails have been plucked out.”

Shazia’s uncle, Masih, alleges that Advocate Naeem had not allowed the girl to meet her relatives for at least seven months. The fact that the girl was working in a home, and ironically, in that of an upholder of the law, tells us the state of child rights in Pakistan. It did not surprise me that Masih did not report Advocate Naeem to the authorities until his niece died. We are all aware of the level of oppression that exists in Pakistan of its minorities.

Now here’s the clincher – the complicity of the Lahore police in the legitimized oppression of minorities. According to Dawn,

An FIR (First Information Report) was lodged by police after at least 18 hours. The delay helped the accused to escape along with his family. Autopsy was also not conducted till Saturday.”

Meanwhile, listen to this, and I hope it makes your teeth grit and your blood boil as much as it does mine, the brutally tortured and murdered girl’s uncle, Amanat Masih and his wife have been booked on charges of providing maids to potential employers. So while the people who pulled out the nails of a twelve-year old girl, broke her arm, her ribs and her skull have escaped, the ones who lodged a complaint against the crime are in prison.

Until there is not police reform at the basest level moving up, legislation such as the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill even if passed is useless. I remember when I interviewed Martin Mogwanja of UNICEF, he said that it might be that Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 but the abuse and exploitation of children is still a huge problem.

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19 Responses to “When Lawyers are Lawbreakers”

  1. One is really encouraged to see a person of your stature consistently standing up against ill-treatment to minorities of all kinds (gender, religion, age etc).

    Such instances of subversion of the truth and justice need civil society to rise up against and create pressure on the conniving authorities with suppoort of a vigilant media.

    One is sure your blog as well as a relentless campaign by Dawn are a big step in that direction.

  2. 2 Sana Saleem

    I cringed and it made my blood boil,but at the sametime I feel helpless. It’s only little we can do in protest because apparently our people have ‘bigger’ issues to deal with.
    We will stand up for everything but basic human rights. Shazia’s story will be dismissed by many as the ‘usual’. So much for freedom,democracy and judiciary.

  3. 3 Mohsin Meer

    That is just the litmus test of our society. No more values, ethics and principles. All going to drain. We are a fast deteriorating Nation. God may save Pakistan but not the characterless and heartless Pakistanis.

  4. 4 azaan

    culprits have just been arrested so thats good news to get but this news will not repair the loss. let’s try to create an environment where no one would ever be able to commit such criminal activism.

  5. 5 ranasamir

    @sanasaleem: there ARE no bigger issues than this.
    ignoring issues like these, are a sign of internal decay and inhumanness……and what else is a nation, society made of ? lack of justice at this level means incompetence at the higher levels. i’m unable to express my sadness after reading this article. the corruption in the agencies responsible for providing justice, protection and security must not be tolerated.

  6. The fact that the grand judiciary poses to pass judgements which are political rather than granting justice to victims like shazia is why we are in this state as a nation.

    Truly horrific story, I am glad you wrote this naveen, hopefully this will bring the case under severe scrutiny and make sleeping justices wake up…

    I can only pray for her family and countless others who toil away in all our stately homes for a pittance..they too are as Pakistani as we are.. shame on us!

  7. 7 Mohsin Meer

    Rana Samir – You have given words to my feelings. It is actually a sign of Total Decay. All our institutions have totally failed to keep society on right track. The destruction is our fate and only blinds can’t read what is clearly written on wall for us. We can still keep our heads buried in ground assuming we are the favorite nation of God and whatever wrongs we do still Pakistan will survive because it is a Gift of God and HE will save it regardless what we do to destroy it. Many nations in past had this illusion and only ruins and history cry on their “well-earned” end.

  8. 8 Afzal Arain

    It is true that people discriminate against their employees. They don’t remember that these are also kids of someone. Lawmakers should come forward and educate their members to abide the law.

  9. Now it looks like a contest between PPP and PML-N. Who will provide better care and remuneration to Shazia’s family. A little girl has died after being tortured and this is the outcome. I dont know how many Chaudry Naeem’s we have amongst ourselves, who are being this cruel to their domestic staff. I think the whole family should be put behind bar for the longest time to teach people a lesson.

  10. 10 Khawar

    This just gets to prove how the moral fabric of the society is torn and the biggest shame is the non-activism of educated class, a few people who took to the streets are not enough, such heinous crimes in a vibrant civil society are unheard of but ironically in countries like Pakistan its an everyday story.

    People protest when European countries ban building mosque minarets but here what we do to our Christian citizens, burn their churches, homes and now this, has any mainstream party or religious party condemned this act?? The answer would be a big fat NO. Hypocrisy Galore

  11. 11 Jawad

    This is heartbreaking.

    Slightly off topic: Does Naveen, the “senior” journalist, not know the difference between a lawyer and a lawmaker?

  12. 12 SRS Bukhari

    No one is above the law, the superiority of Law must be honored, either the criminals found the lawmaker. The lawbreakers must be treated with iron hands and the justices and compensation be provided to the bereaved families

  13. We will make sure the culprit gets what he deserves.

  14. 14 Mehak

    Well , I completely respect the idea of this blog . But, I think that the title is inappropriate as police is not the law making body.

  15. Thank you so much for all your comments, especially those who pointed out the title. You were right of course! I’ve changed it thanks to your feedback.

  16. I like to check out your blog a couple times a week for new thoughts. I was wondering if you have any other topics you write about? You’re a very talented writer!


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