Islamabad: A large number of civil society activists, organizations and networks have strongly condemned the torture of a minor girl employed by a serving judge and also the so-called “resolution” (sic) of the court case against the judge and his spouse.
This case has yet again highlighted the glaring ills of Pakistani society and its justice administration system. We had not yet forgotten the Kasur children’s video atrocity when we are now confronted with a serving judge breaking several laws of the land – but walking away scot-free, after reaching a so-called “compromise” and “forgiveness” agreement with the girl child’s parents, through legal stamped affidavits.
The compromise and forgiveness loophole in the law, so expeditiously exploited by the judge and his spouse, is a convenient tool, employed mostly against the poor and downtrodden by the rich and powerful in Pakistan, as in this case.
We particularly condemn the following illegal acts of commission and omission by individuals and by State organs in this case:
1. the grinding poverty which stripped the girl child’s parents of their inherent parental love and humanity towards their minor daughter; in addition to their responsibilities as her legal guardians;
2. the dishonourable serving judge, who knowingly employed a minor child for domestic labour, in contravention of the laws against child labour and employment;
3. the nature of the “domestic work” demonstrates that the girl child was “pledged” and left by her parents as “bonded labour” with the judge and his spouse, in contravention of Pakistani laws abolishing bonded labour;
4. the serving judge and his spouse brutally mistreated the girl child over a long period of time, including chronic starvation and frequent beating – finally torturing and burning her almost to death, in clear contravention of the Constitution and several Pakistani laws on child protection, as well as the UN CRC, and other UN Conventions to which Pakistan is a State Party;
5. the delayed response and subsequent inaction by the National Centre for Protection of Children (NCPC), Islamabad is indefensible;
6. the illegal, deliberate, mala fide acts of perjury committed at various stages of this case by: the serving judge and his spouse; the relevant police in Islamabad; and the initial examination report by the PIMS medico-legal staff, which came to the fore when the girl child was questioned in camera by the ICT Assistant Commissioner, who deserves commendation for her sensitive handling of this case;
7. the alleged acts of bribery, threat and pressure exerted on the parents by the serving judge to reach a compromise and retract their case;
8. the inhuman action of the state organs in returning the girl child to the same parents who sold her into forced/bonded domestic servitude in the first place – instead of placing her under State care and protection, and penalizing the parents;
9. the silence and inaction of both the subordinate and superior judiciary in this case is widely being perceived as a tacit act of standing in solidarity with a fellow-judge;
10. the media hype and sensationalization of this case (with a few notable exceptions) could serve as a deterrent to concrete positive action in future.
We stand in empathy and solidarity with the brave survivor girl child, and in support of Advocate Asma Jahangir’s intention to petition the Supreme Court of Pakistan. We reiterate our longstanding demands that the laws on child protection and against domestic child labour be urgently enacted at the federal and provincial levels, and strengthened in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – along with their strict enforcement and implementation; that child protection state institutions be set up all over Pakistan – and strengthened in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; that national and provincial policies be formulated for child protection and development – not to return recovered children back to their parents who pledge and sell them into modern day slavery (aka bonded labour); and that such recovered survivors be provided not just physical shelter and care, but also psychological rehabilitation by the State, to prevent them becoming life-long victims.
Above all, we hold serving judges to a much higher standard than anyone else in the land – they must uphold the Constitution, the law, morality and humanity in both their public and private lives. There must be no “forgiveness” or “compromise” – the State must become the girl child’s guardian (wali) and complainant in this case. The SCP is respectfully requested to urgently take suo moto notice in such cases.
Endorsed by civil society: