Hege Storhaug, HRS
Shazia ble bare 12 år gammel. Hennes skjebne var nemlig at hun var født inn i en kristen familie. Det medfører risiko i Pakistan, særlig hvis du må bidra til familien med tradisjonelt ”kristent” arbeid: å være hushjelp i muslimske hjem. Shazia ble torturert og drept 23.januar, og under VIP-forhold i fengsel i Lahore satt ingen ringere enn en svært rik og maktfull advokat Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, som var Shazias arbeidsgiver. Der er han ikke lenger, rapporterer Rooshanie Ejaz, og føyer til: Shazia og Aroosa (et liknende tilfelle, vår merknad) er bare to av tusener av saker i Pakistan om en av de mest undertrykte minoritetene.”
Shazia and other stories
By Rooshanie Ejaz, HRS
The following story is not unusual in Pakistan. It’s shocking and inhumane. Yet it is just like thousands of other cases of its sort that occur here.
Shazia was a 12 year old Christian girl of a shy temperament. She lived in a one room shanty house in an encroachment over an open sewer in Lahore, with her parents and three siblings. Her neighbours from the area describe her as a child with average intelligence, downtrodden by her life circumstances of extreme poverty, yet mentally alert. Her mother works as a domestic worker in several homes, whilst her father is a trash collector for the city municipal department. With an annual average income of 60000 Rupees (700 USD), the family barely scrounged together an existence. So, when they were contacted by Amnat Ali, who asked for Shazia’s person as an employee in a domestic home, they accepted. Amanat Ali plays the ‘Middle Man’ role like many others and earns a percentage as a supplier of child labour to domestic homes in the nearby area owned by the well off and rich sections of society. With the prices of basic necessities in Pakistan soaring, a family like Shazia’s was forced to explore such options.
With this begins the final chapter in Shazia’s short life. When her parents went to drop off Shazia to Mohammad Naeem’s residence, they did not think that it would be one of the last times they would get to see her alive. On the 22nd of January, 2010, Shazia died. The cause of death was immediately identified as torture and malnourishment. Over the next few days the story attracted media hype and finally after reading multiple, yet different accounts in the press, it was decided that Human Rights Service, investigate the matter. After some deliberation I managed to get in touch with Mr. Sohail Johnson, the Chief Coordinator at Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, an active Christian NGO. Not only did he crystallize a lot of facts, but he also managed to provide an in depth look into Shazia’s family background. Mr Irfan Barkat the Legal Head Coordinator at SLMP was also present and gave me insight into the legalities involved in this particular case.
When Shazia began her term of employment at Mohammed Naeem’s home as a domestic worker, her monthly salary was settled at a 1000 Rupees (11 USD) per month. The current minimum wage settled by the Government of Pakistan is 6000 Rupees (70 USD). Over her term of employment, Shazia did not get to go home for holiday; some witnesses even recall her working and washing dishes on Christmas. Nor did her or her family receive her pay as employee from the household. Then, one day Shazia’s mother was summoned to a hospital and consequently spent the next hours watching her die. Soon after, Mohammad Naeem is known to have offered 15000 Rupees to Shazia’s parents. The initial medical report, which I obtained, clearly states physical abuse, torture, malnourishment, poor health care, poor dental hygiene, fungal infection in the nails and even the use of a blunt weapon. The only fact that the medical report does not support is any sort of molestation or rape. According to this medical report the evidence of torture and mistreatment is clear. Mr Sohail Johnson was present with Shazia’s body during the post mortem, he is also sure of the fact that the girl was not raped as credible nurses were responsible for the inspection of any suspicions in the matter. So began his quest to get to the bottom of this brutal act against a child, something that has become routine for him in his line of work.
Sohail Johnson and his associates at SLMP are no strangers to the persecution, forced conversion, rape and killing under the blasphemy law of Christians in Pakistan. They immediately galvanized their sources and began their own investigation. On questioning neighbours and acquaintances it was found that other girls had run away from the same household after instances of abuse. Neighbours even told of eye witness accounts just the previous month (December), when during the coldest winter, Shazia was seen barefoot, wearing knee length trousers and a T-shirt, washing the homes driveway, as Mohammad Naeem’s wife scolded her. With the evidence in favour of Shazia, I questioned why no lawyer was prepared to fight the case, why was the media mocking the credibility of the case and why was Mohammed Naeem out on bail already. The answer I got was:
“When a car mechanic’s engine stalls in the middle of the woods, he will not panic, whereas you and I would. Mohammad Naeem is a lawyer in Pakistan and he knows how this corrupt system works”
The story according to Mohammad Naeem’s statement in court is very different. Shazia was a mentally retarded child he stated, not saying it directly but definitely implying it. He goes on to say that she was also slow in understanding instructions. Because of these reasons she would constantly fall and subsequently keep hurting herself, which is why she was so bruised, that she couldn’t take care of herself well. He says that her parents visited her while she was employed at his household and were satisfied by her upkeep. He also concludes that she was undergoing some serious skin illness for which he was getting her treated and that all through her stay she was treated like “his own daughter”, and that she died under the supervision of her family physician, that her mother got to her 7:30 in the evening. He then has his facts fanned out perfectly, proving he has an apt alibi. After the initial medical report, a panel of doctors was chosen to do a post mortem. This particular post mortem report is miles apart in both tone and facts in comparison to the initial medical report. It passes off the lacerations on her body as an extreme reaction to a medicine, a well researched medical fact, some reactions do occur in this way. Whereas the use of a blunt weapon etc is not mentioned, nor is poor overall health of the child.
So far every lawyer that was approached to fight the case against Mohammad Naeem refused. Some because they supported him, others because of their fear of the young lawyer ‘mafia’ in Pakistan. One elderly advocate even broke into tears when he was explaining his ordeal of a previous case during which he did try to stand up against someone powerful in court and at his age was thrown out of court, his clothes ripped, humiliated by young lawyers supporting his opponent.
Mr. Sohail Johnson and Irfan Barkat believe that Mohammad Naeem is playing a very smart card by taking the brunt of this case. They believe that it is his family that is primarily responsible for this brutal torture on the child. That is why he has alibis and why he knows people will be weary before they stand up against him, as he does generally have a reputation as one of the more honourable lawyers in Lahore. For this they blamed the media, as due to the press hype created, the false allegations of rape and the incorrect disbursement of information, even now, the real culprits are not even bought into the lime light and tried in court; Mohammed Naeem’s family. The case was approached from a poor angle from the beginning because of the scandal machine that the media created. Other than that, everyone is aware of how easy it is to bribe and buy the opinion of a medical panel in a corrupt constitution like Pakistan. Shazia’s murder was not a case of momentary brutality by Mohammad Naeem, the truth is far more sinister, as it was the result of systematic and chronic abuse. The perpetrators of which roam free in a society that has no authorities regulating this form of domestic employment.
Currently the government of Pakistan has alleged a total of 2 500 000 Rupees, of which 500 000 has been received by the family. For whom collecting this amount of money though menial jobs is near impossible. Whereby, the family might just back off from this case. At SLMP the biggest problem faced by the NGO workers as far as the final prosecution and sentence of a culprit in this form of abuse is that once the families receive money, they refuse to pursue the case further. For which they can’t blame the families, considering the cost of living and their total earning power.
Shazia’s case is not new, another girl Aroosa aged 12 was raped an impregnated when she wanted to leave the service of her employers. She had to be recovered by court bailiff. After which they tried to kill her and her child. Even married Christian women have been known to be kidnapped, forced converted and then married off. The mosques’ which carry out these conversions state that once a Christian woman has converted, all her previous religious commitments are redundant, including her marriage to a Christian man. Forced conversion is also used as a way to maintain slavery like practices. When young Christian girls want to leave an employment, often they are either raped by other Muslim household workers and employers or framed for having stolen large sums of money, and finally forced converted. The Badshahee Mosque turns out the biggest numbers of forced conversions in Lahore.
It can be said with certainty that Shazia’s family will never send any of their children to work in a Muslim family’s home again. But life under such circumstances is riddled with daily accounts of abuse for the people at SLMP. Shazia and Aroosa are two in thousands of cases of one of Pakistan’s most abused religious minority.