Monday October 25, 2021

‘Increasing child rape cases, underage marriages show failure of criminal, social justice systems’

By  Anil Datta
May 27, 2019

Increasing incidents of child rape and underage marriages are a glaring evidence of the failure of our criminal justice and social justice systems, said noted human rights lawyer and Madadgar Helpline founder Zia Awan while addressing a news conference at his office on Saturday.

Awan said that implementation of laws and protection of children did not seem to figure highly in the government’s priority of things. He said that had there been a viable implementation mechanism, these incidents would have been virtually non-existent.

“We have not even been able to set up a DNA laboratory, upscale the number of MLOs so that evidence of such crimes could be properly analysed, nor is there any change in the systems or response of the police that would help protect girl children from such monstrous acts.”

Besides, he said, the medico-legal systems should be totally computerised. He spoke in particular of the cases of two girls who had fallen victim to such wolves: nine-year-old Khadija Batool and 16-year-old Jessica; the former was found murdered and the latter disappeared with no trace while the police refuse to cooperate.

The next-of-kin of the two victims were also present to give a first-hand account of their tragedies. To recap, Khadija Batool — daughter of Manzoor Hussain Khokhar, an upper division clerk in the Pakistan Railways — lived at the Railway Colony marshalling yard, Bin Qasim.

A third grader in a TCF school, she commuted by rickshaw with her brothers and sisters. On February 28, she asked her father for some money to buy goodies. He complied and then took his other children to the market. On returning home after around an hour, he found that Khadija had not returned.

The family got down to searching her and asked the nearest mosque to announce her disappearance. Around 10pm, the neighbours and residents of the block started looking for her and went to flat No. 11, which was locked from the outside.

Further search revealed her body floating in the water tank, hands and feet tied and a piece of cloth shoved up her mouth to hush her screams. Her body was covered with bruises and her face with bite marks. Khokhar fainted at the sight.

Police arrived at the scene and sent the body to the JPMC. Detailed investigation and DNA tests showed that three men had subjected her to their bestiality. Khokhar’s neighbour Farhan Panhwar, son of Abdus Sattar Panhwar, and Ayaz Jokhio, son of Riaz Ali Jokhio, were arrested. The third culprit was neither identified nor arrested.

Khokhar said Panhwar was manipulating his release and would be free pretty soon, as he was a moneyed influential. He further revealed that the case had been going on in the ATC for three months, but the challan had not been submitted. This raises doubts about the sincerity of the police and makes the case process dubious.

The other case was that of a Christian girl, 16-year-old Jessica. He mother Parween is an ayah at a school and her father Tariq Masih is a street hawker in Saddar.

One day last month, Masih asked his younger daughter to wake Jessica up for school, but it turned out that Jessica was not there. Masih asked his wife if she had seen Jessica leave for school. She replied in the negative.

When she asked her other children, they said that her sister-in-law Marium used to force Jessica to talk to a male on the telephone, something that Marium denied when asked.

Marium took Parween and her two brothers, a sister’s husband, and a neighbour to the Cantonment police station. All along, Marium was trying to reach someone on the telephone, but her calls were not being received.

This convinced Parween that Marium was behind it all. Later, Marium told Parween that a man by the name of Maqsood had taken her daughter somewhere and that Marium’s brother Sammy was in the know of the whole matter.

Parween went through a real ordeal getting the FIR registered. Police, she said, milked her good and proper and when she was asked to accompany them to Marium’s house, she was asked to pay for the fuel for the police van.

From a relative, Parween received photographs of Jessica and who told her that Jessica was in Nankana in Punjab. Police asked Parween to go to Nankana and search for Jessica herself and bring her to Karachi, where they would start off the legal proceedings.

Parween does not have the means to travel all the way to Nankana and fetch Jessica, nor is she obliged to. That is the sole duty of the police. Parween broke down during the narration of her ordeal and found it difficult to speak amid her sobs and hiccups.

Awan said that this was the state of justice in our country. He said that ironically enough, the government was coming up with new institutions to curb such vicious evils, but things were getting worse, as there was no mechanism to see to the implementation of the laws.

The system of investigation, he said, was outdated and there was no seriousness on the part of the investigating authorities. He told the media that the Madadgar Helpline had gone to the authorities with the petition for correcting the medico-legal system, the forensic system, and the way things were conducted at the mortuaries.

He said they had also demanded that the eight major hospitals in the city remain open round the clock all seven days of the week, so that there would be no delay in conducting the medico-legal formalities, as that could affect the course of the proceedings.

Awan said that this was the state of the judicial response in our set-up; the poor man had no recourse to justice; it was highly pitiable to see both the affected families imploring the prime minister, the chief justice and the chief of army staff to intervene in the matter to bring Khadija’s killers to book and see to the safe return of Jessica.