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August 21, 2019

Brutal times


August 21, 2019

A family in Karachi received news of the death of their 15-year-old son on Eid. A viral video clip has shown the boy first tied to a metal grille, interrogated and then brutally beaten to death by a man and allegedly by his friends who lived in the vicinity. Three more people have been arrested following the release of the video, which brings the total number of those in custody for the crime up to five. The family of the boy has filed an FIR under the anti-terrorism laws, saying that the incident had spread fear amongst people in the vicinity.

The story told by the alleged killer is that the boy, and an unknown accomplice who we are told had escaped without trace, had entered his house for purposes of theft. The family of the child deny this and say the boy had been hired as a butcher on Eidul Azha and had visited the house to collect his dues and that, instead of being paid, he was beaten to death. After it was noticed the boy was in a precarious position, Rangers were called in and they took him to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where he was pronounced dead. Such crimes have taken place before against the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. Some way has to be found to reduce brutality in communities where regard for human life appears to have vanished completely. For now, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken note of the incident and ordered an inquiry.

Stories of household staff being detained and brutally beaten at home are common. Some have claimed that the problem is the failure of the judicial system. However, such incidents make it clear that this is a deeper malaise, which has to do with the impunity such individuals have with respect to what they can do to those they consider lesser humans. There is no excuse for letting those involved in this brutal beating go. The video and the case registered by the family shows that people are increasingly willing to fight back. This offers us some hope. But the increase in incidents of this kind reminds us that we are living in times more brutal than those ever witnessed before in our history. A young boy is dead. What punishment is meted out to the offenders is significant in terms of the message sent out and whether the state can demonstrate that it is capable of punishing those who act against persons less powerful than themselves.

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