Islamabad: 2012 begins with the murder of a child servant
ISLAMABAD: It is sad that child labour exists in Pakistan and sadder still that the child labour pool is inexhaustible and growing bigger. All of them lose their childhood in the servitude, but what is horrible is that some lose even their lives.
Most of the estimated three million children in the unskilled workforce in the country are employed in the shadow economy but a significant number serve as domestic help.
In Islamabad, many families prefer to employ young boys and girls for the purpose. They accept low wages, stay with the family and considered safe, obedient and easy to control and bully.
Ali Shan, 11, was such a servant, employed by a couple living in Sector G-13 to look after their seven-month-old child and do other house chores. His master, Mudasar Abbas, is a Grade 18 officer in Nescom.
On January 5, his wife Atiya Al-Hussain informed the police that Shan had committed suicide by hanging himself with curtain in the living room. However, the Golra police who arrived to investigate found that circumstantial evidence did not found her claim. Shan’s body was not hanging but standing on its knees from a curtain that was still on its railing with its lower portion passing through the sweater he had on. That made the police arrest Mr Abbas and his wife Atiya on murder charge.
Police’s suspicions were confirmed by the autopsy carried out on the body at Pims. The body bore no sign of hanging, nor any injuries. Instead the autopsy suggested the boy had been strangled as his neck had a round mark and not the ‘V’ mark that signifies a hanging.
Even more revealing was the X-ray which showed his cervical bone intact. A hanging should have broken it. The autopsy determined that Shan died some time between 7am and 10am.
In the light of the autopsy report, the police searched the house of the couple and recovered a rope believed to have been used to strangulate the boy.
In his statement to the police, Mr Abbas said he had left the house at 8am for his office in an official bus. Around 10am his wife phoned him about the incident and in response he told her to inform her uncle and police too.
Police were told that Ms Abbas used to wake up around 10am and till then Shan look after their little child. On the day of the incident, she woke up after her child, riding a walker, started hitting the door of her bedroom. When she went to the living room, she found the boy servant hanging from the curtain.
Since Mr Abbas had witnesses that he was not at home during 7am and 10am, the approximate time of the servant’s death, the investigators surmised that only the victim, Ms Atiya and her toddler child were in the house during that period no one entered the house.
They believe the couple was behind the murder. But the motive was unclear to them as the couple have not confessed to the crime. However, according to them, that makes no difference because they had enough evidence to prove the couple’s guilt and then even confessional statements made to a magistrate are sometimes withdrawn during trial.
It was not the first incident of killing of a domestic servant at employer’s house. On July 24, 2010, teenaged housemaid Salima Bibi was found dead with a bullet in her body at the house of her employer in G-10/1. Her employer also had claimed that she committed suicide by shooting herself with his pistol.
But the story unravelled when it became known that only days before he had brought the semi-conscious maid to a woman station to book her on the charge of stealing. But the police refused and demanded to know why she was in such distress.
Eventually, the foul play was discovered. The poor girl suffered worse than her parents who had served the same master in Mardan.
Another housemaid had died at the hands of her employers in the Bhara Kahu outskirts the previous year.
Her brutally tortured body was found in a wooded area near Rawal Lake on January 15, 2009. She was hit on her head and her neck was slit as well as strangulated.
Police identified her as Maria Talib Hussain from Multan working as housemaid. Her employer, assistant director of a government department, had reported to the police the previous day that she had disappeared with his family’s ornaments and cash.
But during the investigation his wife told the police that while interrogating Maria for the missing ornaments, she hit her on the head which proved fatal. She and her husband then dumped her body in a wooded area to cover up the crime.