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Shazia’s death and the shameful role of the lawyer fraternity

Young maid tortured to death in Lahore

The torture and slaughter of Shazia, a 12-year-old maid, in DHA, Lahore has caused a stir. Here are a few reports which suggest that:

1. Domestic servants in Pakistan, house maids in particular, remain vulunerable and subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

2. Life and honour of a non-Muslim (a Christian girl in this case) is usually treated as less valuable than life and honour of a Muslim citizen.

3. A degree in formal education (a degree in law in this case) and membeship in a professional association (bar association in this instance) do not guarantee that the recipients of formal education and professional affiliation will act as respectable human beings. The despicable role of the lawyer community in Lahore in support of Shazia’s killer is a case in evidence.

Unruly lawyers harass Shazia’s family, media: Source

Maid in hell

Yet another heinous violation of human rights glares at us blatantly in the face. 12-year-old Shazia Masih, a Christian domestic worker, was allegedly barbarically tortured and sexually abused by her employers, the lawyer Naeem Chaudhry (a former President of Lahore Bar Association) and his family, to finally succumb to the violence she was subjected to. The case has opened up a Pandora’s box of child labour and domestic abuse laws, atrocious inhumanity, immorally botched law enforcement and the criminal disregard for those who languish below the benchmark of influence.

The laxity practiced on the part of the police screams of corruption and a hefty degree of amnesty awarded the accused due to which the FIR was not registered until 24 hours after the report of the incident, thus allowing the lawyer and his family to flee. Even after this inexcusable delay in police proceedings, the officers involved procrastinated in organizing the required documentation for the necessary postmortem. Due to Naeem Chaudhry’s position as president of the Lahore Bar Association in 2006, he, and others like him, obviously wield a certain amount of influence on state institutions. Reports just coming in have indicated that the advocate has been apprehended; thanks to the immense media pressure and coverage, the authorities had no other option than to pull their socks up. Unfortunately, those whose job it is to haul up the perpetrators of crime are criminally unprincipled themselves. The police has shown that it is unscrupulously biased in the case of minority rights; money talks and justice walks. On the behest of an enraged media, the suspension of the concerned SHO from the Defence-A station is a welcome move, but closer scrutiny is needed of the police’s culture.

Surprisingly, the lawyer fraternity has vowed not to take any stance on the issue till the accused is found guilty and convicted; it makes one wonder why different standards exist where, as far as the NRO beneficiaries are concerned, they stand condemned before sentencing.

Furthermore, the inadequacy of domestic worker abuse and child labour laws in Pakistan needs addressing. Even if laws are passed, state institutions do nothing to implement them, especially in cases concerning women and children, causing a two-fold injustice: in homes and then at the hands of the authorities. Shazia’s case is one of extreme suffering at the hands of a socially privileged class who think nothing of the exploitation and abuse of those belonging to the other side of the economic divide. If the battered and mutilated body of a minor does nothing to pull at the heartstrings of an already disillusioned society, NGOs, civil rights groups and societies for the humane ought to pack up shop and go home and employ their efforts elsewhere, a place where human life is not so cheaply dispensable.

Source: Daily Times

Police said on Sunday they had arrested Advocate Chaudhry Naeem, the main accused in the case of murder of a 12-year-old maid, and five others…Chaudhry Naeem, a former president of the Lahore Bar Association, his son Yasir, a sister-in-law and a daughter-in-law have been nominated in the FIR….Amanat and his wife have been booked for providing the maid to Chaudhry Naeem.

Punjab’s Senior Minister Raja Riaz condemned the incident and said that Rs500,000 would be paid to the girl’s family on behalf of President Asif Ali Zardari.

It ‘s learnt that Shazia, a resident of Lyton Road, started working at Chaudhry Naeem’s house in DHA, Lahore about seven months ago on a monthly salary of Rs1,000. According to sources, she used to be severely beaten even for petty lapses.

Source: Dawn

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Pervez Rathore told The News the main accused, Naeem Advocate and Amanat, have been arrested, and would be presented before the court on Monday (today).

Another senior police officer said the police have arrested Naeem Advocate, his son Yasir Naeem, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, middle man Amanat and his wife, Ghafooran. However, none of the accused was locked up at Defence-A police station till filing of the report. The arrest of the accused persons was also not registered at Defence-A police station till late Sunday night.

The victim’s family had alleged that the police were still showing leniency with the accused. The family said if the police had arrested the accused, they should be put behind the bars. The victim’s father said they would perform burial of Shazia only after seeing the accused behind the bars. He said the accused, Naeem, and his family should not be treated as guests at the police station or at the investigation centre.

Meanwhile, the Lahore Bar Association members have reportedly planned to file a writ petition of habeas corpus against the police for keeping Naeem Advocate’s two sisters and brothers-in-law in illegal detention. A senior police officer, requesting anonymity, said lawyers could use this tactic to exert pressure on the police. However, he said action was being taken under the law.

Meanwhile, a medical board comprising three doctors, headed by Mayo Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Zahid Pervez, conducted autopsy on the body of Shazia. According to provisional autopsy report, there was a time lapse of 45 hours and 35 minutes between the death and autopsy. It has been reported that 16 injuries including incision wounds were found on different parts of the dead body. The wounds were skin deep ranging from 3 to 6 cm. Liver, heart, lungs, etc., were found normal. The report said there was no rib fracture, and signs of rape were also not found. Samples of brain, lung, liver, spleen and muscle were sent for histopathology and chemical examination. It is also learnt that around 13 out of 16 wounds were inflicted with rusted weapon, while three wounds were inflicted with sharp-edged weapon. Medical board was of the view that the malnutrition and constant physical and mental torture could be the result of death of minor girl. However, the real cause of death would be ascertained after the report of chemical examiner and histopathology. The autopsy report showed that intoxicants were also given to the victim.

Misreporting by the accused could also be judged from the hospital record, collected by The News. According to the record, the victim was admitted to Medical Emergency of Jinnah Hospital Lahore at 11:51 pm on January 21, 2010. The accused got registered the name of Shazia’s father as Ansar, instead of Bashir Masih, and age 14 years instead of 12. The accused got admitted Shazia on the pretext that she was mentally retarded. The victim was shifted to Medical Unit-4 on Friday morning and she died at 2:15 pm on the same day (January 22, 2010).

A doctor at Jinnah Hospital, on the condition of anonymity, said the victim was received almost dead, as the artificial respiratory procedure was started soon after her admission. He said the victim should have been shifted to Surgical Ward due to fatal wounds, but as the accused lawyer had approached one of the professors of MU-4, the victim was shifted to that ward. At the time of admission, doctors of MU-4 were on duty at Medical Emergency, the doctor maintained. Moreover, three children of victim family were also recovered late at night.

Source: The News

Statistics show that 70 per cent or more female domestic servants suffer abuse in some form. All domestic servants remain unprotected by labour laws with no regulations in place as to their hours of work, leaves and other rights. The many young girls hired to perform domestic chores and tend to children more privileged than themselves are especially vulnerable.

Source: The News

Pakistani Christian distrust government claims to ensure justice in Shazia murder case

Karachi: January 24, 2010. (PCP) Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President, Pakistan Christian Congress PCC, expressed distrust on statements of President Asif Zardari, CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Federal Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti that culprits will be brought to justice in Shazia case.

Christian teenage girl Shazia Bashir Masih, working as housemaid was tortured, raped and murdered by Muslim lawyer Mohammad Naeem on January 21, 2010. The culprit Mohammad Naeem who is member of Lahore High Court Bar Association and resident of posh Defense Housing Authority Lahore, molested, tortured and later killed Christian teenage Shazia Bashir in his home where she was working as maid since 2009.

The shameless episode of this inhuman drama happened when killer Mohammad Naeem Advocate accompanies with one Pakistan Army officer ranked as Brigadier and reached in hut of poor parents of Shazia Bashir and threatens not to raise voice and offers cash for rape and killing.

Nazir S Bhatti said that government of Pakistan and government of Punjab have been failed to secure life, respect and property of Christian.

The announcement of compensation to family of Shazia by President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif negates Christians demand “Justice not Money” raised after destruction of hundreds of homes in village BahmainWali, Korian and Gjra by attack of Muslim mob in July-August 2009, in Punjab. Apart from setting on fire Churches and desecration of Holy Bibles in said villages 7 Christian children, women and elders were burnt alive by Muslim extremists in Gojra Town. Like Shazia rape-murder case government of Pakistan and Punjab government assured Christians that justice shall be ensure.

The Federal Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was dispatched to Gojra, Korian and village Bahminwala by President of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan with compensation checks and orders of registration of First Information Reports FIR against local administration. The Punjab Minority Minister Michael Kamran was also ordered to rush to effected villages by Chief Minister of Punjab.

The 20 million Pakistani Christians watched on electronic media waiving FIR against Gojra DCO, DSP and other officials by Shahbaz Bhatti and Kamran Michael while standing beside seven dead bodies in presence of hundreds of mourners.

“Where is justice? The DCO Gojra is promoted by Punjab government and enquiry committees of administration have given clean chit to involved officers who closed eyes and gave free hand to thousands of Muslims to destroy homes and burn Christian alive” said Nazir Bhatti

“There is no justice for Christians in Pakistan and we doubt that culprit Mohammad Naeem will be also saved like Gojra killers” added Nazir Bhatti. He said “ Give us Justice not Money because justice can only end violence against Christians in Pakistan by establishment and fundamental Islamic elements”

It is also reported in Pakistani Press that Special Team appointed by Chief Minister Punjab to conduct postmortem of victim Shazia Bashir have found no evidence of rape and Shahbaz Bhatti have pointed finger on one Christian Ammant Masih who recruited Shazia for maid worker in home of culprit Mohammad Naeem.

Nazir S Bhatti urged government of Pakistan and Punjab government to immediately arrest Mohammad Naeem advocate because PCC doubts that administration is providing time to culprits to seek bail before arrest from higher courts.

Source: Pakistan Christian Post

Related article: Naeem advocate granted bail by an Islamofacist judge in Lahore

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  • Might one beseech Their Lordships of the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the seeming injustice done to Imran Masih of Hajvairy, Faisalabad, who was most recently sentenced to life in prison on the charge of blasphemy; a charge that seems so far-fetched that it stretches one’s credulity to extreme limits. For, My Lords, it would seem highly unlikely that a Christian who ran a shop in a bazaar, surrounded by good Muslim shopkeepers, would suddenly get it into his head to burn pages of the Holy Quran, and blaspheme our Prophet (PBUH) in plain sight and the hearing of his reported rival Haji Abdul Ghafoor, the complainant. Unless he was mad of course, for which the proper thing would be to commit him to a psychological examination and thence to the madhouse.

    Might one add that Their Lordships must move with alacrity and before poor Imran Masih is harmed physically, indeed killed outright, by a vigilante fellow prisoner who considers himself to be another good Muslim. It has happened before as we well know, not only to members of our minority communities, but even to Muslims in other, mostly rigged, cases of ‘blasphemy’. We are a quite unique people as we well know too, who prey on the weak and the vulnerable, and all in the name of God.

    Kamran Shafi

  • It is tragic. We must see the extremism elements within ourselves before we criticize others. This is an example of how even we people go to extremes. I shed tears of sorrow and I hope pray these people are brought to justice for such barbaric acts.

  • LBA to go on strike on Jan 27
    Upadated on: 26 Jan 10 06:06 PM

    Staff Report

    LAHORE: Lahore Bar Association announced a strike call on January 27 in support of its member, Advocate Naeem who is being accused of the teenaged maid, Shazia’s murder case.

    The general body of the association condemned the resolution passed by the National Assembly against Naeem. The lawyer community chanted slogans against Pakistani media and bar’s president, Sajjid Bashir, warned the media persons to leave the premises or face the consequences instead.

    Earlier, Advocate Naeem Chaudhry had submitted an application for his bail in the Lahore Session Court.

    Naeem Chaudhry, who is being accused of murdering the teenaged house maid, Shazia , was arrested by the Lahore police on Sunday.

    The parents of Shazia, 13, alleged that their daughter died when the owners of the house started torturing her. Her parents told that they wanted to meet her few days back but Naeem and his family did not respond. Shazia’s parents said that they were told that their daughter died but they later came to know that she had been tortured brutally. Shazia was laid to rest on Monday.

    لاہور: لاہور کی عدالت نے شازیہ قتل کیس میں نامزد ملزم ایڈووکیٹ نعیم کو تین روزہ جسمانی ریمانڈ پر پولیس کے حوالے کردیاہے ۔وکلاء نے اس واقعے پر میڈیاپر جانبداری کا الزام لگاتے ہوئے صحافیوں کو کوریج سے روک دیا اور دھمکیاں دیں۔

    شازیہ قتل کیس کی سماعت کے موقع پرجب ملزم نعیم کو عدالت میں پیش کیا گیا تو وکلاء نے شدید نعرے بازی کی اور ملزم نعیم کو اپنے حصار میں لے کر عدالت پہنچایا ۔ وکلا نے میڈیا کو واقعے کی کوریج سے روک دیا اور دھمکیاں بھی دیں ۔

    پیشی سے پہلے لاہور بار ایسوسی ایشن کے صدر ساجد بشیر نےمیڈیا نمائندگان کو ایس ایم ایس کے ذریعے پیغام بھیجا کہ میڈیا احاطہ عدالت سے باہر نکل جائیں۔ کچھری میں کشیدہ صورتحال کی وجہ سے پولیس کی بھاری نفری موجود تھی جبکہ سائلین کو بھی کچہری سے باہر نکال دیاگیا

  • COMMENT: Shazia murder case —Mashal Sahir

    This is just one case that has been reported. The fact is that there are millions of Shazias out there who are forced to work at a young age and who suffer cruelty or may even lose their lives because of such injustice and their cases never get reported

    On January 23, 2010, an innocent 12-year old child Shazia was reported to have been tortured to death. She had been employed as a maid in Advocate Naeem’s house who, along with his family members, including his wife, son and sister-in-law, has been accused of inflicting torture on her. According to her parents, Advocate Naeem told them that their daughter had been admitted to Jinnah Hospital and when they arrived, Shazia was already dead. They brought her dead body back to their residence because the police had refused to register a case or conduct an autopsy. It was only after the incident was widely reported in the media and authorities at the highest levels took notice that the police registered a case and took the body for a post-mortem. Shazia’s parents have accused Advocate Naeem of trying to bribe them with Rs 15,000 to keep quiet. Fortunately, after pressure from high-ups, the police have arrested the main accused. According to the post-mortem report, Shazia had been physically abused for a long period of time and the wounds on her body prove that she had been beaten up ruthlessly with some sharp, pointed tool.

    This case clearly shows that the child labour laws, according to which a child cannot be employed before the age of 15, have been violated. Moreover, the cruelty inflicted by Advocate Naeem and his family that eventually killed the little helpless child is criminal. Even though Advocate Naeem, himself a practitioner of the law, was completely aware of the child labour laws existing in the country, he appointed a 12-year old girl as a maid at his house. By all means, the case should be impartially investigated and Advocate Naeem and his family should be punished according to the law. However, one question still remains: who is to be blamed for such an injustice?

    This is just one case that has been reported. The fact is that there are millions of Shazias out there who are forced to work at a young age and who suffer cruelty or may even lose their lives because of such treatment and their cases never get reported. In my opinion, all of us are to be blamed for this. Our society, culture and attitudes towards the poor and the minorities play a major role in causing such injustices. There is no sensitivity to violence whatsoever. According to an estimate, 47 percent of the families in Pakistan endure violence inflicted upon them by their own family members. A husband beating up his wife or a parent thrashing his/her children without any real need is a common aspect of our society. Due to exposure to repeated violent episodes, the children living in such a household accept it in their lives as a matter of routine and thus violence prevails.

    Another issue is the parents’ irresponsibility towards their children. Most families, especially in the low-economic class, consider family planning a sin. They do not realise that their duty as parents does not end at giving birth only. Making the children healthy, responsible adults, educating them, teaching them moral values and preparing them in such a way that they could handle the pressures of life is also a part of their job. We have to understand the responsibility of bringing another life into this world. It is very common in our society for people who cannot even afford a loaf of bread to give birth to six or seven children, knowing fully well that they will not be able to provide the child with the necessities of life. This, in turn, gives birth to child labour. When these people are unable to provide food for themselves and their children, they force the children to work in violation of the child labour laws. The Shazia murder case also reflects her parents’ apathy towards her. As stated by the post-mortem report, Shazia had been tortured for a long period of time. Where were her parents when she was being beaten up? True, Shazia was a maid at Advocate Naeem’s house, but she was only employed there. She had not been sold to that family. Why did not her parents bother to visit their child and inquire about how the family she was working for were treating her?

    This case is an extremely tragic incident for all of us. It is not only an insult to the law, but also an insult to humanity. It shows how shallow and low we are and if we do not raise our voices now, we will continue to drift into this darkness until we remove all the difference between humans and animals. We are all responsible because our negligence as a society played a part in letting such a crime take place. Will you change your thinking and raise your voice so that justice prevails or will you continue with your ways and become a part of such injustices? You be the judge.

    Mashal Sahir is a freelance writer and can be reached at\01\27\story_27-1-2010_pg3_6

  • Power, lies and abuse

    Shazia was not tortured, claims accused
    Updated at: 1511 PST, Wednesday, January 27, 2010
    LAHORE: The main character in Shazia murder case in Lahore said in his police statement that the girl was not tortured; instead, she died as she sustained injuries while falling down on the stairs.

    During the interrogation in three-day remand at the court’s bidding, the accused said the girl was not mentally sound, adding he asked several times her parents living in Islamia Park to take their daughter back; but, they did not turn up to take her as they received the advance money.

    The accused Naeem revealed that Shazia used to eat unhygienic things with uncooked raw meat, adding she knew nothing about her house and family.

    The accused said he never forbade her to go to her parents.

  • Unruly lawyers harass Shazia’s family, media

    * Lawyers claim Shazia died after falling down stairs, accuse media of launching ‘smear campaign’ against ex-LHCBA president
    * Court remands Naeem to police custody

    Staff Report

    LAHORE: An extremely hostile environment was witnessed at the Cantt courts on Tuesday, as lawyers tried to coerce the court and the media in favour of Chaudhry Naeem advocate, who is accused of torturing to death his 12-year-old maid Shazia Masih. The unruly lawyers also forced the deceased girl’s family off court premises.

    As police brought the accused to the court to obtain his physical remand, a large mob of lawyers gathered and started shouting slogans against the media. They also forcibly stopped the reporters from reaching the courtroom where the case was to be heard.

    The lawyers – the majority of whom belonged to the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) – blamed the media for launching a “ smear campaign” against Naeem, a former president of the LHCBA.

    Claim: The lawyers claimed that the media was giving undue attention to the case, saying that Shazia was not killed by Naeem or his family, but had died after falling down from the staircase.

    In a related development, a general house meeting of the LHCBA chaired by its newly elected president Sajid Bashir vowed to take the media head on for its “biased reporting” of the Shazia murder case.

    The LHCBA also passed a resolution against media personnel and announced a complete boycott of court proceedings on Wednesday (today) to protest against the “unfair” treatment being meted out to Naeem.

    Granted: Earlier, the court granted the police three-day physical remand of Naeem advocate.

    Additional District and Sessions Judge Shafiqur Rehman had earlier granted interim bail to Naeem’s wife and sister-in-law until February 3. Rehman directed the authorities to submit the case record in the next hearing. Naeem’s son has already been given interim bail.

    12-year-old Shazia Masih was allegedly tortured to death on January 22 by her employer, Chaudhry Naeem, in the Defence Police precincts. The girl’s family staged a demonstration outside the Punjab Assembly building when the police delayed the registration of a first information report against Naeem and his family. The protest led to Defence Police arresting Naeem along with his wife and son on January 24.\01\27\story_27-1-2010_pg13_1

  • Secrets behind closed doors

    Thursday, January 28, 2010
    Kamila Hyat

    The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

    The story of the abuse and murder of a 12-year-old maid servant, working at the home of a lawyer in the Defence area of Lahore, is unusual simply because it has attracted widespread media coverage – and consequently drawn the attention of the top leadership.

    But surely these persons cannot be totally oblivious to the fact that harassment, molestation and occasional murder are a routine part of the life of many domestic servants. This is a documented reality. According to the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA), comprising a group of organisations working against the harassment of women in the workplace, 91 per cent of female domestic workers say they have suffered sexual abuse at one point or another. Those like the unfortunate Shazia, who are young and belong to a minority community, are especially vulnerable.

    Each year, there are indeed complaints of abuse from other maids. Few are able to persuade anyone to hear them. A few months ago, a group of wealthy women in Lahore ‘helped’ a young girl who complained she was being ‘rented out’ almost each night to friends of her employer, in exchange for money paid to him, to find other employment. What they did not do was initiate any action against the man and his wife – who, it would appear, abetted him. It is this immunity from the law that allows such crime to continue. The failure of police to act – as in the case of Shazia – is after all not unusual. The powerful rarely face punishment.

    There are many examples of this. Some years ago, in Mozang, a four-year-old boy, employed as kitchen help, was beaten to death by the woman for whom he worked. His crime: he had taken too long to pay a visit to the bathroom – located away from the house.

    The child’s body was then dumped on a garbage heap by his employer and her husband. Here, media coverage of the matter ends. We do not know if the couple – parents themselves – ended up in police custody or if they were put on trial. It is thought they may have escaped. The parents of the boy may have accepted a bribe. After a brief media flurry, the trail runs entirely cold. The headlines grow smaller and then fade away. This of course is a fact in other cases too. It explains why such crimes continue; why those responsible remain confident they can get away with rape or murder.

    The president has, in the case of Shazia, offered up Rs5 lakh to her family as ‘compensation’. This then is the price of her life. But what we really need is some kind of regulatory set-up that can offer protection to domestic workers. In the first place, the employment of children, least able to protect themselves, needs to be stopped. There are tens of thousands such children who perform the mundane chores of households, sometimes in exchange for little more than a single meal a day. Cases are documented each year of servants – children and adults alike – who are accused of theft and then denied a wage to ‘recover’ the loss. An employee at a fast food restaurant where birthday parties for the offspring of the elite are regularly hosted says he feels compelled to smuggle food to the small maids who watch their charges eat, some saying they survive only on kitchen scraps. He has seen scars inflicted by beating on scrawny arms. There are maids who regularly work a day that lasts 16 hours or even more, and who suffer beatings, verbal abuse and worse. The events that take place behind the doors of grand households are after all hidden from the public. The lack of laws to protect domestic workers leaves them without any cover at all.

    This is of course not unique to Pakistan. The abuse of domestic workers has frequently been reported from the Middle East, India and indeed other nations. But it is true too that in other places, unions of domestic servants have been created and legislation written up defining their rights as well as their responsibilities. We need to move towards this. A single case, and action on it, in the longer run, changes nothing at all. What is essential is that it be used as a lever to put laws in place and initiate a wider process of reform, backed by the assemblies.

    But the fact is that even laws on their own are quite insufficient. The failures to implement them are after all widespread. Nevertheless they represent an important step forward. Our government must, however, also assess what else is wrong. Poverty is frequently cited as an explanation or justification for child labour.

    This is wrong. Indeed, work by children, who often receive next to nothing as wages, perpetuates poverty within families. It can also not be used as an excuse to push children into the workforce. Their lack of schooling drives on the cycle of deprivation. The increasing discrimination against non-Muslims too needs to be taken up as a priority. It is inflicting terrible havoc on society and threatens to cause still more harm.

    These are issues that now need to be looked into. The intense media focus on the latest murder has paid dividends. But the fact is it cannot last. We saw this too in the recent case involving the death of a small girl at a hospital. Today, laws to regulate medical care in the private sector are being resisted. With the TV cameras searching out other topics, the pressure has shifted.

    There are lessons here for the media. While its attention span is necessarily short in a world of rapidly changing news, perhaps there is some need for means to be found to lengthen this and to conduct campaigns that extend over time, moving towards ushering in real change.

    But perhaps, more realistically speaking, this is a job for the government. The murder of Shazia has highlighted the inability of the state to protect those who most need its support. It is these issues that need to be taken up by leaders. The gaze of the government must then look beyond the child who died in such terrible circumstances in Defence and find ways of preventing other little girls from meeting the same fate.


  • A new kind of lawyers’ ‘movement’

    Looks like death wasn’t the end as far as Shazia Masih’s murder case is concerned. Unfolding events point to the delayed procedures of justice. Once again the media has gotten itself caught in the crosshairs of an attitude of blatant disregard for the freedom to report, express and uncover. Lawyers on Monday staged a huge demonstration at the Lahore Sessions Court in response to media coverage of the brutal killing of young Shazia. Their stance was that the media should have left this case alone, hence not allowing the public to become aware of this heinous instance of torture leading to the death of the victim and who is most plausibly responsible. The scene started to get ugly when the lawyers displayed verbal aggression threatened to get physical if the media did not back down. A show of solidarity with one from your own ilk can be shown in more civil and befitting a manner, one that behoves a section of the community wedded to the rule of law. Siding with a man accused of murder is one thing; preventing the other side from being heard is quite another.

    The media in Pakistan has become a voice for the downtrodden in society, without which many such cases and human atrocities would never see the light of day. Accusations being hurled by the lawyers that the entire affair is being turned into a media circus do not hold up to scrutiny; au contraire, so far only the facts have been reported and rightly so.

    This is not the first time our lawyers have indulged in a scuffle with media people doing their job. Every so often, particularly in the wake of the judiciary’s restoration that may have left some section of the lawyers with a false and exaggerated sense of empowerment, new incidents emerge, casting the black coats in a poor light. From this emerging trend of violent behaviour of our lawyers, the gains of the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the judiciary are being frittered away.

    When it came time to media coverage of the Supreme Court’s striking down of the NRO, the lawyers were only too happy to welcome media reps for live reporting and unbiased criticism. However, now when one from their own fraternity is under scrutiny, the rules of the game seem to have changed. We hope that these upholders of the rule of law choose the side of free and fair justice, instead of fraternal bias.\01\28\story_28-1-2010_pg3_1

  • The absence of morality

    Reality check

    Friday, January 29, 2010
    Shafqat Mahmood

    The demons residing within our society are frightening. What would account for a lawyer, senior enough to be a past president of the Lahore Bar Association (LBCA), casually and cruelly inflict injuries on a 12-year-old girl or stand by while she is tortured by family members?

    And, what kind of behaviour is it for a group of lawyers to raise a ruckus and generally threaten everybody, when the accused is produced in court? Have we reached a point where intimidation and coercion are the only weapons left in our collective arsenal?

    It suggests to me that at some level of consciousness, our collective conception of a state ordered by law has broken down. Otherwise, why would lawyers, who more than anyone else should bow before the ‘majesty’ of law, resort to beating up journalists or intimidating the courts?

    They obviously do this because they believe it is the most potent weapon to get what they want. They could, for example, have chosen to argue the case in a court. They could have spent their energy and ardour in digging up legal precedents and marshalling fine points of law. They are lawyers, aren’t they? Yet they chose to behave like hooligans.

    We have transcended the normal legal and governance discourse. Anyone who has a grievance knows only one thing. Come out on the roads, shout and scream and if possible, slash and burn. This includes our revered legal community. It appears to them to be the only way to get attention or have a desired result. This is as vivid an example as any, of a state and society in deep crisis.

    What happened to poor Shazia, or to many others, unnamed and unsung, is reflective of a moral vacuum within our society. The alleged crime was committed by people who should have understood the difference between right and wrong. By saying this, I am presuming that education allows one to make this distinction but I could be wrong.

    This should also have been true of their supporters. But, they have not stopped to consider the enormity of the crime. They have not been affected either by empathy for the poor girl or by the horrendous nature of the incident. In other words, they refuse to take a moral position on it. Or it is not in their mental make-up to do so. All they know is that they have to support their friend, colleague, relative, mentor, leader, come what may. Loyalty takes precedence over morality or legal norms.

    This debate between moral/legal and a feudal conception of loyalty is not uncommon in our homes and offices and among friends. It is argued that if a relative or a friend is in trouble, even if he or she has committed a morally despicable crime, it is our duty to stand by them. The notion of a personal bond and the duty that this imposes is of a far greater value than the right and wrong of the act done.

    One can understand this when it comes to close relatives; between parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives and even friends and lovers. Human emotions have an enormous capacity to triumph over legal or societal norms. But, it is the suspension of morality at a collective level that is troubling.

    I don’t want to keep beating up on President Zardari but his example raises many of the tricky issues that are reflective of our social norms. He may or may not have been convicted of the various acts of corruption he is charged with. He also without a doubt has been legally and constitutionally elected as President of Pakistan. But, does anyone; his close associates, friends and admirers, the political and journalistic elite, and the ordinary people, have any doubt where his enormous fortune has come from.

    This is not only true of him but of many other people in politics, military, judiciary and the bureaucracy. It is also the case with other prominent people whom we, the elite, usually meet socially. Everyone knows where their money has come from. Some actually have been convicted and have spent time in jail. Leave alone any kind of social disapproval; they are often looked at enviously as people who have made it to the good life.

    And those that have been left behind or chose not to partake of the goodies that were before them are seldom approved of. They are often considered to be cowards or plain idiots even by their near and dear ones. The lack of moral content in our social mores particularly among the elite is frightening.

    Some would argue that it is also true of the people. Why do they keep electing people, again and again, who are demonstrably corrupt or criminal? This is not just true of our country. Apparently, a small but significant proportion of Indian MPs have a criminal background or have been accused of serious crimes. It may also be true of other South Asian countries.

    The people who keep electing these crooks are, of course, largely poor. Does this mean that while we do have laws and a constitution, the morality inherent in these pieces of paper, has not seeped into the norms of society?

    A particularly poignant observation has been made by columnist Nazir Naji, comparing turn out at the funerals of revered journalist Irshad Ahmed Haqqani and a gentleman known as Tipu Truckanwala, who was shot dead at the Lahore airport parking lot.

    The said Tipu was widely known as underworld figure, innately familiar with guns and their uses. Irshad Haqqani wielded an authoritative and eloquent pen. Yet, the attendance at his funeral was a few dozen while large hordes thronged to the last rites of the aforesaid Tipu. What does this say about our society?

    We are a deeply religious people. We even have it in our Constitution that no law would be made that is not in conformity with Holy Quran and Sunnah. And we don’t just leave it to a verbal commitment. The attendance in mosques for prayers and at other religious occasions is large and growing. And yet, how do we explain this moral vacuum within?

    The only explanation I can come up with is that poverty and a generally tough life in a poor country, overrides innate morality that is present in everyone. Simple demands of existence become more important than desirable but impractical moral values.

    Politicians are elected because they get things done not because they live a saintly life. Irshad Haqqani is respected but his pen only preaches. Tipu Truckanwala has power to make things happen. It is a crucial difference in a place where nothing works.

    The lawyers are banding together and suspending morality because they know they too will need each other, sooner or later. President Zardari will keep getting elected and hold his office not because of a higher moral principle. It is convenient for many that he remains there.

    Morality is a luxury in our society. Pragmatism a necessity.


  • The success of the lawyers’ movement and the exuberating sense of honour produced an opportune moment to identify and implement substantive changes in our professional ethics and legal processes that would help eradicate malpractices that plague our justice system. We might be frittering away this opportunity. When we misbehaved during the lawyers’ movement (by inflicting violence on Naeem Bukhari and Dr Sher Afgan Niazi because we disagreed with their opinion) people gave us the benefit of the doubt. But we imbibed even more arrogance after we succeeded in facilitating the restoration of the judges and beat up policemen and journalists outside the courts of Lahore.

    More recently, we portrayed another ugly spectacle of hooliganism during the initial hearings of the Shazia murder case and even resolved to stand beside our brother lawyer Mohammad Naeem advocate as a mark of communal loyalty. But are defenders of rule of law supposed to transform themselves into bigots the moment one of their own is caught at the wrong end of the penal justice system? Were we so impassioned by competing equities in the murder of the 12-year old, should we not have passed an even-handed resolution? Should we not have called for a fair and transparent process to decipher all the facts in the case, seeking justice for the family of the deceased and a fair trial for the accused?

    It is easy for each one of us to disown the rowdies amongst us, and claim that the actions of a few miscreants cannot be a cause of scandal and scorn for the entire legal community. But if we only criticise such actions individually and the bar that represents us collectively takes no disciplinary action against those violating the law and our professional ethics, is that not proof that our resolve to protect and implement that law is only so long as its consequences do not touch one of our own?

    The issue of exorbitant amounts charged by attorneys defending Harris Steel in the Bank of Punjab scandal is another issue that has been greeted by deafening silence by the bar councils. Lawyers are not required to be motivated by charity as a vocational matter. They are professionals who are entitled to charge for their services and their time. However, the Cannons of Professional Conduct (framed under the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973) provide guidelines with regard to fees. According to this code, “in fixing fees advocates should avoid charges which overestimate their advice and services, as well as those which undervalue them.”

    “It should never be forgotten that the profession is a branch of the administration of justice and not a mere money-making trade,” the code reminds us. Thus, while attorneys are free to determine the value of their time and effort, professional etiquette requires that fees and charges be commensurate with the services rendered.

    The attorneys mentioned in the Bank of Punjab scandal for their charging of seemingly prohibitive amounts are some of the most celebrated and distinguished members of the lawyers’ fraternity. Being the finest of professionals in our midst, many have earned the reputation and the right to charge handsomely for their time.

    But given the indicting allegations that a few of them sought extra amounts for the specific purpose of engineering the decision of the court, should the Pakistan Bar Council not have constituted a committee comprising members of the legal fraternity with unimpeachable integrity (such as Fakharuddin G Ebrahim and Justice Wajihuddin) to determine whether fees charged were in proportion to the services provided? Would it not have been more honourable and responsible for the bar to assume responsibility for regulation of its members, rather than have the NAB conduct an inquiry amidst a media trial of all lawyers engaged in the case?

    And now we have the National Coordination Council of lawyers, headed by the president of our Supreme Court Bar Association, threatening to lead a strike, should the government fail to implement the NRO ruling. Notwithstanding the extraordinary situation when the legal fraternity refused to recognise the legitimacy of courts comprising PCO judges, does it really behoove officers of the law to boycott court proceedings? The strategy made sense in the bygone dark era where the government was keeping in place illegitimate courts that lawyers’ spurned through their boycott in a bid to influence the decision of the executive to restore the deposed judges to their rightful offices.

    Is it not paradoxical to boycott court proceedings as a means to get the rulings of the same courts implemented? In a system that is marred by inordinate delays, should the interests of the litigating public not be the paramount concern for attorneys who represent them in courts? Further, has the rule-of-law movement permanently transformed lawyers into a union of activists who will threaten to slow down the system of justice every time the government of the day does something they disagree with?

    Why does the bar wish to create an impression that our apex court – equipped with significant authority under the Constitution and the laws of Pakistan to get its orders implemented – is a toothless institution dependent on lawyers to get its orders executed? Further, given the exuberating fervour to get the NRO ruling implemented at the earliest, should the National Coordination Council of lawyers not have started by passing a resolution requiring the Pakistan Bar Council to take strong disciplinary action against Malik Qayyum and other NAB prosecutors who already stand indicted in the NRO case for misconduct?

    Over the last few years the bar and the bench, together with the media and the civil society, have made valiant efforts to put back on rails our justice system that was starting to swerve toward the edge of the precipice. We now have a collective interest in strengthening this system through reform of all its components, rather than going back to business as usual. Lawyers form the most critical component in this system and no number of judicial policies and additional resources will nurture a functional system unless this key constituency reviews its existing professional ethos. As we go around saving the world, should all of us in black coats not indulge in some soul-searching as well? Charity begins at home they say.


  • What we owe to our Shazias

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010
    Daniyal Khan

    The death of 12-year-old Shazia has been widely condemned in the media as an example of the harsh treatment to which domestic servants are so often subjected in Pakistan. As part of the low-income class, household servants cannot do anything about their maltreatment by their employers. As economic historian Robert Heilbroner noted, power follows money in modern society, and thus servants, with their meagre incomes, find themselves at the receiving end in the form of violence by their employers. The fact that this ill-treatment is an abomination is hardly debatable, but there is a phenomenon at play which is hardly recognised: servants subsidise the very lives of their employers.

    The first thing to realise is that household servants assist practically all day-to-day activities of the people who are able to afford their services, especially the rich. The maid, the cook, the guard and the driver together often perform the very basic tasks of a household: the home’s cleaning, washing and ironing of clothes, cooking, serving of food, protection of the house and enabling the transport of members of the household from place to place.

    I, for example, almost never have to worry about washing and ironing my clothes, for the housemaids do it. I also don’t have to spend time on other personal chores, such as the cleaning of my room. When I leave home, I hardly ever have to deal with the traffic of Lahore. I commute to and from my university every day, making what I think is good use of my daily time, thanks, of course, to the services of the household driver. Time that would have otherwise gone to these tasks goes to activities which contribute, in my opinion, to the furthering of my education. Relieved of the responsibility of performing these tasks, I can be better focused on what may be called my “professional” identity, that of a student.

    Servants thus may contribute to the better performance of a CEO, a judge or a doctor, making these people’s work easier by freeing up their time which would be taken up by household activities. In some cases, the servants may be attached to households for such long periods of time that they may even be trusted with the keys of the house in the absence of the homeowner. In such pessimistic and troubling times, such servants are a blessing.

    Having seen how servants contribute to a household, let us see what they get in return.

    First, they get a miserable income which hardly helps them make ends meet, let alone educate their children — if they aren’t children themselves. Second, abuse is widespread, the verbal kind being more frequent than the physical. Of course, one cannot deny the existence of households which treat their servants well — providing them with the same food which is cooked for everyone else in the house, helping out when a member of the servant’s family is sick or the village home needs repairing, when money is needed for a family wedding — and where verbal and physical abuse is absent.

    But these are exceptions. It is in this suffering where lies the subsidisation of the lives of the better-off and rich by the conditions of the poor. People do not pay the full cost of the services their servants provide: what the servants get in return for their services is, more often than not, humiliating treatment and the hardships accompanying the pathetic wages they are given.

    When a government provides a subsidy, it must make up for the expenditure; that is, in a sense it must be repaid by the consumer in the form of a tax or the revoking of a subsidy. How is the subsidy provided by the servants to be repaid? We can talk about raising incomes as a starting point, but we must not stop there. To do that would mean that we have put a monetary price on the misery of the poor and that we are content with its continued existence in exchange for a monetary reward.

    What should be done is to begin with the provision of the following: greater monetary compensation, along with the assurance of their physical safety, dignity and respect and — last but certainly not least — the recognition that they truly serve the household. Secondly, what is it to which those with money have access and the poor don’t? That is education. Thus, it is their responsibility to make sure that the subsidy their lives have been receiving from the poor for years and years is repaid qualitatively through the ushering in of a social-economic environment in which the servants of households are given dignity and respect as well as a chance of educating themselves. It is only they who can do this, for it is they who have access to education as well as socio-political power which follows their money. No repayment could be greater than this.

    The term “servant” is considered by many to be disparaging. I don’t agree. They do truly serve as they subsidise the very lives of the better off and the rich, despite their low-incomes, misery, toleration of suffering and patience. For such service they must be repaid, and it is about time they started getting their due.

    The writer is a LUMS student. Email:

  • Rule of law: Senior lawyer beats up elderly woman ‘for not vacating his chair’
    By Rana Tanveer
    Published: March 25, 2011

    Lawyer claims the woman had a bad reputation, he feared being tainted by association.
    LAHORE: A senior member of the Lahore High Court Bar Association on Thursday severely beat up an elderly woman because she had taken a chair in the bar compound which he claimed belonged to him.
    The woman said she believed the chair belonged to the bar canteen and that she was sitting there waiting for another lawyer.
    Advocate Nasir Khan Banuzai, however, alleged that the woman was a pimp. He said he beat her up because she wasn’t vacating his seat and that he could not risk being associated with her.
    A waiter at the bar canteen, who was an eyewitness to the scene, said Banuzai pushed Bushra Syeda, 60, a Bund Road resident, off the chair and beat her with a shoe following a short argument. He said the woman kept calling out for help but for about 10 to 15 minutes no one dared to stop the advocate.
    Syeda told The Express Tribune that the lawyer started beating her when she asked him why he wanted her to leave the seat as it did not belong to him.
    She said the lawyer shouted at her and beat her with his shoe. She claimed that the chair had been brought from the bar canteen and was not owned by the lawyer.
    The woman said later she went to Lahore High Court Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and LHCBA president Asghar Ali Gill to complain against the lawyer but they were not present in their offices.
    She said she would not take her complaint to the police because they were helpless against the lawyers. “Lawyers are influential. No policeman will dare taking action against them,” she said.
    Syeda said she had come to the court to meet a lawyer who had earlier fought her daughter’s divorce case. She said the lawyer had not charged any fee and had promised to help her in future as well. She said she had run out of money and had come to seek some assistance from the lawyer. However, she did not identify that lawyer.
    Syeda said about a year ago she used to visit the court quite regularly bringing clients for the lawyers in return for a nominal commission but had now stopped doing it.
    Advocate Nasir alleged that the woman was a pimp and that she had a reputation for coming to the court to attract customers. He said he had to beat her up because he did not want to be associated to her. Nasir said that before he beat her up, he requested her several times to leave the seat but she refused.
    He said he did not file a complaint against her in the court because women were given undue favours especially after the promulgation of Women Protection Act.
    Bar canten staff remembered several incidents of lawyers beating people. They said no action had yet been taken against any lawyer involved in such incidents.
    Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2011.

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