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Beaten to death

Updated July 16, 2017

AFTER days of back and forth over the cause of death of young Akhtar Ali, a post-mortem report has finally been prepared.

It confirms what the boy’s family had been claiming since the 16-year-old’s body was recovered from the house of his employers in Lahore’s Akbari Gate area: the child was beaten with a blunt weapon, resulting in his death.

Talking to the media, SSP Investigation Mubashir Maiken on Friday further quoted the post-mortem report as saying that the boy’s body bore old wounds as well as fresh ones.

Consequently, into the murder FIR that was registered when the case first came to light, the police have now inserted an anti-terrorism clause making reconciliation between the two parties difficult.

Suspected of the murder is the employer of Ali and his sister for the past four years, Fauzia, daughter of PML-N MPA Shah Jahan.

There are many aspects to this tragedy that must simultaneously evoke emotions ranging from shock to unbearable sadness.

One is the sort of poverty and lack of governmental intervention/support that produces large families and forces parents to put their children to work in the first place.

Recent times have thrown up case after case of such domestic workers — young, unaware of any rights and often cut off from their families — being horribly treated.

Often, the conditions under which they work are hardly different from slave labour.

Another is the callousness of society itself, where the issue of child labour and the mistreatment of minors is deeply endemic and there for all to see, yet invisible until death or serious injury occur.

Most depressingly, not even the potential vanguards of change always have their hands clean — consider how many of the country’s educated families employ children, and in particular, ponder the fact that the politician parent of Ali’s suspected murderer is a member of the National Assembly’s standing committee on labour and human resource.

In such circumstances, can there be anything other than despair?

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017