NEWSPAPERS are routinely filled with reports of the brutal rape and murder of children. Every once in a while, however, a particular case manages to capture the nation’s attention. The abduction, rape and murder of 10-year-old Farishta from Islamabad is one such case, and there has been widespread condemnation and outrage over how it was handled by the police. According to her family, the child went out to play on May 15 but did not return. Worried about her safety, the family approached the police, who sought to dismiss their fears. The Shahzad Town SHO told them she must have left consensually with someone, and they were subjected to several insensitive and bizarre questions, including being asked if she had eloped with someone. The brother of the girl pointed out how the police officer was playing with his own child when they had gone to register their complaint. On May 20, Farishta’s body was found; her father had recognised her by her clothes. A photograph of a body began to make the rounds on social media that showed signs of torture. It was only when a politician raised the issue that the police registered an FIR — not before, when the parents had pleaded with them for four days. An inquiry is now under way, and the SHO has been suspended. An FIR has been registered against him and other policemen.
The diseased mind that snatched Farishta’s life did not recognise her humanity or pain, but what is shocking is that those who were in charge of protecting her also could not see the same. How can a 10-year-old be expected to give consent? Why would the police officer bring up the possibility of elopement as if the victim was an adult woman capable of making an adult decision? Whether the family’s case was treated the way it was because of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status will remain a subject of debate. But the job of the police is to protect and serve all citizens.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019