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ISLAMABAD: A four-year-old is in critical condition at the children’s intensive care unit (ICU) at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) after surviving sexual assault and an attempt on her life.

The victim’s father has also alleged that she was denied treatment at two of the city’s public hospitals for several hours.

The child is on a ventilator, Pims spokesperson Dr Wasim Khawaja told Dawn.

l Victim’s father says she was denied treatment by Polyclinic, Pims emergency for hours l 40 suspects arrested so far

She is in serious condition and has difficulty breathing.

Pims Executive Director Dr Raja Amjad Mehmood said the child was raped and strangled.

Her respiratory system is severely damaged, and she is also suffering from pneumonia because she was left in a pond, causing her lungs to fill with water.

Dr Mehmood said the child is under observation by a team of doctors and her condition has deteriorated.

The victim’s father told police that she left the house at around 9pm to play in the rain, but did not return half an hour later when the family called her.

The family then went outside and saw she had disappeared. They searched for her and found her in a field.

In response to the complaint lodged by the child’s father, the Bhara Kahu police have registered a case against unidentified person(s) under Pakistan Penal Code section 377-B (punishment for sexual abuse) and 324 (attempt to commit murder).

Since the incident was reported the police have arrested 40 people who are under interrogation.

Two teams have been constituted, each headed by the superintendent of police (investigation) (SP) and SP city, which will be supervised by the deputy inspector general of police (operations).

A police officer has said that the suspects who have been arrested live near the victim’s home and are between the ages of 15 and 45. Their samples will be taken for DNA tests, he said.

A team has also been constituted to collect the mobile numbers of people living in the victim’s neighbourhood for geo-fencing, he said. Details of local residents are being collected.

Police said circumstantial evidence suggests the attacker took the child to a field near her house, raped her and strangled her and then, assuming she had died, left her in a pond and fled.

Instead of keeping the identity of the victim and her family hidden, the police’s public relations office invited the press to cover the inspector general of police’s (IGP) visit to the hospital.

Police spokesperson Assistant Inspector General of Police Sardar Ghias Gul Khan, however, denied that the police invited press to cover the IGP’s visit, claiming that the press was already present at the hospital when he arrived.

He also said the media had already disclosed the identity of the victim and her family before the IGP visited them, and that the families of rape victims have never raised objections to their identification being disclosed in the past.

The victim’s father told Dawn that his daughter had gone outside with her brother, but she was left by herself when the neighbours asked her brother to buy them bread from the tandoor.

He said she was found in the fields 100 feet from the house. She was brought to Polyclinic at 10:30pm, but the casualty medical officer and other doctors refused to treat her, saying they did not have the required facilities at the hospital.

The victim’s father said she was left unattended at Polyclinic for more than two hours while the family pleaded with doctors to attend to her.

He said that it was at his request that she was then referred to Pims, and they reached the Pims emergency at 1am.

He said the staff at the Pims emergency and the hospital’s medico-legal officer also refused to treat the child, claiming this was a police case.

The family then took her to the Pims children’s hospital at 5:30am, where she was admitted and treatment began.

The child’s father said she is in critical condition and remains unconscious. Calling the medical staff at both hospitals ‘cruel’ for not attending to the child, he added that in the time it took for her to receive treatment his daughter’s condition deteriorated significantly.

He said she was still semi-conscious when they found her in the fields and even spoke to him, quoting the child as having told him: “He took me and beat me.”

Dr Khawaja from Pims, when asked, said it was impossible that the medical staff could have refused to treat the child. He claimed the delay could have resulted from a shortage of beds in the children’s ICU ward.

He said an inquiry will be conducted into the matter if the child’s father lodges a complaint with the hospital administration.

Polyclinic spokesperson Dr Sharif Astori also said it was impossible that medical staff could refuse to treat anyone. “We have not had such a complaint,” he added.

He said the child was referred to Pims because a paediatric surgeon was not available at Polyclinic.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2019