People on Twitter, including politicians, on Wednesday demanded justice for an eight-year-old girl who succumbed to injuries inflicted by her employers — who allegedly tortured her for accidentally setting their parrots free.
Zahra, who was a domestic worker at a household in Rawalpindi, was brought to the Begum Akhtar Rukhsana Memorial Hospital on Sunday in an injured state by her employer. According to the police, the suspect admitted that he and his wife had beaten Zahra after she let his "expensive pet parrots escape from their cage".
Zahra succumbed to her injuries soon after she was brought to the hospital and both her employers were arrested the same day. They were remanded into police custody until June 6.
The first information report, that was registered in Rawat police station on behalf of the SHO soon after the victim was brought to the hospital and was still alive, said that she had injuries on her face, hands, below her rib cage and legs. The FIR stated that she also had wounds on her thighs which suggested that she might have been sexually assaulted. Police have sent samples for forensic examination to confirm if an assault took place and are yet to receive a report.
The report was filed under Sections 302 (punishment for qatl-i-amd), 376 (punishment of rape) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Zahra's body was handed over to her family after a post-mortem examination, which revealed that the victim had died due to her injuries.
The girl hailed from Punjab's Kot Addu city and was employed by the couple four months ago to take care of their one-year-old child, police said. When employing her, the suspect had promised to provide her an education.
The incident has reignited a discussion over the exploitation of minors and child labour laws in Pakistan.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said the ministry had taken notice of the incident and was in contact with the police. She added that the human rights ministry's lawyer was following the case as well.
She further said that the ministry has proposed an amendment to add domestic labour as "hazardous occupation in Schedule 1 of Employment of Children Act, 1991".
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, in response to a tweet, vowed to take the case up, adding that child labour "has to stop".
Nida Kirmani, a teacher at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, demanded an end to employing children, saying it was "the worst kind of exploitation".
"It leaves kids vulnerable to abuse. Employ their parents. Support them in going to school. Treat everyone’s children as if they were your own, with kindness & respect. Be a decent human," she tweeted.
PPP leader Sharmila Faruqi also condemned the incident saying that the "barbarity of this [crime] is sickening".
The incident comes months after the Supreme Court set aside the extended three-year sentence against former additional district and sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife Maheen Zafar, who were convicted for torturing their 10-year-old maid Tayyaba. The case had garnered attention in 2016, when photos of Tayyaba were circulated on social media. The young girl suffered bruises, wounds and burns to her body while employed as domestic help by the additional judge.