HR 214: Letter to the Chairman from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement
We feel very sorry and distressed to bring to your attention that another dreadful incident based on religious discrimination recently occurred in Pakistan.
A Christian girl, Shazia Masih, aged 13, passed away on 22 January at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore/Pakistan after repeated assaults by her employer Mohammed Chaudhry Naeem, a lawyer himself and a ex-president of Lahore Bar Association. She worked for him for over 8 months as a housemaid for Rs. 1000 equal to less than £8 per month. According to the law the minimum age of employment is 14years old while there is no specified minimum national wage.
The police, who at first refused to register the case, eventually registered a FIR No. 56/2010 under section 302/34 PPC and arrested Chaudhry Naeem after a demonstration in front of the Punjab Assembly by CLAAS, Church leaders and the public.
After publicising this case in media the representatives from the centre and provincial government have visited the family and financial support has been offered, Minister for minorities affair Shahbaz Bhatti, Kamran Michael, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab and even Ex prime minister Mian Mohammad Sharif has visited the bereaved family but Shazia's parents Bashir Masih and Nasreen have insisted on getting justice for their daughter.
CLAAS has been handling this case since 22 January and have made some progress but after 27 January 2010 since the Lahore Bar Association passed a resolution in support of Chaudhry Naeem, they are facing some degree of difficulties in gaining justice for Shazia's family. Several lawyers have declined to represent Shazia and are scared to confront the Lahore Bar Association but CLAAS is determined to get justice for Shazia.
It is very unfortunate that the Pakistani lawyers' community, whose job it is to get justice for the weak and vulnerable are becoming a hurdle themselves and the chances of justice for Shazia's family are diminishing. By accusing the media for highlighting this case, stopping Shazia 's parents from entering court, shouting at and harassing the magistrates, demanding that the charges be dropped against him without trial and creating a fear among the Bar members to not stand in court against him, Chaudhry Naeem is raising several questions about their profession, impartiality and integrity.
It is beyond understanding as to whether their behavior is because of Shazia's Christian religion or because she was poor. In any case, it is state's duty to ensure justice for Shazia's family. Unfortunately the state seems unconcerned perhaps because Shazia is Christian. Pakistan has ratified the CRC and is under obligation to bring its laws into line with CRC. Pakistan has introduced child labour laws but there is no mechanism of implementation. Child labour is too common in Pakistan and today, there is an estimated 10 million children working in all sorts of fields including bonded labour and positions of servitude. Children are often exploited, under paid and in some cases, violently treated at the hands of their all too powerful employers. Their fate is usually worse when they belong to a religious minority.
Also, the national laws have been violated. According the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 'no child below the age of fourteen, shall be engaged in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment.' Under the Factories Act 1934, article 50 states: 'no child who has not completed his fourteenth year and no adolescent shall be allowed to work in any factory.' Also International Labour Organisation's Minimum Age Convention 138, Article 2(3) states: 'The minimum age specified in pursuance of paragraph 1 of this Article shall not be less than the age of
completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, shall not be less than 15 years:'
Looking at the present situation created by the lawyers and lack of interest from the government, CLAAS fears that justice may not be achievable for Shazia's family. We therefore would like to request you that kindly take this matter seriously and raise it with the Pakistani government and at the other appropriate levels, so that the government of Pakistan is encouraged to fulfil its duties, justice is done with Shazia's family and many under aged children can be saved from these cruelties.
Thanking you in anticipation and if you need any further information please don't hesitate to contact us.
8 February 2010