Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A 12-year-old Christian girl died on Friday as a result of physical violence inflicted by her employer, a rich and powerful Muslim lawyer in Lahore. The case has led to protests by the Christian community, which demonstrated before the provincial assembly of Punjab in Lahore. The authorities are trying to appease people and have pledged that justice shall be done. Pakistani President Zardari has also promised to pay compensation to the family.
A Protestant NGO, Sharing Life Ministry Life (SLMP), reported the case of Shazia Bashir, 12, who was employed for the past eight months as a domestic worker in the household of Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, a lawyer and former president of the Lahore Bar Association.
Local Christians say that during that period the girl was the victim of constant harassment, and that she was raped and tortured before she was killed.
SLMP chief coordinator Sohail Johnson said the girl worked under constant stress and experienced emotional and psychological trauma. She was also denied the agreed salary (Rs 1,000 or about US$ 12 per month).
Shazia “would get insults whenever she raised the subject of payment,” the Christian activist said.
Three days before her death, her employer tortured her, he noted. Afterwards, he tried to have her treated at his home without informing the parents of her health situation. In the end, the medical care she did get proved inadequate and she had to go to Lahore’s Meo Hospital.
"Shazia's parents were not allowed to meet her. They did not know what she was going through," said Razia Bibi, the girl’s 44-year-old uncle.
Shazia died last Friday from her injuries.
Sohail Johnson said that her body showed signs of torture with at least 12 marks of injury. "Shazia was admitted to the hospital with a broken jaw," he said.
Initially, Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem’s family tried to pay off Shazia’s parents with Rs 20,000 (US$ 250) to stop them from filing a case against them. Eventually they fled, but were arrested yesterday under pressure from the federal government.
On Saturday, Christians demonstrated in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
The Lahore Bar Association has instead sided with the powerful Muslim lawyer.
Local Christians have expressed scepticism about the impartiality and efficacy of the police investigation; however, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that outside interference would not be tolerated and that justice would be done.
Sohail Johnson (pictured with the girl’s body) said that 99 per cent of Christian girls from poor families are hired by wealthy Muslims, and are often physically, psychologically and sexually abused.
“In some cases, their employers marry them off to Muslim servants, and forcibly convert them to Islam,” he said.
“These vulnerable Christian girls do not have any state protection. We urge the government to ensure protection of these disadvantaged girls,” the SLMP coordinator said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has promised Rs 500,000 (US$ 6,000) in compensation to the girl’s family and urged the Punjab government to provide financial help as well. The money is expected to cover the cost of Shazia Bashir’s funeral, which is scheduled for today in Lahore.