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Pakistan: 8-year-old maid Zohra Shah beaten to death after she accidentally let two parrots escape from cage

The ghastly incident took social media by storm as politicians and human rights activists intensified demands for justice for the victim.

On Sunday, the Pakistan police had reportedly arrested a couple for beating their 8-year-old maid named Zohra Shah to death in a posh locality in Rawalpindi. The family had assaulted the girl because she had mistakenly made two expensive parrots fly away from their cage. The ghastly incident took social media by storm as politicians and human rights activists intensified demands for justice for the victim.

Shah was employed by the accused Hassan Siddiqui, a businessman who sold birds and properties, four months prior to the incident, to take care of his one-year-old infant. The employers had promised the parents to pay for her education. The girl who hailed from the village of Kot Addu in Muzaffargarh in Southern Punjab was cleaning the cage that housed two expensive parrots. But during cleaning it, she accidentally opened its door and the parrots escaped from it. When the birds flew away, a miffed Siddiqui and his wife Umm Kulsoom beat the victim, black and blue.

According to the First Information Report (FIR), Shah had injury marks on her face, legs, ribs, and hands. She was admitted to a local hospital, Begum Akhtar Rukhsana Memorial Hospital, on Sunday where she succumbed to her injuries on Monday. Her body was handed over to the family, following a post-mortem. The autopsy report highlighted that Shah’s death was caused due to the merciless beating. Following the social media outrage, the accused were nabbed. They were also remanded into police custody until June 6.

Pakistan Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari informed that the State Counsel was following the case and that the accused had been senton a 4-day remand. The Ministry had also proposed amendments to the exististing Employment of Children Act of 1991 to classify domestic labour as a hazardous job for children.

Police officer Mukhtar Ahmed informed, “We have arrested the couple and they confessed to their crime and were sent on remand for four days until June 6,” police officer Mukhtar Ahmed, who investigated the case.” He added that the girl child was kicked in her private parts as well and that she was bleeding.

Child Labour in Pakistan

Despite existing labour laws in Pakistan that prevent the employment of children and underaged people, the plight of domestic workers is alarming. As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are more than 8.5 million domestic workers in Pakistan, many include women and children. Reportedly, they are hired on a monthly or yearly basis, and violence against them is rampant in several places in Pakistan.

Last year in January, a 16-year-old Uzma was murdered by her employers in Lahore dor eating some of their food. In the aftermath of the incident, the Punjab Provincial Government passed enacted the Punjab Domestic Workers Act to regulate domestic labour. “Still large numbers of domestic workers in Punjab are not registered doing unpaid work and children are being tortured to death,” conceded Arooma Shahzad, the General Secretary of the Domestic Workers Union. She added that the workers did not receive social security cards and demanded that the government took cognisance of it.

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