COMMENT: Hanging our heads in shame
By Sarfaraz Ahmed
KARACHI: Six-year-old Sassui and eight-year-old Hajjira, the two cousins, were allegedly murdered by policemen in the outskirts of Karachi. Hajjira was also allegedly subjected to rape before she was killed. As reported in the press, they disappeared on Friday when they went out to gather firewood in their neighbourhood of Memon Goth. They were found murdered, their bodies decomposed, near Gadap police station in the area on Monday. The police declined to register the First Information Report (FIR) about the girls’ disappearance on Friday.
According to Shabbir Ahmed, the father of Hajra, he went to the police station many times to lodge an FIR about the girls’ disappearance, but police officials refused to register it. “We were ignored because we are poor,” he has been quoted as saying.
Sassui’s father, Sher Gul, said he worked as a labourer and lived opposite the police station. “If policemen who are supposed to provide security to people commit such heinous crimes, where should people look for security?” he has been quoted as asking. Sassui’s grandfather, Gul Hasan, sat near the bodies on Monday night at the police station. He sobbed continuously, demanding that the policemen involved in the crime be hanged.
A case of murder was registered against four policemen and three of them were also booked in a case of negligence. Three of the suspects were arrested, while the fourth is absconding. They include a policeman who allegedly confessed to the murders, saying no other policeman or anybody else was involved in the crime. He also reportedly confessed that he raped the older girl. Earlier this month, 11-year-old Saira of New Karachi was murdered before being raped. Now it is Sassui and Hajira, who were three and five years younger than her, and their case is still more shocking because of the alleged involvement of policemen in the crime.
Saira’s rape and killing continued to remain a mystery until the media reported the lack of investigations into the case and the failure of the police to catch the culprit or culprits. This compelled the police IG to tell the officials concerned to arrest the culprits within 48 hours. Finally a suspect was caught who allegedly confessed to the crime before the end of the deadline.
But in the case of Sassui and Hajira, the policemen of the police station concerned refused to allow an FIR to be registered until the media, particularly television, highlighted the incident. The Sindh governor then intervened and issued orders for the arrest of the SHO of the police station, Munir Ahmed Phulpoto, and three other policemen and suspended the area TPO, Ahmed Khan Jamali. Governor Ishratul Ibad also ordered an inquiry into the incident, and announced compensations of Rs 200,000 for the family of each victim.
But this was probably done to pacify the enraged residents of the area. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz have called for mourning over the tragedy.
The MQM is a key coalition partner in the Sindh government—which is apparently why it has appealed for “mourning,” not a strike, something it has done on numberless occasions in the past for far less serious causes. The powerful home department, which controls the police, is under one of its top men, Aftab Sheikh. Indeed, Sindh is practically ruled by the MQM because Dr Ibad, who is a former convener of the party, is calling the shots in the province, not Chief Minister Ali Muhammad Mehr.
The funny thing is that the MQM has a long list of grievances against the police, one of them being that it killed thousands of its workers and supporters during operations in fake encounters. Still, now that it is in control of the police, it is doing nothing to reform it. After this tragedy, it should use its powers to take action against the police. Or it should give up the home department, and let someone else carry out the task. If the MQM is unprepared to do anything concrete, it shows it has no sincerity of purpose. In that case, it is not very dignified for the MQM to call for “mourning” over the murders.
We should hang our heads in shame at what we see in today’s Pakistan: the rape and murder of six and eight-year-old girls by the “law-enforcers,” who are under oath to provide security and protection to the people.