On Jan. 25, thousands of people in Pakistan attended the funeral of a 12-year-old Catholic girl who was allegedly raped and killed by her Muslim employer.
According to advocacy group Minorities Concern of Pakistan, Shazia Bashir, a house maid from Lahore, was killed by her employer, Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, a prominent lawyer and former president of the Lahore Bar Association on Jan. 22. Shazia Bashir had been working as a domestic laborer for Naeem for 8 months and was reportedly the only source of income for her impoverished family.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights department of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, has condemned the recent murder. In a joint statement issued on Monday Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha and Peter Jacob, NCJP Chairman and Executive Secretary respectively, spoke out against the killing and lamented that this incident is not isolated as domestic servants are often subject to extreme violence.
Although child labor is illegal in Pakistan there are more than 10 million employed children in the country. According to Fides news agency, Shazia worked for 1,000 rupees per month (about $12) to provide for her parents, two married sisters and 8 year-old brother. Though Shazia's parents had asked to see her multiple times, they were denied visitation. Fides said that by the time they were eventually able to visit she was already in serious condition. When Shazia was taken to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, medical personnel allegedly discovered evidence of torture and rape. Shazia later died at the hospital.
Naeem, the alleged perpetrator, was reported to have offered Shazia's family the equivalent of US $250 to keep silent after the murder.
Christian leaders in the area have claimed that authorities did not initially pursue the accused because of the family's poverty and religious affiliation.
Angry over a lack of action, a group of Christians and Muslims protested outside the Punjab Assembly for 3 hours, leading the police to file a First Information Report (FIR) 18 hours after the crime had allegedly been committed. On Jan. 24, six accused individuals related to the crime were arrested, including Naeem and some of his family members.
Minorities Concern reported that President Asif Ali Zardari took notice of the incident and told senior minister of Punjab Raja Riaz to give $6,000 to the Shazia’s family for support. Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister of Minority Affairs, also asserted that “those guilty will be brought to justice.”
Fides reported that many Catholic bishops and religious leaders of Christian denominations attended the funeral as well as many Muslims who “showed affection and solidarity.”