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‘We Want Justice’

by AFP
File Photo. Jack Guez—AFP

File Photo. Jack Guez—AFP

The family of Tabassum Shahzad, whose arms were allegedly severed by a rival landlord, says police ignored them for four days.

The family of a boy whose arms were severed in an alleged assault by the son of a locally powerful landlord vowed Friday to fight for justice and accused authorities of trying to bury the case.

A rights group said the incident highlights how powerful individuals are able to “manipulate the law in their favor” after the boy’s parents accused the perpetrator’s family of using political influence to hinder the investigation and their son’s medical care.

Tabassum Shahzad, 10, was bathing in a well in the village of Geegian on Monday when he was grabbed by Ghulam Mustafa, the 22-year-old neighbor and son of a locally powerful landlord, according to police official Mohammad Jameel. Mustafa then allegedly forced the boy’s arms into a running water-pump engine resulting in his horrific wounds.

Jameel said the two families lived on neighboring farms and were feuding over who should pay for replacement of an electricity transformer. The boy’s uncle Javed Iqbal said that after reporting the incident to the police they got nowhere for four days because Mustafa’s family wields influence with the local government and owns around 20 acres of land over his family’s three acres.

“The accused family has connection with local politicians. They also tried maneuvering police, while we also faced problems in hospital to get medical certificate and proper treatment as nobody was listening to us there too.” He added: “We were ignored until a local TV channel ran a report four days later and people came to know our situation.”

Nasar Iqbal, Tabassum’s father, added: “We want justice. They have ruined the future of our son.”

Violent crimes and honor killings are common in rural Pakistan where the rule of law is weak and culprits, especially the powerful often go unpunished after settling affairs with the families of victims financially.

But the brutal nature of the attack has left many shocked and on Friday Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the government would pay for the child’s medical care and announced compensation of Rs. 1 million to the family.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Khurram Shahzad, said Mustafa had confessed to tying the boy’s hands together, but denied pushing him into the engine. “Ghulam Mustafa has confessed, but he says that it was not his intention to harm the boy like that and it happened accidentally,” the officer said.

Mustafa is in police custody and will appear before court on Aug. 4.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission called on the government to provide Tabassum with medical care and artificial limbs. “In Pakistan, the powerful and rich people know how to manipulate the law in their favor and escape prosecution. It is very rare that persons accused of heinous crimes get punished.”

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