During the last few days of the preceding calendar year, social media circulated disturbing photographs of a young female child, only ten years old, who had been visibly beaten and tortured for some inexplicable reason. Soon thereafter, the electronic media of Pakistan reported that the said girl (whose name has been purposefully not disclosed in this piece) worked, as a ‘domestic maid’ at the house of Islamabad’s Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr. Raja Khurram Ali Khan. It was reported that the child had been slaving at the (un)learned Judge’s house for almost two years, in recompense for a Rs. 6,000 unpaid loan, allegedly owed by her father.

As public pressure started to mount in the face of this inhumane brutality, an FIR was registered against the concerned Judge, on 29th December, 2016. The initial statement of the abused child, recorded by (disinterested) police officials, revealed that the child was frequently beaten up during the course of her ‘employment’ with the concerned Judge. In a heart-wrenching narration, the child revealed that the Judge’s wife, one Maheen Zafar, referred to as ‘Mano Baji’, starved and tortured her on a regular basis, and locked her up in a storeroom, each night. She narrated incidents such as the time, recently, when the Judge’s wife allegedly burnt the child’s hand, as punishment for having misplaced a broom.

Keeping aside the incomprehensible barbarity of these events, and the disturbing psychosis of the Judge’s family, one would assume that our criminal justice system would have the empathy and resolve to extend some fraction of its constitutional promise to the young victim. However, in the days that followed, the scales of Lady Justice tipped in favour of power and influence; hurriedly, the father of the child, for unbeknown reasons (which are all too familiar in a society like ours) entered into a compromise, ‘Raazi-Nama’, with the accused. Through the said Raazi-Nama, dated 3rd January, 2017, the father of the minor victim allegedly ‘forgave’ the Judge and his family for torturing her child, and ‘unconditionally’ decided not to pursue any legal proceedings against them. The concerned law enforcement agencies, who had earlier been caught between the rock and a hard place (with mounting media pressure on the one hand, and the influence of the Judge on the other), seemed all too eager to allow the said Raazi-Nama to be the conclusion of this barbaric brutality against a young child of our nation.

Most of us assumed that the fate of this young child, like many before her, who had suffered at the hands of the powerful, would be sealed through this tainted instrument of compromise.

However, thankfully, this was not to be.

Earlier this week, the newly appointed Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, took suo moto action of the case, ruling out the possibility of the unconscionable compromise to be the final word in regards to the minor’s case.

The importance of this suo moto action, by the Chief Justice, cannot be overemphasised. This is the first suo moto action taken by Mr. Justice Mian Saqib Nisar after assuming the office of Chief Justice of Pakistan. In a welcomed departure from honourable Supreme Court’s legacy under Iftikhar Chaudhry, the new Chief Justice has not exercised his (first) suo moto powers for any political or partisan issue; instead the honourable Chief Justice has exercised this discretionary power in defense of fundamental human rights of a hapless minor, against a judicial officer. He has indicated, in unequivocal terms, that the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, under his leadership, will stand for the defense of those who have been dealt an unfortunate hand by destiny. And, most importantly, this suo moto action has announced that the Supreme Court of Pakistan will not shy away from holding members of the judiciary accountable for their personal conduct.

During the initial hearings of this suo moto case, the honourable Supreme Court has observed that no compromise, between private parties, can waive violations of fundamental rights of the citizenry. Specifically, in fidelity to the idea that every criminal offence is an offence against the State, the honourable Supreme Court has declared that even where the biological parents of the child fall prey to the societal pressures, the Court itself shall assume the mantle of “parents”, in order to ensure that the fundamental rights (especially of a minor) are not extinguished at the altar of a perverted ideology.

In the aftermath of the suo moto proceedings, the district administration of Islamabad has sprung into action, and a medical board comprising of a general surgeon, a plastic surgeon, a burn surgeon and a psychiatrist has been constituted by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), in order to re-examine the wounds of the young victim.

In the days to come, a comprehensive medical report, along with police investigation, will be submitted before the honorable Supreme Court. And, the young child will finally have her day in Court. It is hoped that not only will she be afforded the fullest measure of constitutional justice, but that her example will serve as a cautionary tale for countless others who silently suffer the pangs of abuse and helplessness.

However, away from the ongoing proceedings of this case, the story of this young victim serves as a painful tale to anyone who still harbors the hope for a brighter future in this land. This young girl’s story is not simply a narration of barbaric torture; it is the chronicle of a broken criminal justice system, and a corrupted moral fiber of our deprecating society.

It is not just sufficient to ask why this poor girl was beaten, starved, and tortured. Importantly, we must ask ourselves why she, in recompense for an unpaid loan by her father, was employed as a domestic servant, against the mandate of our laws and the Constitution? Why somebody, whose conscience was comfortable with ‘employing’ such a child, and then torturing her, has been entrusted with the power to enforce our laws and do justice amongst fellow citizens? Why the parents of the girl allowed their daughter to continue to live under such conditions? Why, even after the discovery of her inhumane treatment, was a compromise allowed to be entered? Why our law enforcement agencies stood by, impotently, and watched (even assisted?) as humanity got trampled under the feet of worldly influence? Would the society, the State, and its administrative institutions have allowed such barbarity to persist, if this girl had a famous last name? Why the entire government machinery, even at the expense of National Exchequer, is being employed to defend the financial dealings of the ‘First Daughter’, while other daughters of our nation have no choice but to wait for that final Day of Judgment, in order to claim their pound of flesh?

The truth is that we, as a nation, have no answers to any of these questions. Each day, we all stand by, in complicit silence, allowing the influential few to mutilate our collective morality and conscience. One thing, however, is for certain: whenever, this young girl, and others like her, have their moment before the Seat of Eternal Justice, all of us, who could have but did not, will find ourselves in the docket.