Tallat Azim Where is one to find answers for all the questions that stare at you? Why do parents, who cannot afford to feed or clothe their children, have them? Why hasn't the state enacted any laws to protect the rights of children in this country? The alleged mistreatment and mu-rder of a 12 year old girl has been a headline story this week and has touched everyone who is a parent or wants to be one. It has reminded me of the squalor and misery of the chil-dren in the Oscar award winning film Slum Dog Millionaire. The compensation of Ru-pees five hundred thousand to Shazia's parents is probably going to pacify them in their abject poverty. There are countless underage children who work as domestic help in homes and work long hours, for little compensation. There is no one to check the abuse they have to endure. It is a ve-ry common sight to see these little helpers sitting quietly on the side in expensive restaurants as their wards, not much younger than them, are pampered and fed in style by their parents. It has become a practice in this society to be as mean as possible to those who have nobody to side with them and are defenseless. Where does the fear of God, so talked about in this country all the time, disappear when attacking the vulnerable? The exact cause of Shazia's death/murder has not yet been established or made public, but her frail little body had all sorts of marks on it, depicting torturous punishments. Shazia belonged to a minority religious group in Pakistan which makes it doubly shameful. The poor child could never have imagined, in her wildest dre-ams, that she would become a household name, in her death. That Parliament would observe a minute's silence for her. That political leaders would come from far and wide to offer condolences. Perhaps, in death Shazia Masih can be a tipping point, just as Rosa Park's was in the US when she refused to give up her seat in a bus to a white person. Even as she sat firmly in her seat, Rosa Parks courage stood up for the ideals of freedom and justice for all. After this incident, Alabama's black community started a major bus boycott which was thought to be a laughable mat-ter initially but became a serious issue for the Mont-gomery Bus Service. It ended only when the US Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional. Our parliamentarians need to look squarely at the discrimination and victimisation prevalent in our society and work to correct unjust practices. New laws have to be made which can safeguard every child's right to education and a safe childhood, with a particular reference to child labour laws. Even though some recent incidents make one feel that the urge to correct all that is wrong in our system is making some headway, yet, it is depressing to realise that correcting the system is easier said than done. It is an uphill struggle all the way because, as the expression goes, yahan tau aaway ka aawa hi bhigra hua hai. An example of that is the behaviour of some of the media and a few members of the lawyers community, post the exposure of this particular story. The accused in the Shazia Masih case has turned out to be a local advocate who was formerly the president of the Lahore Bar Association. While sections of the media have already declared the advocate guilty of torturing his young employee to death, some lawyers have thrown their collective weight behind the accused. They have not been moved by the horrendous crime at all and, instead of pursuing the legal route to defend one of their own, they have opted to behave like hooligans. This resulted in a clash between the media and the lawyers at the venue of a magisterial court, Lahore, where the main accused was remanded to police custody. By taking fixed positions, each side is, in fact, contributing to further erosion of the rule of law in society. The media will end up getting itself in trouble every time it wilfully trespasses on the territory that belongs to the courts and the police. Likewise, the lawyers, in their self-assumed role of moral guardians of all institutions, stand to sully their image. Every institution of state and society has to define its legal boundaries and, more importantly, learn to work and stay within them. Postscript: How strange is this country That, despite much hardening and acceptance of the strangest things possible, we still get surprises A recent report has revealed that Rana Sanaullah, the Minister for Law in the Punjab government and, ironically, the head of the task force appointed by him to demolish illegal plazas, was himself guilty of owning a plaza that transgressed its legal limits Rana Sahib should have thought about being caught out on this one before putting the axe on all the wro-ngly built constructions. Instead of giving an intelligent reply to this report, Rana Sanaullah thunderously declared, in Sultan Rahi style, that he was willing to sacrifice a thousand similar plazas for the Brothers Sharif, if found guilty Which is neither here nor there. It is about time that those we elect to public offices rely less on rhetoric and amassing personal wealth and instead do more for the eradication of problems faced by the electorate. Another topic that deserves many dedicated columns and unrelenting efforts by citizens is the choking of the environment caused by plastic bags. Our entire cities and all available landscape have been overrun by this menace. We have no scenic views left. Its ugliness apart, the harm these ghastly bags are causing to the environment is unforgivable. A combined Herculean effort is required by federal and provincial governments as well as environmentalists like the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, Zimm-edar Sheri and similar organisations in every city to find a long-time solution to this issue. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com