Pakistan’s top court acts over torture of 10-year-old maid

Chief justice orders police to find the girl and sets January 11 deadline for a full investigation into alleged abuse by a judge and his wife.

The wife of a judge who allegedly tortured her 10-year-old maid avoids the media outside the Pakistan supreme court building in Islamabad on January 6, 2017. B K Bangash / AP Photo
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Islamabad // Pakistan’s chief justice on Friday ordered a full investigation into the alleged torture of a 10-year-old girl by an influential judge and his wife for whom she worked as a maid.

The case has shocked many in Pakistan after social media images showing injuries to the girl’s face and hands went viral.

The child initially told police she had fallen down stairs and burnt her hands by accident, Pakistani media reported. But she later said that she was beaten and that her hands were burned on a stove by the judge’s wife.

According to the Dawn newspaper, authorities then placed the girl in a women's shelter.

But on Tuesday the child’s father told authorities he forgave the judge and his wife, and that his daughter’s story was untrue, so no charges were brought, the newspaper reported.

The girl’s parents then took her from the women’s shelter and disappeared with her.

The widely publicised images of her injuries caught the attention of the Pakistan’s supreme court, and chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the child to be found and a full investigation held by next Wednesday.

Adding to the confusion, two women previously unheard of appeared before the court on Friday to claim the girl was their child. The judge asked for DNA tests.

Current figures on the extent of child labour in Pakistan are not available. The last official national survey, carried out in 1996, put the number of working children at 3.3 million.

However the Islamabad-based child rights NGO Sparc estimates that there about 15.5 million children involved in domestic work alone.

According to Human Rights Watch, approximately 13 per cent of children aged 10 to 14 in Pakistan are working.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press