The murder of a 10-year-old Pakistani girl who was allegedly raped has sparked public outrage in the South Asian country, with police under fire for inaction and authorities accused of failing to protect children.
Farishta Mohmand’s body was found in woodlands near her home in the capital Islamabad, five days after her father first raised the alarm.
Gul Nabi reported her disappearance the night she went missing, but police said Tuesday that officers waited four days to file a missing person’s report. He said that when he made his report, police said she had likely run away with someone.
His daughter’s body showed signs of rape and torture, Gul Nabi told CNN.
“The body was in bad condition, it felt as if someone had thrown acid on her,” he said.
Farishta’s death has become a lightning rod in a country where there is widespread violence against children and women. Many have seized on the delay in police action as proof of institutionalized gender discrimination.
Earlier this week, the hashtags #FarishtaMohmand and #JusticeForFarishta became top trending terms on Pakistani Twitter, with many users calling for the resignation of the police responsible for handling the case.
With anger continuing to build, Interior Minister Ejaz Shah on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into the case.
Islamabad’s inspector-general of police suspended the station house officer in Shahzad Town, a district of Islamabad where Farishta’s father reported her missing.
By Tuesday evening, police said they had arrested three suspects, including a 14-year-old relative who is the main suspect.
‘Increasingly brutal society’
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the latest case bore a “chilling resemblance” to the 2018 killing of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose body was found dumped on a garbage pile in the eastern province of Punjab.
Following Zainab’s death, protesters took to the streets complaining that authorities were failing to keep their children safe after a series of similar killings.
A man called Imran Ali was arrested over her death, and hanged last October after being found guilty of murder, rape, abduction and sodomy of a minor.
Rights commission chairperson Mehdi Hasan said Farishta’s death suggested Pakistan was becoming “an increasingly brutal society in which children are abused and discarded at whim.”
“It is critical that stronger, more vigilant mechanisms be enforced to protect young children – and young girls in particular – who are among the most vulnerable members of our society,” Hasan said. “No society can afford to be this callous where its children are concerned.”
Rise in child abuse reports
Reports of child abuse in Pakistan are on the rise.
Over 3,830 cases of child abuse were reported in newspapers in 2018, an increase of 11% on the year before, according to a Pakistan NGO called Sahil that campaigns against child sexual abuse.
Some 55% of the victims were girls. The most common reported crimes against children were abduction, sodomy and rape.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report that the country had failed to protect children, “with nearly all their fundamental rights and freedoms infringed on or put at serious risk of violation.” Very few victims of physical or sexual violence received protection, counseling or legal services.
Mumtaz Gohar, lead coordinator for a group called Child Right’s Movement Pakistan, said Farishta’s death was one of the rare cases that trended on social media. Most never got public attention.
“I’m afraid that in this case after a day or two our attention will be diverted,” Gohar said.
CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, Julia Hollingsworth reported from Hong Kong. Journalist Adeel Raja contributed reporting from Islamabad.