of david, the forgotten – and all others like him

a couple of months back, i was at my nani’s place in the afternoon – a rare occasion, given my work committments – and i saw the old masi who’s been working there since before i was born. as i remembered she had at least three sons, david, naeem and tota, all of whom i’d seen and met when we were children around sixteen years ago. there was an interesting story about david. apparently his real name wasn’t david but he called himself that because it was the name of amitabh’s father in some movie he’d seen. anyways when i asked her about her sons, she told me in a rather sad voice that tota has left home to go to punjab and naeem died recently of some renal infection.

aur david?

wo to bara saal pehlay jail mein mar gaya

apparently david is not the only under trial prisoner to have ever died in karachi’s jails, he was definitely not the only juvenile to ever have been tortured. only recently we saw the three handcuffed and shackled children on geo. but that was a case where the media was able to enter the scene and highlight the brutal violation of child rights.

david was “arrested”, according to his mother, way back in 1992 from baloch colony on various charges including possession and pushing of narcotics. she says the charges were probably true – the socio economic status of the families domestic labourers in karachi is far from comfortable, and the combination of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty pushes many towards crimes. he was kept in remand or custody or whatever the legal term is, pending trial in the juvenile jail.

the speed at which our judicial system dispenses justice is notoriously slow, even today. david’s case was still under process at the time of his untimely death in 1994, apparently of pneumonia. his mother does not blame anyone but herself for not being able to save her son. she feels that if she could have afforded a fancy high powered lawyer, the case would have proceeded much more quickly and her son, if innocent, would have been working today. she may be right.

but i dont agree with her.

a child in jail is still a child. doesn’t the government have any responsibility at all towards children in its custody? don’t they deserve medical attention and care? and this is a child who hadn’t even been sentenced as guilty.

according to sparc, “regular visits to juvenile sections across the country reveal that not much has changed since the introduction of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. Child prisoners still languish in the same legal twilight zone, victims of an overburdened, under-committed and uncaring justice system and the circumstances that brought them in conflict with the law. Rather than being rehabilitated, the majority of child prisoners become hardened criminals by spending long periods in the company of adult prisoners, who may sometimes be dangerous.”

david is dead and gone. and his story is over. but there are several hundred more davids in karachi’s juvenile jails and remand homes. this is my shout out for them. let’s hope and pray they get the justice and protection that they deserve.

16 Comments so far

  1. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 5:02 pm

    Zilley first of all very awesome and touchy post.I am wondering where was Zia Awana advocate at that time.Wasn’t he contacted or it came in his knowledge.Where was that psuedo human right activist Asima Jehangir at that time?Just curious!!

  2. Afreen (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 5:47 pm

    Another stark reality of our judicial system. And even when juvenile crimes are on the rise, there’s no hope yet for such davids. *sigh*

  3. Kumail (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

    adnan – how could you expect two people or even 10 for that matter to pursue all the cases of human rights violations across the country.i am not a big fan of asma jahangir either but she does make some valid points over and over again

    With regards to post in general, the population bomb thats exploded on the city can only mean that many more like david would unfirtunately fall victim with the scarce civic resources that the government offers. Not to defend their actions, but the government has its hands tied financialy. Why dont the citizen who feel dismayed at such happenings take up a cause and say we will help out the government.
    Its easy to play the blame game and say the govt is not doing to prevent the juvenille offenders, but considering the resources at the governments disposal, isnt it only fair for citizens of the city to volunteer and help these people out?

  4. yo yo (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

    A sad reality..maybe we would get more people like Eidhi.Who work silently with no expectation of praise or rewards from us. May Allah help us.

  5. verysmart (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

    Xill, my mom in karachi, alongwith some other people pays a lady lawyer a monhtly charge for taking up such cases. somebody started this circle and we also joined it.

    You guys can also have it started, I am available to join it.

  6. Dee (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

    I agree with verysmart, we have very few helping hands and need is great.I love to be part of such circle but i want it to be crystal clear and definitely not some shadowy org which take up money and run away.
    Beside, even if we manage to get that kid out of jail then chances are he or she will be back to jail in no time.There had to be a system which can provide some alternatives to ground zero for those kids.

  7. Fasial (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 4:19 am

    I think our biggest problem is over population.
    we were 33 million according to 1951 census.
    Now we are around 162 million.

    our resources hasnt increased since independence.
    how the hell are we ever going to increase the living standard of an average pakistani and solve all these problems.

    over population and corruption are the two deadliest diseases that plague our country.

    how do we cure pakistan?

  8. Mariam (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 4:59 am

    Bear with me. I am discussing the other side of this issue.

    I wonder, why didn’t she ask her employer’s help? The major fact that irked me most is, our household help works inhumane hours but earned very little. This is where we should work on to increase their pay level. Whenever I’m visiting Karachi I try to help My Mom’s household maids and in returned I always hear complains from other Begums that I’m spoiling them. Hmm in reality our upper class is the worst one who becomes rich on poor men’s sweat. They doesn’t realize that if we have labor laws like US then most of them can’t afford a household staff as they have to pay taxes and fair pay to all their employees. But the richest housewives are pretty daughters of some govt. Sahib or General whose only purpose is of decoration and nothing else.

    Guys n Gals please do something about the household staff pay scale as it is ridiculously low.

    It will awesome if educated youths able to start some volunteer legal aid kind of organization. I hope it will get all positive publicity and remain transparent for public scrutiny.

  9. Poo Poo Head (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 6:33 am

    “let’s hope and pray they get the justice and protection that they deserve”

    You made me laugh. Yah just hope , just pray. We will figure it out :-)

    If people are willing to contribute then they can just send money to Zia Awan, he is in much better position to deal with all this, he could hire more associates and train them. But very frankly I have tried so many times to raise funds for so many different things but people just make promise so I guess its not worth it.

    Just go and send 100$[or what ever you afford] to http://www.bhitshah.com/cityschool/tcs.htm

    or http://www.thecitizensfoundation.org/main.php [ you can send them via paypal too, just few clicks away].

    Lets do it guys

  10. verysmart (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 7:02 am

    Let me try and give you guys a brief how it works; some people have hired a lady lawyer (who was starting her career and was in need for some cases), they pay her a fee for every case that she takes up.

    Her responsibility is to go through all such cases, visit Jails and pick and choose all the cases that she might like and where she belives that the innocents are being held without a trial.

    So the system facilitates young lawyers and help them get cases, so that they can quickly gain soem much needed equity and experience, while the innocent people in the Jails awaiting a trial get to have a representation. Most of the cases gets to be solved in the two to three hearings, since mostly its is found that the accusee has already done more time than the intended punishment already. She has nearly 10 successes thus far.

    This system does not need to be one big cirle, we all can initiate such private arrangements in our own social disporas, so that the genuinity of the process remain integral.

    Just think about it, if you get one innocent person out of Police custody, you will end up helping an entire family.

    I think this is Sadqa-e-Jariyaa at its best form.

  11. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    @Kumail:Zia awan is not alone,he leads a team.

    I wonder, why didn’t she ask her employer’s help?

    By employer you mean Xill’s family?Seems you are too ignorant about Pakistani society(no offense).How could u expect a *shareef admi* to deal with police?

  12. mansoor (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    Mariam: high class begums here are very notorious! just yesterday, i was at EBCO (a supermarket @ forum) where this ‘begum’ was shopping with a maid in tow. Now this maid would not have been more than 13 or 15.. and what got to me was her expression! She looked as if her spirit was broken, following her ‘baji’ with a basket and carrying all her stuff.. On occasion, i also saw her getting an earful for something or the other from the baji too :S

    In another story, i knew this family, of whom all the members would vent out their frustrations on their servants :S they were ‘jagidaars’ and would call their servants from their village. the father actually had a cane with which he would beat them, even if he had had a bad day at work, while the sons would throw stuff like dishes, shoes and whatever which didnt meet their fancy, straight for their heads! depriving them of food and sleep was a normal practice. Till i knew them, they had caused about 3 servant’s deaths though his treatment, and after each death, they would just get anohter one. then thankfully they moved away!

  13. Guess What (unregistered) on June 24th, 2006 @ 10:47 am

    How could u expect a *shareef admi* to deal with police?

    Well they could guide her to some non profit legal aid society such as Edhi, Ansar Berni or Asma Jehangir. After all, remember he was only a kid. Who knows right publicity make some difference in David’s life and his mother could’ve live in peace.

    FYI my family helped numerous people in regards of police. In some cases they referred them to appropriate organization. We who live in nice houses never think what kind of life lower half is living. There is rape, assault, child abuse in mosques, and what not is going on with these unfortunate kids.

    On another note

    Last I check some international organizations doing great work in Sialkot to curb child labor there. But I know we are talking about Karachi here and sometimes Karachietes kinda sucks in such issues. No wonder politicians never able to call a strike other than Karachi. They know it will be failed.


    You did a great job by addressing such a evil in our society. In no way I’m critisizing you. I know you and your family care for Masi lot better than others. I’ve seen people who never bother to talk to their house hold help. But I was just curious why she didnĂ­t ask for help.



  14. Xill-e-Ilahi (unregistered) on June 25th, 2006 @ 12:05 am

    this may sound like i’m absolving my family of the blame without it being true – but the fact is that my family only got to know of the incident after he had died.

    the point i was trying to make was that its not david who’s the issue – its the others still in prison and what we can do for them. and some of the commenters have shown exactly how that can be achieved. kudos to you.

  15. Mariam (unregistered) on June 25th, 2006 @ 9:19 am


    Yes, it indeed very sad. I too have seen Begums treating house hold staff badly like feeding leftovers as main meal in broken dinnerware. Males are not that bad but you know they can’t take side for female employees. I don’t know where they learned such behavior at least if they don’t have any decency then just think that it is unislamic.


    Yes, we need to remove this communication gap between household employee and their employer.

  16. Moiz Kazmi (unregistered) on June 25th, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    pretty impressive way of writing and quite thought provoking … way to go Xill-e-Elahi :)

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