ISLAMABAD: After sitting in English and Mathematics examinations in the morning, the 10-year-old housemaid who was allegedly tortured at the residence of a judge, perhaps sat her toughest examination yet as she was cross-examined on Wednesday evening.
A day earlier, the girl had recorded her statement before the Islamabad High Court against Additional District and Sessions Judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan (currently on special duty – OSD) and his wife Maheen Zafar, at whose house she suffered injuries.
The defence lawyers put the girl through a gruelling session of cross-questioning and the girl could not answer several questions including what is swearing, oath, characteristics of a city, name of the country she was living in, the difference between years and months and where did she live before coming to Islamabad.
After Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani allowed it, the child was confronted with a video statement she had recorded at the police soon after she was recovered from the judge’s house.
In the video, the child was asked if someone struck her, if she was tied, if she was provided with medical treatment and whether the judge and his wife kept her at their home as if their own children.
To these questions, the child told the video maker that she was not beaten or tied and that she was provided with medical treatment while the family kept her as if the parents keep their children.
When the suspects’ counsel Raja Muhammad Farooq, Sohail Akhtar and Raja Rizwan Abbasi asked if she had said that, the girl confirmed to the defence counsel that she was the one in the video and that she “doesn’t tell lies”.
In the video statement, the child could be heard saying that she was injured after falling from the stairs while running. To the question whether she played with the toys available at judge’s home, she responded in the affirmative.
Islamabad Advocate General Mian Abdul Rauf objected to the admissibility of the video evidence for cross-questioning, but Justice Kayani said that admissibility of the video could only be decided through judgment and that he would answer the matter in his final order.
Judge Khan and Zafar had been booked and subsequently indicted after the victim accused them of keeping her in wrongful confinement, burning her hand over a missing broom, beating her with a ladle, detaining her in a storeroom and threatening her with even worse torture.
In her statement on Tuesday, the girl told the court that it was Maheen who had allegedly burnt her hand, her back and struck her with a ladle resulting in injuries to her hand, eye and back. All this happened, she claimed, while she was working in “Maheen Baji’s house” a few months ago.
Meanwhile, the defence counsels also cross-examined three other witnesses who had told the court on Tuesday that they had seen the child in an injured condition, provided her medical treatment, food, tea, comforter and one of them had taken child’s photos through her mobile phone.
During the cross-questioning, Farooq and Abbasi tried to establish that the witnesses never actually saw the judge, his wife or anyone else torture the maid or heard anything which could indicate that the minor was being tortured next door.
They also tried to establish that the witnesses have family terms and were also in contact with the Potohar Assistant Commissioner Nisha Ishtiaq.
They claimed that the witnesses did not disclose several details to the police in their statements which they disclosed before the court in their statements recorded on Tuesday.
At one point, the child admitted during cross-examination that she had stayed for a night at the house of one of the witnesses before the “incident”.
A witness who had taken photos of the child was asked if she ever tried to help any child begging or working at a hotel or petrol pump in the capital and whether she had filed any report regarding torture of the housemaid to the police. “No,” was the short answer of the witness.
The court then adjourned the case till Monday with directions to the prosecution to produce more witnesses before the court.
“Trial courts are infamous for no reason,” quipped Justice Kayani.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2017.