Newborn girls continue to face existential threat in Pakistan (Opinion)

In a harrowing incident on March 10, a father killed his seven-month-old daughter in Punjab’s Mianwali district because he wanted a son.

The accused, Shahzaib Khan, got married two years ago and his wife gave birth to a daughter named Jannat. However, Khan was angry with wife for giving birth to a girl.
He entered the house, snatched the girl from his wife, pulled out a gun and shot the girl. The suspect then managed to escape the scene. The baby was taken to DHQ Hospital where doctors declared her dead.

According to the complainant, “the suspect was not disturbed over the birth of a girl.” The police revealed that Jannat was hit by five bullets and died on the spot.

The accused was arrested by police a couple of days after the incident from Bhakkar District. One police official said: “He had expressed his desire for a male child to his wife and other relatives. He didn’t even show up to see his daughter at the hospital when she was born.”

Although the incident came as a shock, but, in light of numbers, critics argue that we should not be surprised. Pakistan stands at 153th position out of 156 countries on the Gender Gap Index.

Commenting on the incident, Chairperson of National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW), Nilofer Bakhtiar said: “the sole purpose of killing the child was her gender.”
The immediate reaction on this incident is just one word “sad”, nothing can explain it. How can a father kill his daughter, his own blood one who is just born? How he can take the right of living from her?

Analysts point out that since childhood, we all have learned in schools that Islam changed the lives of the girls because in pre-Islamic era the people used to bury the new born girls, because they were considered burden. They point out that Islam has called them a “rehmat”, a blessing for the parents.

We read about multiple examples of love and affection for daughters in Islamic traditions and reported history. And critics now point out the extent to which we have downgraded ourselves.

After the incident, famous religious scholar Tariq Jamil said: “the birth of a daughter is a source of pride and a reason to thank God and the legacy of God’s Prophet continued through a daughter.”

As mentioned above, the Gender Gap Index doesn’t show a positive or hopeful picture for Pakistan. This index shows that the country is rather going downwards in case of women rights.

Some critics argue that it is not the policies or laws that are needed because they are already here, rather educating the masses is important, telling the families from grass root level that daughters are not burden, girls are not a piece of meat and beating wife, daughter or sister is not masculinity.

Analysts maintain that unless the people understand it and come out of so-called cultural norms and age-old rotten traditions, these issues will stay as they are.

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