ISLAMABAD – Pakistani police arrested a man accused of burying his newborn daughter alive because she was physically deformed, officials said Saturday.
The shocking incident illustrates the sometimes extreme prejudices in Pakistan against children, especially girls that are born with any type of physical deformities. They are often seen as shameful for the family, especially in the rural, poorer parts of the country where they are viewed as a drain on the family.
Mohammed Anwar, a police officer in the city of Khanewal in the eastern Punjab province, said the child was born Thursday at a hospital in the nearby town of Kacha Khoh.
After seeing his newborn daughter, the father told relatives that the baby was born dead and organized a funeral service, said Shamshad Khalid, the town's police chief.
The child started crying during the service and the presiding cleric told the father to take the girl to the hospital, Khalid said. Instead, the man, identified by police as Chand Khan, buried her. Residents alerted the authorities after seeing the father taking the baby to the graveyard, after which police raided the man's house and arrested him on a murder charge.
Khan, who has four other children, did not tell his wife about his plans to get rid of the child, the police chief said, adding that the wife was still at the hospital when the baby was buried.
Mohammed Farooq, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Kacha Khoh, said he had seen the child after her birth. He said she was healthy and alive but had a fairly large head and "abnormal" features.
"I am a doctor at the same hospital where this child was born. This man came to me yesterday with a request that I should do something to dispose of his child, but I snubbed him and said get out," Farooq said. "No one has the right to kill anyone because of his or her physical deformity."
He said the child's funeral service was held inside a mosque, and the child's cry drew the attention of the cleric and those who were attending the funeral.
Pakistani human rights activist Farzana Bari also condemned the incident. Raghab Naeemi, a prominent Pakistan religious scholar, demanded a stern punishment for the man.
Some parents in Pakistan have been known to kill their children out of extreme poverty and an inability to take care of them, but such incidents are rare.
Police say they will exhume the child's body and perform an autopsy. The father could be sentenced to death if he's found guilty of killing his daughter.