LAHORE, Pakistan - Pakistani police have arrested the son of a landowner for an assault on a 10-year-old boy which resulted in his injured arms being amputated, the latest case highlighting harsh treatment of villagers by so-called feudal families.
A tiny number of families own huge tracts of land in Pakistan, in particular its bread-basket province of Punjab, and political parties woo the families, hoping to win the votes of the villagers working for them.
Police said the injured boy's father, Muhammad Iqbal, had a long-running dispute with landowner Ghulam Ghaus who accused Iqbal of letting his cows gaze on his land in central Punjab.
"Iqbal's son, Mohammad Tabassum, was grazing the cows near Ghaus's fields on Monday when one of the cows went on his land," district police officer, Rai Ijaz Ahmed, said on Friday.
The landowner's son, Ghulam Mustafa, beat up the boy, tied up his hands and then threw him onto a well where his arms were mangled in the well's pump, Ahmed said.
"The arms were left attached just by a bit of flesh and doctors had to completely amputate them," he said.
Police arrested Mustafa and a court ordered he be held for 10 days, Ahmed said. Landowner Ghulam Ghaus could not be reached for comment.
The chief minister of Punjab has ordered police to investigate and the province's child protection and welfare bureau said it was looking into the matter.
According to the World Bank, about two per cent of households in Pakistan control more than 45 per cent of the total land area.
Most landowners do not pay tax, as agriculture is not taxed in Pakistan, and many of them have earned a reputation for the callous treatment of the landless families who work their land.
Landowners and their political allies have long managed to block bids to introduce land reform or tax agriculture.
"Feudal lords", or their sons or daughters, often enter politics and win their constituencies on behalf of mainstream parties including the Pakistan Muslim League of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose power base is Punjab.