The narrative is not unlike gruesome plots we have heard in the past: an influential person commits a heinous crime like murder, and gets away with it. Time and again, we have been bystanders to such horror stories, harbouring deep fears in the recesses of our hearts about who will be the next victim of such merciless treatment and abuse of power.
The untimely demise of 16-year-old domestic worker Akhtar Ali in the Lahore home of ruling PML-N MPA Shah Jahan raised suspicions after torture marks were found on his body. Akhtar had been employed by the MPA for the last four years. Akhtar’s father registered a complaint at Akbari Gate police station against Shah Jahan’s daughter Fauzia, for torturing his son to death. The post-mortem report of the boy shows 16 torture marks on the body.
However, what is commendable here, and a noteworthy point of departure from past significant cases, is the insertion of the anti-terrorism clause by police in the first information report (FIR) to prevent reconciliation between the parties. Out of court settlements are often unfair and unjust in our context, since they are only decided upon out of the more dominant side’s fear of the result of trial, and the fact that witnesses will stand and tell their story to a judge and jury, then be subject to cross-examination by the other side’s attorney. If the police actively employ the anti-terrorism clause, there may be hope that fewer criminals evade the place they belong — which is behind bars.
It is not uncommon in Pakistan for rich or prominent members of society to be pardoned vis-à-vis the utilisation of pressure tactics on the victim families and then ensuring that witness protection does not take place. It is thus crucial that such villainous acts are condemned as it may allow a case to be rightfully fought, without the plaintiff backing out under any kind of pressure.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2017.