State of justice

10/27/2019

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power essentially on a slogan of promoting justice for all regardless of class or status. Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly been citing examples from the State of Madina and saying that his ‘Naya Pakistan’ will soon be converted into a republic along these lines. So what are we then to make of the judgment handed down by an ATC in Lahore which acquitted all six personnel of the Counter Terrorism Department of Police in the Sahiwal encounter case that shook the nation in January this year? The case involved the shooting of four persons travelling in a car from Lahore to Sahiwal by CTD officials who stopped the vehicle. The driver Zeeshan, his neighbour Khalil, Khalil’s wife and their 13-year old daughter were all killed after being hit by multiple bullets fired at close range. The three younger children of Khalil survived, although they were injured.
The narrative is obviously harrowing. At the time, Imran Khan who was then in Qatar had promised justice for the family and reform in the Punjab police. He had repeated the same promises when he met the family about two and half months after the incident in April. But now we ask if the three children who survived and gave their testimony in the case will grow up thinking that this is how justice functions. Will other children in the country learn the same? We are told that the brother of the victim, who had initially pledged the fight for justice, had before the verdict was delivered pulled back from statements given by the family, including Uzair, the 11-year-old son of the victims.
This is an open travesty of justice. Once again people who lack wealth and influence have been denied justice. The court has cited the doubts that exist and the failure of some 50 witnesses, including the children, to give enough material on which to convict the accuse. One of the key legal problems is the fact that in our law individuals rather than the state are seen as lone complainants. When a family is targeted on an open road, in broad daylight and pumped with multiple bullets, this is a crime against the entire country and its citizens. The government has now said that it will be filing an appeal against the verdict and investigating all aspects of the case. We hope that this investigation does not go the way most investigations tend to in Pakistan – nowhere. Three children will grow up without parents, and they will have no idea why they have had to. No amount of money can compensate for this loss. It is this that the state needs to understand so that it can re-examine not only this case but others that have been settled in the same way.