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Last Monday, the parents of university student Shahzeb Khan, whose death sparked an outrage against the abuse of power by the wealthy and the landed in Pakistan, decided to pardon the culprits responsible for the murder of their son.

The family filed an affidavit with the court several days ago pardoning the men accused of killing their only son.

But as the young (and now pardoned) culprits came out of the courtroom smiling triumphantly and waving victory signs as if they were some mutant versions of the great Nelson Mandela, local TV channels and social media sites erupted with outrage and condemnation.

This anger was entirely understandable because a concerted campaign against the alleged culprits had been passionately initiated in the electronic media and on social websites. So when the mother of the unfortunate young victim was reported to have pardoned the culprits, the news arrived as a rude shock to a lot of Pakistanis.

But it was equally disconcerting to witness the way the electronic media responded to the news.

Since myopia in most matters relating to ideology and morality remains the prevailing mindset among the now more-vocal-than-ever urban classes in this country, TV anchors and reporters came down hard on the victim’s mother.

But since she was not a CIA agent, ‘liberal fascist’, someone from a minority sect or religion, or any other such socio-political parasite, the outraged media began hammering her for being a ‘bad mother’, a ‘dishonest woman’, and an insult to motherhood.

So-called religious scholars and the ulema were invited by the TV channels to lash out at her, and legal experts gazed intensely into their navels while questioning the court’s role in accepting the pardon.

Alas, as one saw the mother being reduced to becoming a vicious, heartless vamp, one wondered. I mean, if she was (reportedly) forced by influential elements to pardon the killer of her own son and thus became a villain in the story, how is she any different from a mother (Aafia Siddiqui) who (reportedly) dumped her husband, abandoned her kids, escaped to fight a jihad in Afghanistan and ended up in an American jail?

Yet, to the media Shahzeb’s mother is a cold-blooded woman and another mother, Aafia Siddiqui, is a petite soul who became a victim of US imperialism, bigotry and conspiracy. How so?

On the day the heartless vamp pardoned her only son’s vicious killers, members of the armed forces, the government and the opposition parties were drafting a resolution that called for immediate ‘peace talks’ with armed extremist groups.

Now, God willing, this (albeit wishy-washy) idea of talks with rabid militants actually manages to bring peace, this would automatically mean that the state, government and people of Pakistan have decided to forgive the deaths of over 50,000 Pakistani civilians, politicians, soldiers and policemen slaughtered in the country’s war against armed extremists.

Well, as the experts and purveyors of peace talks in this context will tell you, the ceasefire and the forgiving bit will at least ensure that no more Pakistanis are killed in their mosques, shrines and markets by the overtly and trigger-happy faithful.

Let’s hope that’s exactly what the resolution achieves and that’s what the electronic media was applauding and euphorically hoping for. Fair enough.

But, then, if peace with the extremists would mean the collective forgiveness of the tens of thousands of parents who lost their loved ones at the hands of the extremists and of the hundreds killed (as collateral damage) in US drone attacks, how on earth is the act of forgiveness in this regard of one mother any worse?

Rest assured I too was deeply disappointed at the way the Shahzeb case finally panned out. But call it a weakness, I just cannot hail one act of forgetting and forgiving and denounce the other. I cannot call one mother a greedy, heartless vamp and the other ‘qaum ki beti’ (daughter of the nation).

Either we should be willing and honest enough to condemn acts of violence (and bad motherhood) and of forgiveness and compromise across the board or simply keep mum, unless we want to go on proving that not only are we entirely confused, but also as a nation and state we have actually turned moral hypocrisy into a glorified, knee-jerk art.

Comments (66) Closed

SATISH SHARMA Sep 15, 2013 08:14am

Nadeem, You are very confused .. like every other preacher you are quick to link Siddiqi to this pardon case -- the two are not remotely related.

In this case, I think the parents did a terrible thing -- their rights and reasons not withstanding .. no-one lives for forever.

That said, let me give you a real parallel for Ms. Siddiqui, why is there no voice for the victimized son, i mean ksm. Both were handed over to the yankees by the corrupt dictator -- I have NEVER seen anyone wanting to trade him for shaqueel afridi .. that I think would be a very proper trade.

Anees Sep 15, 2013 08:17am

Very logical.. and the FIRST time I can appreciate what you write..

Bob Werner Sep 15, 2013 09:20am

Mother should I run for president

Mother should I trust the government

Mother will they put me in the firing line

Ooooh aah, is it just a waste of time

George Sep 15, 2013 09:30am

Brother, You are saying the absolute truth.

Shahbaz Asif Tahir Sep 15, 2013 09:54am
Nony Sep 15, 2013 10:08am

when our govt / state forgives killings of thousands in order to avoid further killings, that shows how weak our govt. is. And it goes down to an individual family level, hence we are weak citizens of a weak state.

Capt C M Khan Sep 15, 2013 11:04am

"So-called religious scholars and the ulema were invited by the TV channels to lash out ".....this was SHOCKING to me.......anyone who lives here and moves in middle class circle knows the power of these FEUDAL FAMILIES of killers. If I was in her place I would have done the same to SAVE THE REST OF THE FAMILY.The police and other agencies are on their pay rolls, there friends are the law makers,they can kill/enslave any family of middle class or poor Pakistani. The legal system is slow and CORRUPT, you can BUY any fake witness outside any court any morning, the state apparatus is INCOMPETENT, recently they could not use a STUN GUN on Sikandar in Capital city. These Ulemas and Media Mafia were either NAIVE or DISHONEST....I would say DISHONEST, This has exposed the true face of our society MANIPULATES... I challenge any other country to beat us in this.

Tanya Dawar Ali Sep 15, 2013 11:24am

Another excellent counter-argument as usual by NFP. Always going against the grain with pointed counter questions. A real iconoclast.

Ali S Sep 15, 2013 11:27am

Most people lambasted Shahzeb's family because they feel that if justice is not served now, they could be the next victims of bottom-of-the-barrel scum such as Jatoi and co. I mean how selfish can one get? This sorry excuse of a nation needs to do some serious introspection and sort itself out to prevent such incidents in the future instead of pinning the blame on the poor victim's family for "giving murderers a free pass". This is truly disgraceful. Shahzeb's family have suffered the most from this tragedy - it's their son who died. They obviously made whatever decisions they made keeping their family's safety and best interests in mind, and they're fully entitled to it.

Even if Shahzeb's family were not coerced into pardoning the killers, in this country's hopeless legal system, pursing this case would mean that they'd be going to court for years on end without any hope of a resolution in sight - maybe they just needed closure for the sake of their own mental health and wanted to move on from this tragic episode. After all, nothing can bring their son back. I don't want to drag the politics of Aafia and the so-called 'peace talks' into this very personal case, but the media and public should be ashamed of themselves for taking the moral high ground over the victim's own family.

Fareed Sep 15, 2013 11:31am

Your argument misses a very important point! Was this act of forgiveness given under the threat of use of force by the acquitted and his cronies? Or was it just a pardon in the name of Allah? The recent interview given by the mother suggests it is the first case. The analogy of killings by an armed rebellion against the state and a homicide is preposterous, even laws are different for the either case.

Thani Sep 15, 2013 11:39am

@Fareed: But in comparing the society's and the media's perception of motherhood, NFP's argument is spot-on. His question is entirely valid: How is one mother who pardoned the killer of her son any worse than another mother who dumped her hubby and kids and went screaming into a jihad? NFP rightly asked, how (in the eyes of the media), one mother is a villain and the other a heroine?

But this piece more than this. His argument regarding how we are willing to forgive the militants but not a single mother is also potent.

Mohsin Siddiqui Sep 15, 2013 11:59am

Brilliantly written concisely describing the state of our people. On the ladder of evolution to a higher functioning society we are markedly behind the ever so hated "West".

I personally think that the country will implode before any real change comes about in the mindsets of our hypocritical nation.

waheed Sep 15, 2013 11:58am

At last, sanity still prevails in our society. Thank you for writing this. "Media is a self appointed watchdog who think that it has the right to interpret anything in any form it wishes for the good of people" So what if social, electronic, press media and some segment of society worked for justice, does this makes them 'Mamoo' in this whole issue. Parents forgave, FULL STOP. What happened to 'Muaf ker dena Intiqam se behtar hai'

dr vimal raina Sep 15, 2013 12:15pm

What works for you in the beginning goes against you as time passes. Modi got into power and stayed as the CM of Gujarat because of the 'program'. What made him the CM will make it tough for him to become the PM. Similarly 'Islam' was used to make Pakistan. 'Islam' will finally unmake it.

dr vimal raina Sep 15, 2013 12:18pm

Will a mother ever pardon someone who killed her son and was smug about it? Breathe in, close your eyes and think what were the pressures that might have forced her to do what she did. Therein lies the real story. Scratch a bit deep and you will just find anguish rolled into tears of blood.

meekal ahmed Sep 15, 2013 12:42pm

Excellent Sir!

Edmond Sep 15, 2013 01:17pm

I think in Islam forgiveness is often misused and sometimes comes too quickly, cheaply and given to the wrong people and at wrong situations.

Example: Nawaz Shariff versus Musharaff case. A plane load of passengers (carrying innocent passengers) trying to land was refused permission on ground of a personal animosity / gripe and hence could have meant disaster. Whatever happened next is history but Nawaz Shariff was pardoned / forgiven from this dastardly act and was made to walk away scott-free. And now the culprit has turned the case around and has become the complainant.

How fair / unfair can forgiveness mean?

Sheran Sep 15, 2013 01:23pm

Well-said Paracha Sahib! Ours is a society of hypocrites. Talibans and such feudal lords who play with the lives of the common people need not to be pardoned at all. The mother of Shahzaib must have been threatened with the murder of the rest of her siblings that's why she have to pardon those monsters. Beasts everywhere, no human being is left.

shakeel Sep 15, 2013 01:42pm

If the culprits were deemed for the gallows, would it have ever happened in reality, I wonder?

I am going back a couple of hears ago when a young man was callously gunned down by a bunch of trigger-happy Rangers. Yes, there was a court case and evidently the verdict was death for the culprits. God knows what happened after that? Are the accused in the jail and waiting to be hanged or are they leading normal lives with unabated access through the prison back doors with a likelihood of being pardoned after 25 years? And would carrying out "justice" ever be meaningful?

insane paki Sep 15, 2013 01:44pm

by anologies we can justify almost anything sir. And what is astonishing is the how you forgot to bash the islamic rules Qisas n Diyat which is your favourite. So americans are also talking with taliban have they also compromised the lives of their soldiers and those who died in 9/11?? Or your anologies have geographic boundries??

Taufeeq Sep 15, 2013 02:02pm

@insane paki: No comparison between US talking to extremists and Pak doing the same. US is an occupying force trying to plan their exit. We aren't. We live in this country. US will go back home, while we are stuck with these fanatics. What are we negotiating about? Our pullout from our own country?

zafar Abbas Sep 15, 2013 02:08pm

@dr vimal raina: Well said, Bitter truth and many not digest it.

Kainat Sep 15, 2013 02:31pm

well said

raw is war Sep 15, 2013 02:46pm

good article.

Junaid Sep 15, 2013 03:26pm


Shahzeb's father said on tv that he had pardoned the killers for the sake of all the other people involved in the case like witnesses etc

AHA Sep 15, 2013 03:35pm

@SATISH SHARMA: You need to actually live in Pakistan to understand why the mother did what she did.

butseriouslyok Sep 15, 2013 03:59pm

It shouldn't have been in the hand of the mother to pardon the killers of her son. A murderer is a murderer in eyes of law and it is up to the court/judge to decide the punishment and not the mother. Mother can forgive but the power of deciding the punishment should rest with the court. This is a serious issue with the law as implemented.

faisal baloch Sep 15, 2013 04:04pm

@Edmond: well said but only one correction, it is not in Islam, but in poor nations!

Hasan Sep 15, 2013 04:30pm

Whilst I agree with NFP about the Shahzeb case, I can not fathom NFP's confusion or psychological irritability at drawing parallels with Afia Siddiqui! She, like any other human being, deserved her rights respected and a fair trial. And while the State may be at liberty to pardon the crimes against the state, I have always found it profoundly absurd that the state can pardon the culprits on behalf of the victims of the crime. Expecting justice in the prevalent constitutional framework is just a delusion.

Tahir A Sep 15, 2013 04:47pm

I might be going a bit low on IQ this morning, but I can't see how Afia Siddiqui figures in as comparison in this episode. In her own way, she ain't no Saint in my reckoning either.

Maybe a glass of "lassi" and "aloo paratha" might help me replenish my diminishing bheja. It is Sunday after all. Oh, but where is Mr know-it-all?

zaib Sep 15, 2013 05:07pm

Enforcement of law and order is not a concern for the writer of this article however no modern society can function with out it, if known killers are allowed to go scott free than the society will soon degenerate into an anarchy however still if the writer feels that this is the ideal condition of society than the writer should be ideologically brave and come right out and say it instead of beating around the bush as he has attempted in this article.

Fareed Sep 15, 2013 06:49pm

@ Thani : I have no problem with those arguments! All I'm pointing out is WHY did she pardon? Did she do it out of her own will or she was coerced to do so! NFP assumes that she did it out of her own will, he's missing that point! I'm not questioning her motherhood or any others.

observer Sep 15, 2013 07:07pm

Those blaming the Mother or family of Shahzeb Khan are missing the point entirely.

Come to think of it, where the entire nation kneels down in front of mass murderers via the APC, what chance have individual citizens got?

All killers, be they from LeJ or the Gojra mob have always walked away free. What is new here.

kdspirited Sep 15, 2013 09:04pm

Doesnt happen that often but for once I agree with you Mr. NFP. I think our warpped ideology and understanding of what Islam is and how to misuse it is why our society is where it is today.

humanity_crying Sep 15, 2013 09:11pm

Thanks a lot for sketching a new line of introspection.

Jupiter59 Sep 15, 2013 09:39pm

We Pakistanis have perfected the art of hyprocrisy and taken it to nth level.

Zaman Sep 15, 2013 11:03pm

@faisal baloch:...

Well, think about the case of Mullah Omar on the run and hiding (circa 2001). When Hamid Karzai was asked about him, he said he would let Mullah Omar flee free because "he is our good Muslim brother".

Considering he was the spiritual leader of Taleban, the consequences of which are right in front of us and ironically a Pakistani Major General was killed today by Taleban.

Can we still be in denial?

aamir Sep 15, 2013 11:02pm

I really like it, thanks for writing such a nice piece.

fadoo Sep 16, 2013 12:24am

The family should have been migrated to the west for protection and then the sentence carried out. We have no right to complain about anyone else....shameful

dr rashid Sep 16, 2013 02:01am

@SATISH SHARMA: satish sharma .. dont be a coward n use fake names to voice ur opinion a MAN for a chance ... there are millions like you in this unfortunate nation of pakistan ... where nothing is pure ! its due to bigots like you that entire ethnicity and religion and region gets a bad name ...stupid laws .. insipid justice !

Ta Da Sep 16, 2013 02:44am

You know Nadeem Saheb, if you continue writing thoughtful articles like these instead of sarcastic, mocking ones you are known for, you would no don't be more successful.

Rajiv Sep 16, 2013 03:17am

Being realistic, its gone the way it could have gone... The parents have no other option but o save their lives and family.. The positive that came out is that in pakistan if people are willing to fight for it, justice can be achieved. Trust me that would be enough for many people to do such things.. so take one step at a time to progress and let this case be a start, at least the powerful were given punishment and their lives were given in the hands of the victims.. its and huge achievement i guess...

Mohsin Sep 16, 2013 03:19am

@Zaman: & three cheers to the govt for continuing to bring the Taliban to the table while they continue their ways of slaughtering our people!

Shehla Sep 16, 2013 04:30am

Obviously the mother shouldn't be condemned, she is a victim if anything, to be pitied. those who are condemning the pardon should only be condemning the forces that put it into play. Paracha just likes to lump people into one big fanatic right wing hypocritical bag. There are those who condemn injustice and don't belong to any camp. Paracha should spend more of his time finding out what really happened instead if chastising the outraged. .Forgiving the death penalty is one thing and would have been more understandable ,,but any punishment all together is very hard to blieve is simply due to the kindness of the mothers heart.he knows it and will not condemn it.VERY suspicious.

Alan Sep 16, 2013 06:54am

Love it - as always NFP is one of the rare journalists who writes with moral clarity

Nur Sultan Sep 16, 2013 06:56am

Come to think about it, the parents who pardoned their sons killer are very high thinking and large hearted people. Definitely karodo mein ek. I salute them. I dont know if they are motivated by money etc but it takes a lot of refinement to be able to forgive.

SATISH SHARMA Sep 16, 2013 08:08am

@dr rashid: Dr. Rashid .. I am me -- not fake -- and not in pakistan.

dr vimal raina Sep 16, 2013 08:15am

Blood money for a mother? Blood money? So she will go out to buy a suit for herself for that money and the father a sherwani. Blood money!!!

Husnain Khan Sep 16, 2013 08:41am

Its a pity that murder is not considered a crime against the state. Another paradox in Islamic theology, how can they say that a murder of one is a murder of humanity yet make it a personal matter. Disgusted

Syeda Jafri Sep 16, 2013 08:49am

V.well written. It would be really great if you keep writing about problems & their solutions this way instead of just mocking. really I see no point in negotiating with these terrorists. We are indeed a confused nation with confused priorities.

Milind Sep 16, 2013 09:36am

While everybody is rightly or wrongly condemning Shazeb's mother, nobody seems to be talking about the role of law here. I mean... shouldn't the law takes its independent course and hang those killers, irrespective of whether the killers were pardoned by the parents or not...

Faisal alam Sep 16, 2013 09:51am

I beg to disagree with the article. Two wrongs dont make a right. Shahzeb's mother did a wrong thung by pardoning the killers because the whole concept of crime against society is set to naught by this pardon. Shahzebs killers not only killed shahzeb but also killed the fear of any future influential killer.

Lets not say that because she pardoned so the other terrorism affected mothers forced pardon by government act is justified. That was worng and this is alo wrong.

Bring every person who kills someone to justice without any way for them to escape punishment.

Mohsin Sep 16, 2013 09:53am

Perfect Paracha Sb. we are a sick nation actually. we can digest cowardice of 180 million by forgiving killing of thousands at the hands of ttp but cannot accept pardon of sons murder by his family. Shame on this crowd of 180 Million who unfortunately is a nuclear state as well. as i foresee the result due to undue bashing of social media and media in general the aggrieved family shall neither receive any settlement money nor the murderers get the capital punishment.

shah Sep 16, 2013 10:20am

Mr.NFP,with due apology ,there is no difference between you and the critiques of Shahzab's mother.Like them who gave you the mandate to issue' licences' of good and bad mother.You can make your point well even without showing your biased against Afia Siddiquei. One can understand people like you have their own kind of 'economy'through which they tactfully reap the fruits But please don't try to get popularity on the cost of others lives.

ss Sep 16, 2013 10:42am

The author should not be surprised at the duplicity prevalent among the people of the subcontinent. Given the essentally "neech" ( base, inferior, lower) character of our people, we apply different moral yardsticks to different situations. Here in India we have the strange phenomenon of conviceted terrorists getting the support of their community in avoiding the gallows. The sikhs would rally round a sikh convict and the tamils around an LTTE terrorist sent to the gallows after due process of law. Objectivity, honesty and rule of law are notions entirely alien to us.

Javed Sep 16, 2013 10:53am

@Zaman: It appears that the Government does not have the confidence and resolve to punish these evil people called Taliban for their crimes. They keep killing our army officers, innocents citizens, women and children, but the goverment does not appear to care about it.

Dr M Raheel Minhas Sep 16, 2013 11:08am

Here the writer awkwardly mixes the societal morality and war ethics. The end to war and way to peace can only be achieved by negitiation and dialogue. However henius crimes, like this brutal murder, needs to be dealt with iron-fist to maintian the order in the society.

Utkarsh Sep 16, 2013 11:52am

@Taufeeq: You hit the nail on the head. It is actually the only thing the government can negotiate about with the Taliban. They want their own Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan, and that's the only result possible if talks succeed. If the talks fail, then they'll just keep killing people. What's funny is that they've placed even more conditions on talks; they want their killer colleagues released, and Pakistan might end up complying, as it has before.

Nauman Sep 16, 2013 11:53am

@Nur Sultan:....

I think there may be some credibility in what you have said. But then think about what the mother of the murderer might also be so proudly saying to her equally upper class circle of friends and rishtedars "Dekha na, un logon ko sidha kar ke rakh diya humnay. Kiya kisi ki jurrat ho?"

Maryam Sep 16, 2013 12:48pm

Two wrongs never make a right. I am definitely against the peace talks with Taliban but tying the pardon of Shahzaib with peace talks does not justifiable either. It means if we are making talks with the Talibans or calling Aafia as nation

Maryam Sep 16, 2013 12:53pm

Two wrongs never make a right. I am definitely against the peace talks with Taliban but tying the pardon of Shahzaib with peace talks does not justifiable either. It means if we are making talks with the Talibans or calling Aafia as nation

Mujaahid Sep 16, 2013 02:41pm

I really don't get it, If state convicted the killers to death sentence, and Family of the victim pardoned them. This basically means that they would not be killed, hanged but they surely have to sit in jail for 25+ years. What sort of Justice is this? They (killers) should not be released at all, they did commit a murder in broad day light, under full conscience. Sheer Non-sense.

zaib Sep 16, 2013 05:04pm

Just last week the writer of this article was commending the karachi traffic police for some stern action that they took in 1998 whereby they used to check any one who was trespassing indiscriminantly on traffic signal this strict observance of the law was responsible for creating civic sense and good manners (terror) among the general public however by the same analolgy giving an easy let off despite committing the most morally disambigous crime just because the perpertrators are influential will create the opposite environment in the city /country, at least in my opinion .However since in the modern age guilt for personal sins to be accounted for in the hereafter has been replaced by secular collective responsibility / values to be adhered to by society as a whole in this world, the views on tolerance and magnanimity to faults espoused by the writer are understandable if somewhat in consistent with each other.

Nasir Jamal Khan Sep 17, 2013 10:36pm

@shah: I agree with you. Like so many other in Pakistan, no one, including journalist like NFP, has a full picture of Afia's case. A refrain should be in order against any casual judgment passing on her plight.

Arshad Sep 18, 2013 01:22am

Most of the people are missing the real issue about Afia Siddiqui.

Afia Siddiqui was arrested on charges of terrorism. She was aquited for that. While in jail she attacked a marine officer, she is serving sentence for that. The irony here is that she would have never attacked the marine in jail had she not been illegally arrested for being a terrorist.

Conflicted Sep 18, 2013 03:10am

Very thoughtful and incisive. Before judging the mother, has anyone considered why she forgave the murderer? Could it be that the family feared the law's delay, all the while facing harassment by the brat's equally trigger-happy family -- one who would only go free at the end. What can ordinary people do when feudals and mullahs fall outside the pale of the law. The reign of the Shahrukhs, the Qadris and the Ghazi brothers does not look as if it's ending.