Yet another murder

Published June 5, 2014

WHERE is the outrage brigade now? Was it not enough that a person who was approaching the highest court in the province was beaten to death within touching distance of a court of justice? Was it not enough that she was beaten with bricks till she died? Was it not enough that the police watched and did nothing?

Was it not enough that it happened in broad daylight? Or was it not enough that the culprits just escaped in broad daylight? What would it have taken for it to be enough? Would she have had to be pregnant with a child, perhaps for our outrage to kick in? Oh, wait....

It is hard to imagine a greater indictment of the state than the murder of a pregnant woman for marrying the man of her choice by her family, with stones and bricks, within sight of the police, in front of a court and then walking away.

It was Farzana’s fault really. Her fault for believing that the state owed her protection. Her fault for being silly enough to believe that she could approach a court with the security of her person guaranteed. Her fault for choosing her marriage. How dare she?


Like the others, Farzana will fade with the news cycle.


In fact, how dare we? How dare we mourn her?

She just had the indecency to die in the most brutal manner imaginable so that she could shock our conscience. She had the gall to be visible in her death and her indignity. It would have been much more convenient if the same event had happened in some remote village — like Kohistan perhaps — so that we could at least go on with our lives without being inconvenienced by her.

How dare we pretend that this sickens us? Lawyers, notorious for striking at the drop of a hat, did not think this event warranted one. Who strikes over the death of a woman? Those are reserved for the cuts and bruises that lawyers receive while they deliver one of their thrashings to a journalist or a policeman and the poor soul tries to fight back.

How dare the prime minister declare that this murder is “unacceptable”? Which murders are ‘acceptable’ Mr Prime Minister? The ones that stay out of the news and get recorded in FIRs?

How dare we feel any indignation when this story has repeated itself over and over again — and we have been innocent bystanders throughout, nay we have been culpable in our wilful neglect of the system that creates this outcome over and over again.

Fakhera Yunus — acid attack victim — asked for justice and ended up so hopeless and broken that she took her own life. Fiza Batool — a 14-year-old maid — was allegedly beaten to death by her employer, a professor of literature no less, earlier this year. Uzma Ayub, a gang rape victim whose rapists reportedly included the police, escaped from her captivity as a six months pregnant woman only to see her brother shot dead in front of the Peshawar High Court for standing by her in her quest for justice.

At least we know, that like all the others before her, Farzana too will fade with the news cycle. She will become merely a blot on our conscience that we will grow increasingly better at ignoring — to be remembered only at opportune moments.

Sure, inquiries will be launched, compensations will be paid, and interviews will be had. There may even be admonishments from the Supreme Court. But when our outrage is satiated, we will return to our own merry ways and pretend like we did something about this and provided justice.

But never will we fix the underlying problems. We will call this murder ‘unacceptable’ as if it is an outlier but not address the underlying patriarchy that makes it the norm. We will censure the police officers on duty and pretend like we took action but the underlying ineptness in the police will continue because it is just politically expedient.

We will launch judicial inquiries, or suo motu actions and admonish all the culpable individuals but not address the machinery of justice in which ordinary litigants like Farzana get bled dry. We will pretend to do a lot about it without doing anything about it.

We should not be outraged. We should be ashamed. Ashamed because ultimately the system will create noise but no traction, and then someone else will come along to remind us. We can at least stop pretending like we care. The list of dead women to tell us otherwise is simply too long to keep up that façade any more.

Rest in peace, Farzana — and may you and your memory never let us rest in peace.

The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer.

skhosa.rma@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2014

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