THE acquittal of former MPA Majeed Khan Achakzai by a model court in Quetta in a case of manslaughter highlights what ails our justice system: if one has enough resources and influence, the chances of a favourable verdict are greater than in the case of a poor man accused of the same crime. The former MPA was released by the court for want of evidence in a hit-and-run accident that killed a traffic warden at Quetta’s GPO Chowk in June 2017. A few days after the incident, CCTV footage of the accident surfaced on social media showing Mr Achakzai’s vehicle, evidently driven by him, hitting the traffic warden. The video led to his arrest but he was released on bail by an anti-terrorism court six months later. The initial FIR registered against Mr Achakzai had included terrorism charges but those sections were removed when he appealed for the case to be transferred to a local court. It is difficult to come to terms with the reasons — lack of evidence — given for his acquittal, especially after the footage of the accident went public. Moreover, Mr Achakzai had also come on television where he admitted to driving the vehicle at the time and talked of settling the matter according to tribal customs.
The decision to acquit the former legislator for want of evidence also raises doubts over the efficacy of the model courts that were set up by former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa to expedite the process of justice. Indeed, it is true that cases tend to linger for years on end in this country, and the idea of model courts was to reduce this judicial burden and ensure quick justice for the litigants. But speed should not come at the cost of the quality of justice. Better prosecution, improved evidence gathering, witness protection, etc are needed if the ends of justice are to be served and the law applied equally to all.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2020