Questionable acquittal

Published October 20, 2022

IN Pakistan, while convicts from poor families are sent to the gallows, the rich and powerful accused of committing crimes get off scot-free, simply by gaming the system. This appears to be the case in the acquittal by the Supreme Court on Tuesday of Shahrukh Jatoi and his co-accused in the 2012 murder of young Shahzeb Khan.

To recall, Shahzeb was murdered in cold blood in a revenge killing by Jatoi and his accomplices after the youth scuffled with the men, who had been harassing his sister. Despite being nominated in a murder case, Jatoi managed to flee the country and had to be brought back to Pakistan on court orders. Thereafter, a strange legal saga ensued, in which an ATC sentenced the accused to death for murder but the victim’s parents pardoned them later. The Sindh High Court then ordered a retrial and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. When the accused took their appeals to the apex court, the apex court ended up acquitting them.

Read: How to get away with murder — Pakistan edition

It is pertinent to ask on what basis the convicts have been acquitted, especially after the victim’s mother had in the past publicly said “we can’t live our lives in fear”, indicating there was pressure on the family to reach a compromise. In a similar case, the family of Nazim Jokhio, murdered earlier this year allegedly at the behest of two PPP lawmakers, has also filed a compromise petition, though the slain man’s mother had earlier complained they were being pressured by the suspects.

These loopholes in the legal system need to be plugged lest more rich and powerful convicts walk away free by ‘buying justice’ in the name of compromise or forgiveness. Murder should be a non-compoundable offence, and as legal experts point out, even if religious injunctions are invoked, the heirs can forgive only if the murder is not premeditated. In the aforementioned cases, there is strong evidence to suggest that both victims were deprived of their lives for wounding a powerful man’s pride.

In the Shahzeb murder case, the attorney general of Pakistan’s office has said it would file a review petition “in the interest of justice” as the AGP’s view had not been taken into account. It is hoped that justice is done in both the Shahzeb Khan and Nazim Jokhio cases. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s criminal justice system needs to seriously address the lacunae that allow influential convicts to get away even after committing the most heinous of crimes.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2022

Opinion

On writing

On writing

There is no ceremony or ritual that marks any person as a writer except the simple yet unimaginably significant act of starting to write.

Editorial

A way forward
Updated 17 Jul, 2024

A way forward

Before political leaders inflict more damage, they must give talks a chance.
Export delusions
Updated 18 Jul, 2024

Export delusions

Plummeting exports as a ratio of GDP is one of the major reasons driving the current economic slowdown and the balance-of-payments crisis.
Diversity in UK politics
17 Jul, 2024

Diversity in UK politics

THE recent UK elections have ushered in the most diverse parliament in the nation’s history. Under the leadership...
Banning PTI
Updated 16 Jul, 2024

Banning PTI

It appears that the govt and its backers within the establishment have still not realised that they are in uncharted territory.
Nato at 75
16 Jul, 2024

Nato at 75

EMERGING from the ashes of World War II, and locked in confrontation with the Soviet-led Communist bloc for over ...
Non-stop massacres
16 Jul, 2024

Non-stop massacres

Netanyahu is cunningly pretending to talk peace while mercilessly pounding Gaza. What is clear is that a return to pre-Oct 7 status quo is impossible.