Of speculative stories

December 23, 2010

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The gang-rape and assault of two girls in Defense has set the airwaves buzzing. Enough has been said about the media’s treatment of the case in the last few days to last us a lifetime. But it keeps on coming. The twists and turns, the denials and retractions, the character assassinations and counter accusations.

Suddenly, a heinous crime has become a parody for a gutless nation.

Despite the fact that details still have to surface, investigations still have to conclude (or even begin properly for that matter), we as a nation (and as women) seem to be missing the point.

A crime was committed and it must be solved.

This is not about "rape cannot be justified under any circumstances" and that "a woman’s character and personal details have nothing to do with it". Nor is it about "damsels in distress" or "she asked for it". This is about focus. Focus that should remain on the crime itself rather than the external factors associated with it. Although these external factors are extremely important in the line of a criminal investigation, they should not detract us from the fact the focus should be on the crime.

But the external factors are more interesting aren’t they? Ten different versions in ten different newspapers and television channels. Something sure sounds fishy, so let’s forget about the fact that a woman was gang-raped and another beaten to shreds. Let us instead focus on the fact that one of the victims supposedly lived with a man; that the victim’s statements keep changing; that the victims supposedly knew the perpetrators; that there is a "story" here where all is not what it seems.

The police is right, this is not a Mukhtaran Mai case. Here, the women happened to be affluent themselves, so the "feudal oppression of the poor" cause is not applicable. But Karachi is meant to be a city of sin, so all bets are off, rape or otherwise. The crime could never be that simple. There has to be more.

Raising doubts over a case is the easiest way to solve one in Pakistan. No need to do all that exhausting fieldwork, suspect interviews, evidence collection and DNA testing. We have the CSIs on television to do all that for us. So if you can open and shut it without too much effort, whichever story seems the most plausible, is the one that nails it.

And it is not just about rape. Although the stigma associated with it makes it all the tougher to crack the nut. Any crime deserves to be brought to a judicious end without cutting corners. Every crime deserves to be treated with fairness, caution and excruciating amounts of (confidential) investigation. But this is Pakistan. Who are we kidding right?

Until we actually start imitating the television CSIs to solve these crimes in Pakistan, if only with the help of human intuition and maybe sniffer dogs – since that’s all the CSI we can afford – no rape victim anywhere in the country, will actually be seen as an individual deserving of justice. The fact that she has been personally violated will be hidden deep in the shadows of doubt.

So focus people, focus, before the stories envelope each and every one of us.

Themrise Khan is a freelance social development consultant based in Karachi who occasionally dares to venture into the Pakistani media.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.