Getting away with murder
SHAHZEB Khan, the 20 year old, son of former deputy superintendent of police Aurangzeb Khan, was gunned down on Saba Avenue in Karachi’s Defense Housing Authority (DHA) on the night of December 24, 2012.
Shahzeb had returned home from a wedding party with his family when an employee of the accused verbally harassed his sister. He confronted the accused and demanded an apology.
The accused, however, were remorseless and refused to apologize for the behavior of their employee. The issue was apparently resolved when Shahzeb’s father intervened and tried to pacify both his son and the other party.
Soon after, Shahzeb left his house in his car and was on Saba Avenue when the accused chased him down and shot him dead in public.
Ten years after the murder the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted the main accused Shahrukh Jatoi and other accomplices in this gruesome crime.
Another scion of a rich influential family went scot free. Sharukh Jatoi and his partner in crime Siraj Ali were awarded death sentence by an anti-terrorism court.
In a major judgment after a decade of legal proceedings a three judge bench headed by Justice Ejazul Ahsan and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi pronounced the unanimous judgment and all the accused in the case walked out as free men once again.
Diya or in Arabic Plural Diyat is a Islamic law covering the financial compensation paid to victims or heirs of a victim in the cases of murder, bodily harm or property damage by mistake.
It is an alternative punishment to Qisas (equal retaliation) in Arabic the word means both blood money and ransom.
It apples only when the murder is committed by mistake and the victim’s family has the free consent to compromise with the guilty party. In this day and age this law is practiced in the judicial system of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Like many other laws in our country this law too has been misused and taken advantage of by the rich, influential and powerful people to get away with murder. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan this law is used to favor the murderer and does not protect the victims.
In our justice system the power of the blood money is supreme and murderers with deep pockets and political clout are free to commit murder and laugh all the way to the courts of law. In this Islamic Republic we have repeatedly witnessed how killers are let off by applying the law of blood money.
Who can forget the recent murder trials of Raymond Davis, Majeed Achakzai, Qandeel’s brother and now Shahrukh Jatoi? They are all free men and respected members of society while their victims lie six feet deep in the ground and their families left to suffer the pain and agony for all times.
In the murder of Fahim the man shot dead by the American secret agent Raymond Davis, Fahim’s widow came home from his janaza and committed suicide and the last word she said was that Raymond Davis will get away with murder.
Shahzeb Khan was only protecting the honor of his sister like any self-respecting young man would have done. He was protecting his sister from blood thirsty, violent rich spoilt brats’ hell bent on using their power and influence to commit murder.
This crime was a premeditated planned murder it was not an accidental killing so how do the killers get away with this murder? This is a question to be debated by our legal experts, judges, lawyers and Islamic Scholars.
The case of the Shahzeb murder is much more shocking because this murder ignited a fierce debate in the media, there was a visible public disgust, two of the chief justices intervened, the civil society was up in arms and there was a plethora of evidence to prove the accused guilty in the court of law and yet the accused walked free.
This law is designed to help the rich and powerful to enable them to commit murder and go scot free and now this law is at the very heart of our criminal justice system.
Unlike other Islamic Laws of the country which were issued by the military ruler Zia ul Haq with a single stroke of his pen the Qisas and Diyat law took about ten years to be implemented.
After this acquittal on the basis of the law of blood money people are now lamenting that this acquittal proves beyond doubt that it is almost impossible to convict the powerful elite in the land of the pure.
Who is now next on the list Zahir Jaffar? Shah Nawaz Amir? The grapevine is buzzing with rumors that the family of the victim was offered lucrative inducements by the killers and when they refused the were bullied mercilessly and given chilling threats and eventually the victim’s family finally accepted a deal under severe pressure.
The rich and powerful elite have made a mockery of our justice system in many different cases. The common man of the country is unsafe and cannot hope for justice when faced by the powerful moneyed mafia.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.