Sunday, August 29, 2010

THE DARK FACE OF JUSTICE

By Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad

The lynching of two brothers in Sialkot invoked the sentiments of the entire nation against its perpetrators and police personnel who allowed it to happen. No civilised society can condone such behaviour. Unfortunately, although the media played an important role in bringing this story to the attention of the public, most of the reporting lacked depth, fairness and adequate and accurate information about the incident. It is now becoming evident that most of the media analyses were based on rumour and hearsay, which is obfuscating the true picture, hence compromising our ability to draw correct inferences.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that it is quite possible that the lynched boys Hafiz Mughees and Munib were indeed involved in a roadside robbery attempt early morning on August 15 and had intercepted Bilal Javed, 22, on the Sialkot-Gujranwala Road. Incidentally, they did not get a chance to mug him because just then a pickup van loaded with several men and children and a motorcycle rode by and the brother and servant of Bilal appeared on the scene. Encouraged by the expected succour, Bilal overpowered Munib. Reports are that in panic, Hafiz Mughees started firing from a pistol, whose bullets hit Bilal, his brother, servant, and a 10-year old boy Zeeshan who was in the pick-up van. Later, people present overpowered Mughees and Munib and detained them in the office of Rescue 1122 located nearby. The news of Bilal’s death and Zeeshan’s paralysis due to bullet wounds enraged the people and what followed is known to all. Zeeshan also died later.

What is most disturbing in this entire episode is that the police encouraged the crowd to go ahead with this frenzy. It is well known that the chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, supported extra-judicial killings of perceived criminals by the police in his previous tenure. It seems that the current Punjab set-up is perpetuating the same policy, since all the police officers involved in the Sialkot case are closely linked to the PML-N. However, the repetition of this policy this time round is not going to do any good to the chief minister or his party. If this government does not set an example of adherence to the rule of law, then anarchy is just round the corner.

Regrettably, this is not an exclusively Punjab phenomenon. It is a culture and attitude that is creeping incrementally into the entire Pakistani society. Such incidents have been reported from Karachi in the recent past. Just yesterday, a news channel reported another such incident of public torture and killing of a man in Karachi. Underlying this phenomenon is the loss of faith in the judicial system. However, that in no way justifies taking the law into one’s own hands and law enforcement agencies becoming a party to it. Impartial investigations and justice must follow.

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