When in 2012 the Shahzeb Khan murder case came to the forefront, people were aghast at the blatant use of power and the sheer audacity of the culprits to take pride in one of the most heinous crimes against mankind. There was great debate over whether the country’s most powerful elite could ever be held accountable for their injustices.
Having lived in a country where every common citizen has at some point suffered through the VIP culture or has felt threatened from a person in a more powerful position, the murder of a 20-year-old in cold blood over a petty issue hit home differently.
Shahzeb, the son of a police official, had been gunned down in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority in December 2012 by Shahrukh Jatoi for picking a fight with one of the suspects’ servants, who had verbally threatened and harassed his sister. The then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken a suo motu notice of the case giving people hope that the culprits would be brought to justice.
In this decade-long battle, there have been many instances when people have lost hope from Jatoi being given VIP treatment in the jail to him being kept in a hospital on medical grounds nothing was less than a blatant mockery of the justice system. But when in 2013 an anti-terrorism court sentenced Shahrukh Jatoi and his friend Nawab Siraj Ali Talpur to death the notion was that justice had been upheld.
The judgment ended the years-long belief that the elites were above the rule of law or could not be held accountable for their sins. When in 2017, the victim’s parents decided to pardon the accused, there was outrage. People once again called out the power the elite held to manipulate the weak and pressurizing them to giving in. But the courts upheld their decision and commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment.
The court’s latest decision to allow the culprits to go scot-free has ended what little trust the people had in the country’s justice system. The decision reinforces that the elite can get off the hook no matter what the gravity of the crime they commit. It proves that only those who cannot ‘afford’ are sent off to the gallows everyone else can just play about the justice system. The decision brings in more reasons to lose hope in the country where your men, women and children are not safe, where justice is only for the powerful and the poor only suffer.
The Qisas and Diyat laws have time and again been used by the country’s murderers, rapists and honour killers. Be it Nazim Jokhio’s poor family that caved into the feudal lords to save the remaining members of their family, or Qandeel Baloch’s old father who saved his son despite confession of killing his sister for honour or Shahzeb’s parents pardoning the culprits because they were tired of living their lives in fear the system has continued to fail us all.
This is not the failure of a system, the system in Pakistan is designed to save the elite overlooking the rights of the poor. Who does one look towards when the state and its institutions are bent on saving the culprits.
Every injustice that takes place in this country makes you lose some trust in the idea of Pakistan and it doesn’t seem too long before the trust ends and we lose the country we’ve all strived for.