Hiding in plain sight means concealing one’s identity by staying visible or when one’s visibility masks his shadow life. However, in Pakistan the phrase has the opposite meaning. People with power, money, and connections do not mask their identity by pretending to be someone else. One doesn’t need the art of deception to hide in plain sight in Pakistan.
While the Pakistani Judiciary dominated the political stories of Pakistan in 2017, justice itself still remained on the fringes if not completely ignored. Mashaal Khan happened and we shall see where the prosecution ends. Three stories in Pakistani newspapers in the last days of 2017 are interestingly and unusually related. A man spent 9 years in jail based on the testimony of a witness who suffered from hearing and speech impairment. Police had arrested him on September 29, 2008 for allegedly desecrating the pages of the Holy Quran. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009. The Lahore High Court had upheld the sentence in 2014.
The Supreme Court took up the case the same year and provided him a lawyer since he couldn’t afford one. His lawyer argued that someone with hearing and speech impairments could not act as a witness under the Evidence Act. The Supreme Court absolved him of blasphemy charges. He won his freedom after spending 9 years in jail.
Balochistan Assembly member Abdul Majeed Khan Achakzai ran over a traffic police officer on duty in Quetta on June 20. That was just days before Eid. During his court appearances, he would throw expletives at the media personnel. He has been released on bail by the Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Dawood Khan Nasr. Never mind, that he had confessed to the murder.
Then we arrive at the heart wrenching story of Shahzeb Khan. Shahzeb’s sister was eve-teased by a feudal brat named Ghulam Murtaza Lashari. When Shahzeb came to his sister’s rescue, it resulted in a fight. In short, Shahzeb was killed by Shahrukh Jatoi and his other powerful friends.
Shahrukh Jatoi didn’t claim to be innocent or that he acted in self-defense. He had the chutzpah to smile in front of the camera even when his death verdict was read in 2013. In the western society especially in the United States, a smile upon hearing one’s death verdict might hint at the defendant claiming insanity or may be a Jihadist expressing happiness to be finally going to meet his 70 virgins. However, Jatoi’s smile didn’t mean any of that. It was a laughter at the justice system of Pakistan, it was poking fun at the drama created just to make the entire prosecution appear legitimate. Shahrukh Jatoi was smiling because he knew what the verdict would be: his acquittal.
While Pakistanis are making efforts to get rid of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), a legacy of the imperial British. Today’s imperial power has added more loopholes to Pakistan’s justice system, ensuring tailored justice. Diyat means paying blood money or financial compensation to the heirs of the victim in case of murder, bodily harm or property damage. It was Diyat that became instrumental in the release of Raymond Davis paving the way for Shahrukh Jatoi and countless others to kill and buy justice. Although, I must remind that Davis’s act was bad enough yet he didn’t tease anyone’s sister. The guy got panicked in a foreign land and acted violently. There are reports that Jatoi had access to alcoholic drinks, gaming consoles, and whatever one demands when drunk.
The American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is pronounced as Diya in Latin America, which is where it is fighting the drug cartels. Apart from their similar pronunciation, both are also impunity cards. The diya (DEA) kills people in Latin America in the name of its fight against the drug cartels. Diyat is making the same history by becoming get-out-of-jail-card after one has committed murder in cold blood.
No investigation or retrial is required to find out who killed Shahzeb Khan or the traffic warden. In both the cases, the star witness didn’t have hearing and speech impairments. Yet, both are free. However, in the case of the man who spent 9 years in jail for blasphemy charges, the court came up with a judgement quite fast despite an ineligible witness. He didn’t have access to gaming consoles or alcoholic drinks. I assume he didn’t smile when the life imprisonment verdict was read in 2009.
The raison d’etre of law is to safeguard the weak from the aggression of the strong. However, these cases and countless others highlight that the reverse is true. Law, Islamic (divine) or man-made, is creatively used to safeguard the strong from the weak’s cries for nothing but justice. Ibn Khaldun, author of the impeccable book Muqaddimah has noted that a civilization was ruined not due to the lack of military, political or economic power but rather due to the erosion of justice in the society. Khaldun went ahead to conclude that the real aim of an Islamic society was to establish justice by protecting people’s basic rights. The rise of Islam was due to its superior justice system. Perhaps the Islamic Republic of Pakistan would prove true to its name if it would dispense justice. They say justice is blind. However, the Pakistani justice system picks and chooses criminals, leaving no doubt that it is anything but blind.