LAHORE - In Pakistan, murder cases usually take years to be decided. But an anti-terrorism court in Lahore has decided a case only in six months. This means cases of even heinous nature can be decided in unbelievably short time; provided there is a will to do that.
This is the murder case of Farzana, who was beaten to death by her relatives outside Lahore High Court premises. She was ‘guilty’ of marrying a man she loved, in the eyes of her killers.
The court awarded death sentences to her father, brothers, cousin and a former husband. The case was of great significance as it brought a bad name to the country worldwide. The prime minister, chief minister and LHC chief justice took notice of the incident and the LHC Registrar ensured timely registration of the case with Mozang Police Station.
On May 27, 2014, the same day she was murdered, police booked six people directly named and 22 unnamed people on the complaint of Farzana’s husband, under Anti-Terrorism Act and Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Five accused, including her father Mohammad Azeem; brothers Zahid Iqbal and Ghulam Ali; former husband Mazhar Abbas; and cousin Jahan Khan were arrested.
Later, the state itself became complainant in the case and got the trial started.
Police and prosecutors continued their struggle and established all evidences against the accused, enough to prove them guilty.
The prosecution produced 18 witnesses and established that the motive behind the murder was a grudge nurtured by all the accused after Farzana married Iqbal against their wishes. Deputy Prosecutor general Rai Asif represented the state in the case. Police also recovered two bricks, which had been used to kill Farzana, and an empty pistol from the crime scene. The defence counsel tried his best to oppose the arguments but failed to convince the court.
After hearing both sides, the court announced its verdict observing “the murder having taken place near the LHC sparked fear and outrage among people who come to courts to seek protection against oppression.”
The judge further remarked: “The gruesome murder was aimed at deterring innocent people from approaching courts to get relief while it was reminiscent of dark ages.”
The court awarded death sentence to four accused and sent another accused to jail on 13-year imprisonment. The whole case, thus, came to an end. The process of collecting evidences, analysis, witness statement, cross examination; everything was done smoothly and timely and the case was decided eventually.
The verdict was announced in comparatively a shorter time period. But it raises a legitimate question - why such speedy justice is not done in other cases. Thousands of cases are pending in courts and people are longing for justice. Perhaps it is because of the delay by courts to decide the cases that people take the law into their own hands. They self-decide the cases and take actions in their own ways, bypassing the state system.
Another unpleasant aspect of the case is that the death sentences awarded to the accused are not carried out. Convicts, instead of being hanged, are being kept in jails as a burden on the state, while thousands of prisoners are already awaiting their execution. If they are not to be hanged then there is no sense in subjecting them to investigations, prosecution and mental agony both sides suffer throughout the long trials. All the efforts of judges and law officers seem futile apparently. And even the most important question of victim’s grievances stays unanswered.