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EDITORIAL: The legalities finally overwhelmed the realities, and thanks to Sindh High Court (SHC) the killers of social activist and Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Director Perween Rahman were acquitted on Monday.

The court did not find the gravity of their crime and substantial evidence against the accused, which was on record and had led to their conviction by an anti-terrorist court. It was good enough to establish that she died at the hands of the land-grabbers who wanted the OPP office for the purpose of a karate centre in Orangi Township, and on refusal they hatched a conspiracy to kill Perween Rahman.

A highly-educated Perween Rahman, who had devoted 28-year-long career to the cause of rendering free-of-cost land and basic services for the underprivileged, was murdered by the land mafia in 2013.

As is often the case in cases against the mafias, the FIR lodged by police was full of yawning holes. But even then the first court of trial could see through the haze of misreporting and delivered stiff sentences to five named criminals in 2021.

However, it flawed in accepting the real cause behind her murder and instead held the accused responsible for facilitating, aiding and abetting outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The SHC also did not consider the slain activist’s last interview as ‘dying declaration’, nor did it find the involvement of TTP as the motive leading to her murder.

Therefore, the court’s verdict doesn’t sit well with legal eagles and thinking minds. Prominent lawyer Hina Gilani-headed Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has challenged the court’s ruling and called on the state to reflect on its ability to provide justice to victims of violence.

“Given the gravity of the crime and substantial evidence on record including confession of the principal accused, justice was not done”, it said in a statement, and asked the government to file an appeal against the verdict of the Sindh High Court.

It is important to note that in criminal cases the judges go by the relevant laws, texts of the First Information Reports (FIRs) and outcomes of investigations carried out by relevant police stations or of the joint investigation teams (JITs), if any.

In this case there were quite a few most likely-intended faults. It is a cardinal call of jurisprudence that in case of ambiguity or non-availability of relevant law the court is at liberty to interpret the law to ensure that finally justice is not only done, but also seen to be done.

That doesn’t seem to be the case in this court verdict. The relevant law in this case is the Evidence Act, but that is not much updated since its enactment during the colonial times, and therefore it often fails the aggrieved and victims of the big stick as in the case of OPP director’s murder.

Since it was a daylight murder, and right in the sight of the millions the Sindh High Court verdict nullifying the decision of the first court, has come as a shock to the ordinary people and civil society. Hers is a classic case of sacrifice for a noble cause.

It tends to dishearten every right-minded person and tends to diminish hope of justice in prevalent times. But that should not happen. Let more Parweens come to the fore and help the poor, hapless and underprivileged to move out of their grinding miseries.

And as they do that the civil society, lawyers’ forums, media and elected representatives in legislative houses should weigh in for betterment of anti-crime legal system – from the FIR to the final court’s verdict.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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