EDITORIAL: Shockingly but unsurprisingly, all accused in the high profile torture and murder case of a social activist, Nazim Jokhio, have walked free. It may be recalled that in October 2021 the 26-year-old Jokhio with four children had incurred the wrath of his village’s feudal chieftains for making a video clip of their foreign guests hunting, in violation of a ban, the houbara bustard, an endangered species.
He was called to a farmhouse where he was tortured to death and his clothes and cell phone thrown into a well to conceal the crime. The case would have remained unregistered had it been not for the uproar in the media. The two main accused, PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) MNA Jam Abdul Karim and his brother MPA Jam Awais were booked for the murder. From thereon started the struggle of the weak and the powerless for justice only to end in a fate predetermined by our criminal justice system in its present state.
After a few days under arrest, Jam Karim managed to get protective bail and abscond to Dubai in March of last year. But he was too important to be out in the cold for long. Soon enough, the MNA was needed back home to vote in the no-confidence motion against the then prime minister Imran Khan. So arrangements were made for his safe return and exoneration. Upon arrival Jan Karim was granted bail before arrest, and asked to appear before the relevant court.
He used that as an opportunity to have his name removed from the investigating officer’s challan and force the victim’s family to accept an out-of-court settlement. Jokhio’s wife and brother who had been complaining of pressure to withdraw the case under the Qisas and Diyat law wilted in the heat of pressure.
The widow announced she was pardoning the accused in the name of Allah for the sake of her children. The brother also said the same. In the latest development on Thursday, all the other accused, MPA Jam Awais along with four of his underlings, were released from jail after the Additional District and Sessions Court in Malir accepted a similar out-of-court settlement, declaring the offence compoundable.
Notably, Pakistan’s legal system is mainly based on common law, under which premeditated murder is a non-compoundable offence. But influential people, like in the present case, resort to intimidation tactics to secure out-of-court settlements by invoking the Diyat law through which heirs of the victim can forgive murderer(s) in the name of God, with or without monetary compensation. There are several examples of the victims’ families, fearful for their own and their children safety, accepting out-of-court settlements.
The intent of the Diyat law surely is not to allow rich and the powerful murderers to obtain pardon under duress, but to provide a chance for forgiveness in case the victims’ legal heirs agree to do that of their own accord due to whatever consideration. Ways need to be explored to stop misuse of this law.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023