401. This is the number of days the family of Mughees and Muneeb Butt, brothers murdered by a mob in Sialkot, had to wait for justice. Their ordeal ended on Tuesday night when the Anti-Terrorism Court Gujranwala (ATC) issued its verdict, sentencing seven people to death, six to life in prison, and giving all the policemen involved in the incident three-year terms.
“This isn’t a day of happiness. This is a sad day for us that shows how our society is deteriorating morally,” Khwaja Anwar, 87-year-old grandfather of the victims, told The Express Tribune. “My grandsons were not robbers. Punishment to those who lynched them publicly will not bring my grandsons back but this will restore people’s faith in the judiciary and legal system.”
The ATC Judge Mushtaq Gondal found 10 policemen, including former DPO Waqar Chohan, guilty. Five of the accused were acquitted by the court. In total 28 people were accused in the case.
On August 15, 2010, hundreds of people gathered in broad daylight in Buttran Wali, Sialkot, as Mughees and Muneeb were lynched, in full view of police officers who made no attempts to stop the murder. The dead bodies of the two brothers were dragged through the streets by the mob, who labelled them robbers. The bodies were then hanged against a water tank. The villagers were about to set the bodies on fire when family members of brothers reached the spot and took them home. Later, no police record was found of Mughees and Muneeb, who were both students.
“We had no enmity with anyone and we will not have enmity with anyone,” Khwaja Anwar said. Sajjad Butt, father of the brothers, said: “My sons died and nothing is going to bring them back. This decision however shows that sooner or later justice prevails”.
“I am thankful to God that we got justice finally. It’s been a long and painful journey but now I am satisfied that I can face my nephews on Judgment Day,” Zarrar Butt, the boys’ uncle, told The Express Tribune in a choked voice. Khwaja Anwar spoke of the difficulties the family had encountered. “We have been facing threats to stop following this case up but God’s help kept us determined. Nobody from the village where my grandsons were lynched came to the witness box to speak about the truth but what cameras recorded showed reality to the whole world,” he said.
Dr Shakeel Thakur, who pleaded for the two brothers, said: “This will be a case of its own nature where courts relied on technology and footages of TV channels to bring the truth out. We are content with the decision; however we will appeal against those who have been acquitted and who have been awarded a brief sentence”.
After outraging the country, the case gathered legal momentum when the Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu notice of the incident. The lynching incident was also discussed on the floor of parliament and high officials visited the aggrieved family. At the time the government announced it would deal with the case in a matter of days. However, the final verdict was not delivered for more than a year.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.