While presidential approval looms over the landmark Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010, the man who threw acid on a woman in Mirpurkhas on Saturday, it turns out, will not be charged under the new law.
Thirty-year-old Mumtaz Dal, mother of four, had acid thrown at her, outside her residence in Junejo quarters, by a man she identified as Sabir Punjabi. Dal alleged that Punjabi attacked her when she rejected his suggestion that the two engage in a physical relationship.
“He came armed with a gun,” Dal told her doctors, the police and media at the Civil Hospital in Mirpurkhas where she was shifted immediately after the incident. The hospital, however, does not have a burns unit.
An FIR will be registered against the accused, but under the existing law, Mirpurkhas SSP Muhammad Riaz Soomro said, adding, “We have not been notified about the new law yet.”
On December 12, the Senate approved the historic bill along with the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill, seven months after it was passed by the National Assembly in May. The bill in question penalises a convict with at least fourteen years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs1 million.
The existing laws, however, impose a less severe punishment. A gender-crime of this nature will barely sentence one anywhere between seven and eight years of imprisonment under Section 337 of the Pakistan Penal Code, according to Hamad Ali Shah, a legal aid of the Women’s Crisis Centre.
“The jail term will be lesser if the victim’s face and vital body parts survive the attack,” he said while speaking to The Express Tribune. Shah said the lacunae in the applicable law also gives leverage to a medico legal officer to tamper with the medical report in order to make the offence less punishable.
The victim’s face was not damaged in the attack, SSP Soomro said, adding that the police were conducting raids to arrest the culprit. “Once the FIR is lodged, we will investigate the case on merit,” he said. Soomro said that the police were also looking into the alleged relationship between Punjabi and Dal.
The medico legal officer’s report is yet to be released.
(With additional reporting by Afaque Ahmed in Mirpurkhas)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.