Two men accused of killing a seven-year-old boy were sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, despite being pardoned by the victim’s family.
The second additional district and sessions judge, Aijaz Ali Khaskheli, premised his verdict on section 338-E of the Pakistan Penal Code which states: “Even if the offence has been waived or compounded, the court has discretion to acquit or award Tazir to the offender keeping in view circumstances of the case and according to the nature of the offence.”
The incident took place in the Odero Lal town of Matiari district on December 10, 2011. The victim, Zakir Bilal, was kidnapped while on his way to school and was kept gagged and hands and feet tied in a banana field. His body was found four days later by a farmer, Dhiyalo Kolhi.
The convict, Irfan Arain, in his statement said that he kidnapped the boy on the instructions of the second convict, Sultan Arain, who was also Bilal’s uncle.
“I was told to keep him there for 30 minutes until Sultan arrived,” said Irfan, adding that he was promised a huge sum of money for carrying out the job. “I removed his shalwar (pants) and tied his hands and covered his mouth with it.” But when he found the boy choked to death, Irfan said he panicked and indirectly passed on the information about the boy’s killing and perpetrator to the family.
The Arain family is said to be involved in a property dispute, which became the motive for the kidnapping. The suspects were arrested by the police after the deceased’s father, Muhammad Bilal, registered an FIR against them but a jirga, reportedly chaired by an excise officer, made the family withdraw the case.
Court steps in
The court found the incident “shocking” and observed that the convicts “deserve no leniency”. In his detailed judgment, Judge Khaskheli explained why an accused can be convicted even if the families compromise. “The courts have to draw a line between those offences which are more serious and have grave social ramifications and offences which are less serious or reflect some personal vendetta.” “In the former category of offences, acquittal pursuant to compromise may encourage the social trends which led to those crimes whereas upholding a conviction would convey a social disapproval through the majesty of the law.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.