The inquiry report into the savage beating of two brothers at Sialkot, presented before a three-member Supreme Court bench, has emphasised the culpability of the police and noted that the primary duty of the force was to protect life and property. The failure of the state to perform this most basic function is one reason for the breakdown we see in the social contract between citizens and the state and there have of late been more and more mob ‘lynchings’ of a similar nature.
The retired judge conducting the investigation has also noted that police officials and doctors on duty fabricated evidence. The description of how this happened provides an insight into the flaws in our criminal justice system and the gross miscarriages of justice that occur as a result. Most of these go undetected and unreported. It was only the media coverage of the Sialkot beating that led to notice being taken at the highest levels and police officials allegedly involved suspended. We must hope this will serve as a lesson for others in the future.
Much emphasis has been placed in this report on the question of the ‘character’ of the victims, and whether or not they were criminals. It has been noted the brothers were not engaged in crime and guilty of nothing more than possible misdemeanour. This will inevitably tilt public feeling. But we should keep in mind that this is to some degree irrelevant. Even if the teenagers had committed robbery, they deserved a fair trial and a chance to defend themselves before a court. No group of citizens has the right to mete out punishment at will or to arbitrarily decide how anyone accused of crime should be dealt with. We hope this will be emphasised as the case comes under further scrutiny, so that the kind of anarchy we see everywhere can be put an end to.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2010.
More in PakistanFire brigade or the triple-one!