ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) fact-finding committee has contested police findings that declared the immolation and death of a female schoolteacher in Murree a “suicide”.
The SCBA had formed a three-member panel headed by former SCBA president Asma Jahangir to investigate the facts around the contentious case of schoolteacher Maria Sadaqat, 19, who was allegedly set ablaze by a group of people in a village in Murree on June 1 for refusing a marriage proposal. She had sustained 85 per cent burns and later died while under treatment at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
Murree teen believed to have burnt alive committed suicide, police say
The police investigation report declared the death a suicide. The report largely ignored the deceased’s deathbed statement accusing multiple persons.
The SCBA committee was tasked with inspecting the alleged crime scene, meeting relatives of the deceased, the accused, and the local police and civil society.
The committee’s findings say that there were concentrated efforts to paint the incident as a suicide rather than a murder.
“The mission strongly feels that flawed investigations encourage crimes against women and this is one of the reasons that honour killings are on the rise…where the accused find much sympathy among those involved at subordinate levels of the legal system,” says the report.
The committee has noticed that there was also a character assassination campaign against the victim soon after the incident and that there were credible reports of her relatives being threatened to ensure their silence.
It has also expressed its dismay that there were deep divisions in the locality, where women were sympathising with the victim while men were either justifying the crime or denying it even happened.
Woman tortured, set on fire in Murree
It is also stated that initially, the mission was quite satisfied with the inquiry, but after their return, they were shocked to learn that the investigation had found the main accused innocent and allowed him to make bail.
The SCBA mission also expressed disappointment with the doctors who treated her, referring to their failure to take down a statement from the victim or give a statement to the police outlining anything she may have said regarding the incident.
The mission also recommended that SCBA President Ali Zafar nominate a competent lawyer to follow the case on behalf of the victim’s family and that the case should be pursued till a formal verdict is reached.
The SCBA president told The Express Tribune that Khawaja Farooq has been consulted to contest the case before the trial court.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2016.
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