A historic judgment

Published: June 12, 2018

Few can have expected the judgment that was handed down in the case of Tayyaba the child-maid tortured by her employers, a judge and his wife. Indeed many were expecting nothing more than a rubber-stamping of previous judgments in the case which increasingly trended towards leniency despite the weight of evidence, and an innocent child was being denied justice. All that doubt and skepticism was removed in the 46-page judgment handed down by a division bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Minagul Hassan Aurangzeb, who have done much to restore the faith of the common man in a flawed justice system.

The IHC dismissed the appeal challenging the conviction of a former judge and his wife and increased their custodial sentence to three years from one year as well as imposing an increase in financial penalties. Maheen Zafar was not in court to hear the verdict and it is reported that she has travelled to Saudi Arabia, but her husband, Raja Khurram Ali Khan, was and he is reported to have left the court under arrest.

The judgment is notable in several ways. Firstly, it is clear, unambiguous and couched in language that is understood by those with fluent English. We would like to see an Urdu version made widely available. Secondly, it is brutally honest regarding the shortcomings of virtually all at an official level who had anything to do with the case and that includes members of the judiciary. Coming out well are members of civil society who campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Tayyaba, and social media platforms that gave them a voice.

Tayyaba was seen recently in a BBC documentary on child maids in Pakistan, smiling happily into the camera, the scars on her face still visible as they will be for the rest of her life. ‘Historic’ judgments are often little more than hyperbole but not this one. Two judges have proved beyond a doubt that the poor and illiterate, the weak and the oppressed, can get justice in Pakistan. The challenge now is to turn this exception to the rule into a normative position. Truly, a proud day.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2018.

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