A criminal mind

Published: June 12, 2011
The writer is a barrister and a public policy graduate from Harvard University

The writer is a barrister and a public policy graduate from Harvard University mahreen.khan@tribune.com.pk

Sarfaraz Shah’s brutal slaying by the Sindh Rangers was disgusting, gruesome and unspeakably shocking. No matter how harsh the words used to describe this act of brutality, words are ultimately inadequate in assuaging the grief all of us, who have witnessed this crime against our humanity, have felt. When six uniformed men collude in the slaying of an unarmed civilian, surrounding him like a cornered animal and then, without so much as a flinch, watch one of their own shoot him repeatedly at close range, what can you write? When, for many minutes on end, these Rangers performed a death squad watch, circling the fallen youth as he begged for medical treatment, callously walking by him whilst he cried in agony, ensuring he bled to death, what are you supposed to feel?

This was murder in cold blood, caught on film for posterity, for all to witness. So there should be no need to write anything but condemnation of the act and the perpetrators. However, when a man of Rehman Malik’s sensitivity and legal acumen is the minister for interior, then there is plenty to write, because the minister has not even grasped the fundamentals of justice: The presumption of innocence — the concept that even comatose teenagers pick up from watching late night reruns of 80’s detective shows. Shah was accused of trying to rob a family at gunpoint. So Malik, when questioned about the Rangers’ shooting him, pronounced that Shah was a ‘criminal’ implying that this ‘fact’ was enough to justify the death. Mr Malik — it does not matter what crime he was accused of, whether he was guilty or not. Even if he had been a serial killer caught red-handed, knife dripping with blood, victims lying dead all around, his right to a trial was inviolable. That right is enshrined in every legal and religious value system in the world. Summary execution, without due process, especially by law enforcement personnel or agents of the state represents the grossest breach of public trust and rule of law.

The irony is that, on the totem pole of this city’s criminals, Sarfaraz Shah was at the very bottom, the least deserving of Malik’s indictment of him as a ‘criminal’ whose death was somehow deserved. In fact, even if the allegations against him are true, Sarfaraz Shah seems to have been an inexperienced thief with a toy gun, who came with no accomplice or means of escape. His final actions were not those of the professional criminal clever enough to keep his mouth shut, confident enough to climb into the van and get taken to a police station. Professional criminals remain calm in the knowledge that one phone call to their protectors will have them out in no time. Shah panicked and begged for he had no protector. He was not part of the city’s drug or weapons mafia, he was not a political party thug or a killer. The fact is, Mr Rehman Malik, it is Sarfaraz Shah’s lack of criminal credentials that got him killed.

This city’s residents have, in the past, cried in disbelief as Rangers and police personnel have stood by watching gangs of armed youth looting, killing, maiming and rampaging. It is openly known that these very personnel would not dare even approach those who routinely terrorise this city. Kidnappers, killers, bombers, extortionists, mafias and robbers operate at will, with neither hindrance nor fear. The use of force by those tasked to protect us is instead used against the weak, the hapless and often the innocent. The Rangers personnel have committed an unjustifiable, unequivocal act of murder. They must face trial and receive the most severe punishment available: The death penalty. They have deprived a man of his life, in a most cruel manner, disgraced their uniform and shattered the public trust.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Independent from UK
    Jun 12, 2011 - 4:17AM

    One thing I noted from the footage of gruesome murder of a young man was incredible callousness exhibited by the personnel who first shot him (I suspect in the thighs or lower abdomen) and then stood by to let the victim exsanguinate himself to death. If the young man was taken in an ambulance for an emergency resuscitation he would have most probably been alive today.

    It won’t be difficult to identify these personnel who were sadists of highest order and were seen enjoying from the state of haplessness of the victim.

    As far as the statement of Rahman Malik is concerned, this obviously shows an IQ of this minister. If people of such calibre are in the government then God help this country.Recommend

  • Noman
    Jun 12, 2011 - 8:52AM

    I know you think they deserve the death penalty, but I think they deserve something worst. They should be made to suffer their days on this earth so much that they will beg for death to take them.
    My suggestion is blind them with acid, and let them live and suffer in this condition, and only then they will realize what they did to an innocent young man. Recommend

  • Tigon
    Jun 12, 2011 - 9:00AM

    What wonderful words! There will be no justice – just a price paid akin to Raymond Davis! Recommend

  • Jamal Shah
    Jun 12, 2011 - 9:13AM

    Pakistani civilian’s life is of no value, still we can watch people like Zaid Hamid and Haroon Rasheed defending these wild beasts appointed to take care of civic life. Recommend

  • Arshad
    Jun 12, 2011 - 10:29AM

    Excellent…you are spot on by writing that ‘it is Sarfaraz Shah’s lack of criminal credentials that got him killed’. Recommend

  • parvez
    Jun 12, 2011 - 1:45PM

    The immediate crime and blame falls on the Rangers. The larger picture, the way I see it is, the blame rests on the almost non existent judicial system and a politicised police force operating for decades under the rapidly crumbling structure of governance. Recommend

  • Jamal
    Jun 12, 2011 - 2:00PM

    It’s funny how you suggest the death penalty for the rangers after writing about the savage nature of society in Karachi as a whole. I just found that a bit odd in an otherwise well written article. Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jun 12, 2011 - 4:01PM

    i condemned the extremism of this nation,media,journalists and court.
    Did they ever criticised,protested,took fast decisions on the brutal death of innocents by a criminal.The answer is NO.In case of sarfraz we showed completely a diffrent attitude.What the nonsense it is. Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 12, 2011 - 6:53PM

    Well said, Madam and so depressing.

    I often dread reading the Pakistani papers wondering what new unspeakable horror I will be confronted with. Recommend

  • Jun 12, 2011 - 8:28PM

    there can be no disagreeing ! i really really hope that justice, in its true form dawn in our lives for once…Recommend

  • Mankind
    Jun 12, 2011 - 9:25PM

    What if Shah had tried to escape and got a bullet at the back while running? With a toy gun or whatever if you attempt to loot anyone who doesnt understand your pranks, you seriously are risking your life, right? Recommend

  • Drug_Baron
    Jun 13, 2011 - 11:01AM

    The gang rapists of Mai Mukhtiar roam the streets of Pakistan as free men, do we really expect the “Rangers” to get anything other than a gentle “wrist slap” ?

    Extra_Judicial killings have been part and parcel of daily life in Pakistan for decades, it is not going to change, even the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had some young men killed in a “Police encounter”; after his first wife (estranged cousin) complained that his abandoned daughters were being harassed in his Sindhi home village.

    Nothing is going to change, the country is run by bandits who care only for their “Real Estate” in Dubai and London ; and their bank accounts in Switzerland, the ordinary people of Pakistan can live in cesspit for all they care ! Recommend

  • whatsinaname
    Jun 13, 2011 - 7:58PM

    welcome backRecommend

  • Jun 13, 2011 - 9:08PM

    The mindset is clear, no law, no accountablility, Consience says punishment required fast, to serve as a detterent.But again the prosecutors,wil play their field day.Lawyers, will try best, for they would be getting neat and wholesome money to fight it out.. authroities will protect, on every posssible excuse they can muster.many cases are pending, without evn a clue of what has happened to them,?? Time will prove??Recommend

  • Malik Osama
    Jun 13, 2011 - 9:22PM

    Its all a matter of principle. Denial of fair trial is not really and issue. I agree that you cannot kill a man who has been apprehended/has surrendered even if he is caught with a knife dripping with blood. Yet a man(albeit a terrorist) was killed in cold blood infront of his pre-teen daughter and the world celebrated BinLadin’s extrajudixial murder. Cowboy justice has become a norm.Recommend

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