In a welcome act, the anti-terrorist court hearing the murder case of Sarfaraz Shah, the youth brutally killed by Rangers personnel in Karachi, has severely punished the Rangers official who shot him, along with those complicit in the act.
The official who shot him, Shahid Zafar, has been awarded capital punishment, while the other six, including the civilian Asfar Khan, who took Sarfaraz Shah to Rangers for allegedly stealing in a park, have been given life imprisonment. It is heartening to note that for once security officials have been held accountable; sending a much-needed strong message that wearing a uniform and knowing how to use a gun does not grant a person immunity from the consequences of ill actions. One also hopes that some lessons from this will be learnt by the state in how shoddily it dealt with the fallout of the Kharotabad incident where the police and the Frontier Corps claimed, with success it seems, that the five foreign nationals (including three women, one of whom was pregnant) who were shot dead in cold blood were in fact terrorists who deserved to die the way they did. In the case of Sarfaraz Shah, given that his cold-blooded murder was broadcast on television channels nationally round-the-clock, and given the consequential massive public reaction asking for justice to be done, it was perhaps to be expected that the trial court would come up with a death sentence for the accused. Without going into the merits and demerits of the capital punishment debate (though one would like to consider oneself decidedly pacifist), the positive thing to come from the trial into the death of Sarfaraz Shah is indeed that, for a change, we have shown that as a nation we value human life and that we will not tolerate acts, least of all by those entrusted to uphold the law, which take away that life. Had the punishment been any less severe, many of us would have protested, given the manner in which Shah was murdered. Of course, one hopes that justice will also be served in other equally compelling cases.
The verdict is also likely to provide some kind of solace and perhaps closure to the dead man’s family as well as the public, since the images of Shah bleeding to death, while pleading to be taken to hospital, are still fresh in the minds of the nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.