On 13th March 2013, social activist Parveen Rahman was killed by four gunmen who opened fired on her vehicle in Karachi, greatly denting the fight for land and basic rights for the poor. Some nine years later, the state has failed to provide justice to Parveen. The Sindh High Court has recently acquitted all five men sentenced by the anti-terrorism court in December 2021, citing lack of evidence. If it is an open secret that Parveen had named and identified the same group of land grabbers in a prior interview for trying to illegally occupy the land from the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). Why does then it seem inconvenient for the state to prosecute them?
Analysis of the case gives us a clear indication of two things: how strongly powerful land mafias are supported and protected by the state; and how incoherent our courts and justice systems really are. There is much skepticism surrounding the SHC’s judgement. While the SHC has ruled that the motive behind the killing was a matter of land-grabbing and cannot therefore be tried under ATA, the fact remains that land mafias have long used coercive and extortionist tactics to instill terror and get their own way. Thousands have fallen victims, and concrete examples have shown that officials indeed collude with these mafias for their own self-interests. Previously, many had alleged that the manner in with the investigation unfolded was met with incredulity and the then DIG had declared the murder case solved without any evidence.
To many who have been eagerly following the case, it reeks of a massive cover-up. But its significance is far greater than a single event. Parveen Rahman spent her entire life fighting for the rights of the poor. If the right people are convicted, it would set a huge legal precedence for land-grabbing and in turn honour the tremendous work of a fierce activist.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2022.
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