Crime and punishment


Editorial August 01, 2010

There are some crimes that are so shocking in their brutality that no punishment seems fitting. The case of two traffic policemen who were accused of kidnapping, raping and then killing a three-year-old girl in July 2009 would certainly be an example of that. The Sindh High Court upheld the verdict of an anti-terrorism court sentencing one of the policemen to death, while ordering the release of the other for lack of evidence. It is heartening that justice was handed out and that too quickly, especially in a country where rape cases are rarely reported and often go unprosecuted, particularly when involving those in positions of authority. The alleged rape of Dr Shazia Khalid by an army officer in 2005 led to her house arrest, death threats and eventual exile. The case of the traffic constables provides a ray of hope that attitudes towards rape might have changed in the last few years.

For that, at least some credit should be given to the Women’s Protection Bill of 2006 which made rape a civil rather than religious issue, allowing cases to be tried in criminal courts. This meant that the near impossible stipulation that four witnesses were needed for a successful rape conviction could be done away with and replaced with forensic and medical evidence. Authorities now must take action on other reported rape cases and ensure that they are quickly brought to trial. There is, however, the need to dissent on one point in the way the case was decided. It is an indictment of the lethargy of Pakistan’s judicial system that the case had to originally be heard by an anti-terrorism court. An amendment to the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Ordinance in 1999 expanded the definition of terrorists to include those who commit “an act of gang rape, child molestation, or robbery coupled with rape.” If justice was provided speedily, as it should, we would not need to be so cavalier in defining terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2010.

COMMENTS (3)

SadafFayyaz | 11 years ago | Reply yeah crime by two and punishment for only one? I wish if Dostoevsky were alive.....
furqan aziz | 11 years ago | Reply Why was the second guy let off,he too raped a three year old child,they both confessed & revealed where the child's body would be found.This paedophile has been set free to roam the streets again & rape more children again.
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