Pakistan is a strange country. Considering the fact that 70 per cent of the population comprises youth, there is no Council of Youth Affairs to safeguard their rights. A great majority of the population has no access to health and reproductive facilities but there is also no council working to ensure that the people of Pakistan are provided basic healthcare.
On the other hand, a good 97 per cent of the population follows some form of Islam but the country still needs multiple councils and other bodies. Two such bodies — the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) — regularly come up with suggestions to make religion stronger in the country.
The latest, is on science and semantics. The CII chose to attack the weakest section of society — the women. The latest declaration by the council says that DNA evidence should not be used as the principal evidence in cases of rape (zana-bil-jabr) and can only be used as circumstantial evidence.
Tahir Ashrafi, member of the CII, reiterated on the May 29 in the “Bolta Pakistan” show that DNA should, at best, be considered as circumstantial evidence on the basis of which arrests can be made and further investigations should be carried out. However, a suspect must not be punished on the basis of DNA evidence alone. For that, the evidence of four Muslim male adults is necessary.
Tahir Ashrafi also added that they have doctors in the Council, who say that there is doubt in DNA testing (DNA testing is 99.9 per cent accurate) and as the punishment for the crime is very hard, one has to be careful.
The most logical response to that line of reasoning is that most criminals commit assault without witnesses and if, somehow, we happen to chance upon those elusive four Muslim male adults present during the crime, under any civil law, they would be considered accomplices to the crime and not morally upright witnesses.
If I were a legislator, I would call for making a law that would hand out the harshest punishment for those who were silently witnessing a crime as horrible as rape.
We are living in the 21st century, where artificial intelligence has made human participation in so many acts redundant. Any function that can be mechanised should be mechanised.
Rape should purely be considered a criminal matter. Hence, its investigation should also be similar to any other criminal investigation. Human beings can and do lie but DNA evidence does not. If implicated in a crime wrongfully, most human beings would prefer to prove their own innocence through scientific evidence.
It seems as if there is a bias here. Science is appreciated when it is used to make airplanes or to make loudspeakers, but not appreciated as conclusive proof in a rape case because of a 0.001 per cent chance of uncertainty.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2013.