Students from over 20 schools and universities of Lahore on Friday discussed the state of acid crime in Pakistan and what the government had been able to do to curb it.
The event was organised by Beaconhouse Law Society at its Defence campus.
The topic for discussion was: Acid violence- the failings of the Pakistani legal system in tackling the problem. What are the possible legal solutions and their effectiveness with regard to counteraction, regulation and rehabilitation ?
Thinking out loud
The purpose of the exercise was to inculcate reasoning and critical thinking among students and creating awareness about the legal system.
Fatima Kausar, an A-levels student, said acid was a “pernicious weapon” and its sale should be strictly regulated. She stressed the need for buyers to be registered with the government and required to disclose the purpose of every purchase. She said there was also a need for safety procedures to prevent theft.
“There is evidence that acid attacks occur more frequently in areas where acid is widely used for commercial purposes. Businesses that use acid can help prevent its abuse.”
Mahnoor Ahmed, a student of National Grammar School, said a zero tolerance policy should be adopted in such cases. Those found aiding such crime must be considered equally guilty, she said.
Learning through discussion
The speeches were followed by an interaction between a panel of experts on the topic.
Valarie Khan, a French human rights activist and Acid Survivors Foundation chairperson, said acid crime was a global phenomenon.
She said acid violence was the worst form of gender-based violence in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Ayesha Tasleem, legal head at Depilex Smile Again Foundation, said an important aspect of the issue was gender equity that had been neglected in education imparted to men and women. Education with a mindset change is imperative to curb this crime, she added.
Lawyer Saad Rasul said there was a large gap between the current legal framework and an ideal system. He said while there were laws to register acid violence as an offence, safeguards and measures to prevent and prosecute after were absent.
Gulraiz Zulfikar, a fellow at the American Joint Cancer Committee, said several acid burns were treatable at acid burn centres functioning under non government organisations, government and the army. “Survivors do not seek sympathy, but they need restoration of self-esteem,” he said.
The panellists said that a strong retributive punishment was not the solution to the problem. They advocated life sentences for convicts.
Law Society president Ayza Ishaq, who moderated the discussion session, said that law students needed to be part of something “bigger than themselves”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2014.