Comment: Every institution failed Amina

Published: September 6, 2014
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Amina set herself on fire in Muzaffargarh on March 5 because her rapists were released with help of police. STOCK IMAGE

Amina set herself on fire in Muzaffargarh on March 5 because her rapists were released with help of police. STOCK IMAGE

Amina set herself on fire in front of the police station in Muzaffargarh on the 5th of March 2014 because her rapists were released with the help of the police.  Her case created a media hype. Despite getting attention from the highest authorities it fell into the routine game playing of the police. Unfortunately, Amina’s parents did not get justice. The court acquitted the culprits on the basis of significant doubt and limited evidence. 

Amina was an 18-year-old first year student.   On the 5th of January 2014, she was travelling with her brother on his motorbike, when four men stopped them and attacked her, tearing her clothes and attempting to rape her.   Some people living close by came out and chased the men away. A woman put a chador around her to cover her body.

Later, her family said that the man accused of being the ringleader of the group was the brother of her sister’s husband.  He apparently had asked several times, but her parents refused every time. They were already very unhappy about their other daughter’s marriage to that family.

Amina became furious when after three months, the police not only released the culprits, but also submitted that there was no evidence to uphold any claim. Thus the case was thrown out. Her deadly protest generated reaction.

On March 14th, the opposition in the Punjab Assembly complained about the pitiable law and order situation in the province.  Although the Law Minister gave a long speech explaining what the government would do to ensure a proper outcome, the opposition still walked out in protest.

The CM visited her family and appointed an additional IG with instructions to deliver a report immediately. When the CM took notice, the police went into their usual cover-up routine. The CM intervened again and suspended the RPO and DPO for not taking action and instructed to arrest the DSP, SHO and Investigating officer of the Police Station Mir Hazar Khan for negligence.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice and considered the actions of the police to be in violation of Articles 9, Articles 4, 25(3) and 37(d) of the Constitution. They immediately asked for the police reports. Hearing the usual story from the Additional IG of Punjab, that the whole case had been fabricated, the Chief Justice (at that time) Tassaduq Husain Jillani rejected the opinion, offered deep condolences to the mother of Amina and instructed a Sessions Judge to investigate the case properly.

As soon as the new notoriety surrounding her death faded, the usual police tactics took over. They immediately released the DSP and SHO from jail and re-amended  the FIR (no 31/14), removing the references to PPC sections (322, 201) and the Anti-terrorism Act section 155-c, 7 that had been added under the orders of the Supreme Court. Amina’s lawyer moved to re-amend the FIR but the submission was rejected and even the high court no longer seemed interested to pursue it further.

A series of bizarre stories soon started to circulate within the Muzaffargarh social circles creating doubts about the honesty of the victim. This is another tactic very skilfully applied by the police.

After the CM’s intervention and the response of the Supreme Court, Amina’s parents felt brave enough to pursue the case to get justice for their daughter. Unfortunately, although the CM allegedly promised Rs500,000 to cover the family’s legal fees, no money was ever received, and no one among the higher authorities is following the case any longer.

The Session court has just decided to acquit the culprits, and the investigation officer who was still in jail, for lack of evidence. The ability of the police to re-frame charges, conduct shoddy investigations, falsify evidence in order to create doubts works every time. Nothing in this story is new to anyone who has looked into the crime of rape in Pakistan. These are classic tactics applied to every case since it is always the culprit who is willing to pay more in bribes to get the case thrown out and is usually more politically powerful than the victim’s family.   Because of this collusion between the police and criminals, the conviction rate for rape cases in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is less than one percent.

If this is the fate of rape investigations in cases that get substantial media attention, we can only imagine what happens to those that go through the normal process. A few days ago another gang rape victim in Dera Ghazi Khan set herself on fire because the police released the rapists. Is that going to be the future for rape victims in Pakistan? Will the rule of law ever become a priority for women in our society?

THE WRITER IS A PAKISTAN FELLOW AT WOODROW WILSON CENTER.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Moiz Omar
    Sep 6, 2014 - 11:33AM

    So tragic. No justice for rape victims in Pakistan. R.I.P Amina.

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  • Ishrat salim
    Sep 6, 2014 - 2:36PM

    Instances of such justices are the hallmark,of IK PAT protest and demand….yet all selfish and hypocrites have gathered on one side of the fence to protect the system that IK TuQ wants to bring in…..

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  • ASMA SIDDIQI
    Sep 7, 2014 - 12:20PM

    Inspite of the ineffectiveness of the Pakistani legal structure and the state’s law enforcing agencies, your organization AASHA has cooperated with the state and private corporatized bodies in order to enhance AASHA’s public image.You have spent valuable resources on passing an ineffective law on sexual harassment even though your current article clearly states that laws don’t protect women. You claim to be a women’s rights activists, yet you cannot suggest alternatives to seeking justice from a broken legal system. Why have you not staged a protest against the injustice the rape victims have suffered? Again, how could you protest against the patriarchal state with which you have collaborated and worked with for so long!

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  • Sidra Humayun
    Sep 7, 2014 - 5:59PM

    Sorry Amina, so sorry ! We are praying for you. We wish no else Amina would face such misery like you faced. The criminal justice system need serious and speedy change. One window operation is best solution to give justice to rape survivors. Separate courts should hear rape cases, DNA test lab needs honest officers and no involvement of political leaders should be encouraged. Better political leaders don’t visit those survivors but system should come in action on such situations.

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  • Perspective
    Sep 7, 2014 - 6:51PM

    @ASMA SIDDIQI: AASHA was an alliance of volunteers from a range of professions. They came together to get anti-sexual harassment legislation passed. Legislation that I am thankful for as a woman as I HAVE NO RECOURSE TO EVEN THE POSSIBILITY OF JUSTICE WITHOUT THE EXISTENCE OF A LAW. That’s point no 1. Point 2, if the alliance had been sooo interested in their public image, they would not have consciously decided to dismantle their an alliance once they met their goal of passing said legislation. Point 3. If the AASHA movement has taught us anything it is that working with the government to get women friendly bills passed actually gets them passed and builds ownership in the process. Confrontational politics have rarely been as successful. All of which is largely irrelevant to this particular article. It really sounds like you have a personal axe to grind, lol

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  • Sidra Humayun
    Sep 7, 2014 - 11:21PM

    So sorry Amina, so sorry!! We remain unsuccessful to bring justice for you but we will not get tired, we will not stay quietly, we will not stop supporting each other. The pain and depression you faced is our pain.
    One window operation is need of hour where female doctor, lawyer and courts would be available for rape survivors under one roof. DNA lab should be depoliticize…

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  • ASMA SIDDIQI
    Sep 9, 2014 - 2:45AM

    @Perspective:

    The legal system cannot offer justice if the laws are ineffective. If you read the above article carefully you will be able to see how useless laws are if they are not implemented. By labeling my critique as an “axe to grind” you are dismissing the critical perspectives of ordinary women faced with gender discrimination.

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  • ASMA SIDDIQI
    Sep 9, 2014 - 3:00AM

    Even though Pakistan has a law against sexual harassment in the workplace, it will not be effective if women employees do not have access to competent and honest attorneys and women’s organisations that are willing to take up their cases. Saeed’s Pakistan’s Alliance Against Sexual Harassment [AASHA] lists a large multinational pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) Pakistan, as a “progressive employer” even though the company fired me for filing a sexual harassment complaint against my supervisor. I informed AASHA about it but the organisation did not remove the company’s name from its list of “progressive employers.” Was AASHA really an alliance AGAINST sexual harassment?. Or was it established to enhance the image of multinationals as “progressive employers? -Asma Siddiqi

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  • Humaira Ali
    Sep 9, 2014 - 4:56AM

    @Perspective:
    Getting laws passed is the easy part and it brings a great deal of limelight to activist groups in a short period of time. However, ensuring that the laws are followed in the long run at all levels is hard work and is an ongoing process. AASHA was dismantled just when the easy task was over and its leadership had gained enough prominence to move on to more diverse and lucrative assignments. In short, AASHA did not stay around long enough to make sure that the law it had campaigned for was implemented properly. Activism is not a one-time project. Rather, it is a continuing endeavour, especially in a society where discrimination against women is pervasive. Therefore, we cannot assume that all individuals and groups who claim to fight for women’s rights are indeed honest, sincere and competent activists.

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