When a crime is committed against an individual, in fact it is committed against the State and therefore it is the State that takes full responsibility of prosecuting the suspects and ensuring that the justice is served. The State uses its resources in gathering evidence against the suspect and bears the legal expenses, including the costs of lawyers as well in prosecuting the suspects.
However, this is something that may not happen in Pakistan and subject to State providing very minimal support the individuals are mainly left on their own to bear the legal expenses of prosecuting their aggressors. And if that individual is not financially strong then it gets very difficult for them to get justice which at the end of the day is not the justice for themselves but for the society on the whole.
But in the UK the prosecution takes place the way it should and it is the State that does everything and bears all the expenses from investigation stage to the trial at court. And that’s what happened in the case of Rania Alayed, 25, a mother of three, who was reported missing to the UK police in Manchester on 2 July 2013. Police conducted enquiries and found out that she might have disappeared about a month ago and believed her husband and his brother to be involved in her murder.
Both of them got charged on 10 July 2013 and after the trial on 4 June 2014 her husband was jailed for life for her murder. His brother was cleared of the murder charge but has been jailed for three years for perverting the course of justice. Another brother was convicted of the same crime of perverting the course of justice and is sentenced to four years in jail.
A lot can be written about the manner in which she was murdered but it’s suffice to say that her husband murdered her in cold blood while their children were in the next room. And reason for him depriving his own children of their mother was nothing but one based on honour killing that she had attempted to take control of her own life and live a more ‘westernized’ life after suffering years of abuse at his hands.
The point to take from the case of Rania Alayed is that the unfortunate incidents of honour killing do take place in western world as well but the moment the matter comes to the attention of the State, the whole machinery of State comes into action to ensure that culprits are brought to justice and justice is served.
Yes, unfortunately, no matter what one can do, the lost life cannot be brought back but at least there is a hope in these societies that State will not leave any stone unturned to make sure that responsible ones face consequences as par law of the land. No one would have to wait for the suo moto action or for the Prime Minister or Chief Minister to take notice before the State machinery gets into action.
Not only that the responsible ones have been brought to justice but the institutions in the UK have also started looking into the possibilities where State has failed to protect the life of Rania Alayed and what can be done in the future to safeguard people like Rania Alayed.
Don’t we think that it’s the responsibility of the State in the very first place to ensure the safety of its own people? Something we miserably miss in Pakistan.
It’s not that there are no laws or procedures in Pakistan but that over the period of time it has become quite norm and is generally acceptable for the concerned authorities not to carry out their obligations according to law and that is why we have seen the use of suo moto action more often in the recent years.
The suo moto action has also been taken in the case of Farzana Iqbal, who is allegedly bludgeoned to death closer to or at the footsteps of the Lahore High Court. It is yet to be established as to whether or not Farzana Iqbal was killed by her father along with other relatives or by her own husband, Muhammad Iqbal, for whom she left her parents’ home and who apparently strangled his first wife to death and paid an unknown amount of ‘blood money’ to his son to be freed from that crime. Whoever is responsible for such a heinous crime, fact of the matter is that it was an act of honour killing.
The question at this stage is that even with the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan taking suo moto action and the notice taken by the Prime Minister, will Farzana Iqbal get justice the way Rania Alayed got? Or, will any other gruesome act like this in future throw this case into darkness and people will start concentrating on the new one?
Had the systems been in place and the organs of the State played their due role then there would have been no need for the suo moto action to take place nor no notice would have been required by the Prime Minister and nor would there be any fear that another horrific incident would loosen the importance of this case thereby depriving Farzana Iqbal and in turn the society as a whole to get justice.
No doubt that there is a due process that ought to be followed at court in determining who the real culprit is for the murder of Farzana Iqbal and for that process a lot of energy and resources are required. Since it’s the family of Farzana Iqbal who is alleged to have been involved in her murder, it appears that there is no one else except the State to take pain in prosecuting the suspects and ensuring that prompt and speedy justice is served.
There was no doubt in the case of Rania Alayed that her State would do anything to secure a successful prosecution which it did in a year’s time but can we feel the same thing for Farzana Iqbal? And if not, then why not? And what can be done to ensure that people of Pakistan have the same confidence in their State as well?
There is no rocket science in it and all we need is to keep up the spirit with which the suo moto action or other notices have been taken by the higher authorities of this horrific incident and prosecute the culprits of Farzana Iqbal the way State is prosecuting General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf. And along the way, any person is found to be negligent in performing duties then a legal action be taken against that person. This will deter people and prompt them to perform their duties as per the law.
It is only when the State will play an active role, both in letter and spirit, in prosecuting the suspects involved in the murder of Farzana Iqbal that it would be possible for her to get justice the way Ranai Alayed has got. This is the way the State can send message to the society at large that at least in the case of honour killings it would not spare the ones who are responsible for such an inhumane and heinous crime.
And let us not forget that it’s not just a case of Farzana Iqbal but the case of each and every citizen of Pakistan.
Guest Post By Barrister Ameer Abbas Ali Khan
An Abdalian and Aitchisonian, Barrister Ameer Abbas Ali Khan, is a Solicitor-Advocate (UK), Advocte High Court. He has LLB (Hons) UK, LLM (LSE), Bar-at-Law from Lincoln Inn, and lives in London. His father has been an MP in Pakistan over several decades.