Privilege, in Pakistan, protects murders from legitimate arrest, charges and court appearances.The outrage has spread among Pakistan youth, on behalf of the victim. In India, women apparently of all classes, and throughout the world, call for justice in the case of the gang-raped young woman who was thrown out of the bus to die. Most of the male perpetrators in India go free to commit their horror again, previously without charges, arrests, convictions and prison terms. Both cases reveal a culture still mired in both privilege and shared outrage.
One wonders, as one listens to the stories of confusing and fear that abound in the case of the investigation of the criminals whose terror attack killed the American Ambassador in Benghazi and three other Americans, if the White House can afford to be silent, and patient in their attempt to bring to justice those known to some, but protected out of fear of reprisals, from public accusations.
Privilege, fear, especially in the cases that, like the one in Pakistan, erupt from revenge, must never be a deterrent to justice and there will be more stories like these, illustrating the complications that accompany investigations where there is no legitimate and accountable and transparent legal system.
Pakistan, almost literally now a failed state, will have to answer to the people for the failures both of omission and of commission, in the case of young man, whose story (included below) prompts this piece.
The people in India and around the world who have sounded the alarm against violence committed against women, and the young people of Pakistan are the cutting edge of a new development, both spawned and supported by social media. And, it will take more than social media to flush out the perpetrators of the Ambassador's murder in Benghazi. So many of us take our legal protections for granted, without giving so much as a thought to their being threatened, removed or even reduced because we are not in the elite of our society. We know, however, that those whose income and investments permit them to purchase platinum medical and legal care; yet, we also know that legal aid lawyers can and will provide adequate protection, for even the most indigent. And as for the arrests that are required in criminal cases, we would be astounded to hear that our police officers delayed their investigation to permit perpetrators to escape, or assisted such perpetrators in their escape. And we would expect both a full investigation, with appropriate follow-up, pointing the public spotlight on the behaviour of those officers.
Let's hope that in our headlong rush to sacralize both money and those who have acquired the largest pile of it, we do not lose those protections that are still exclusive to the privileged, the wealthy and the insiders in some countries like India, Pakistan and Libya. How the state operates its legal protections of individual citizens, regardless of their "status" politically and economically, is one of the more significant benchmarks of a civilized society, and we need watchdogs to continue to monitor the failures that attend criminal acts in countries where justice can be and is "bought".
Outrage in Pakistan as police slow to arrest murder suspects from elite class
By Rick Westhead, Toronto Star, January 7, 2013
Shahzeb Khan was cruising through the streets of Karachi, Pakistan, in the early hours of Christmas morning in a blue Suzuki Swift, an early birthday present from his parents.
The 20-year-old university student was on his way home after hours spent celebrating his older sister’s wedding. At about 2:45 a.m., a car pulled alongside him and unleashed a hail of bullets, police say. Doctors said Khan, the son of a local police officer, died almost instantly.
His murder, police say, was an act of revenge.
Khan had argued earlier with a neighbour named Nawab Siraj Talpur after Talpur’s servant made an inappropriate remark about Khan’s sister and Khan slapped him. Khan’s father intervened and the argument seemed to be settled. But it wasn’t long before Talpur and his friend Shahrukh Jatoi, both from families that enjoy positions of privilege, allegedly had their revenge.
Two weeks after Khan’s murder, one of the two main suspects has been captured, the other has reportedly fled the country with the help of police insiders, and Khan, a good-looking man with spiked hair and a well-groomed beard, has become a national symbol.
In the same way that a young woman’s rape and murder in India has helped stoke public anger over violence against women, outrage over Khan’s murder continues to build throughout neighbouring Pakistan, shining an unwanted light on the country’s aristocratic feudal class, infamous for using influence-peddling to sidestep the law.
“There were murders before Shahzeb and after him, but what sets this apart is the fact the youth of Pakistan has really risen up and said ‘no more,’ ” said Anum Brohi of Mississauga, Khan’s 23-year-old cousin. “It has also really shown the power of social media. There were no reports about this at all for days after his murder.
“I remember my mother saying the people who did this are untouchable. But the reaction since then has really given us faith for the first time in Pakistan’s justice system.”
For decades after Pakistan was carved out of former British India, feudal lords and landowners served as police, judges and political leaders, cementing their political power by coercing itinerant labourers to vote as they saw fit.
Khan’s murder has become a daily story in the country’s English-language newspapers. A Facebook page dedicated to his memory had more than 113,000 likes on Monday. And his case has reportedly attracted the attention of numerous human rights activists and prominent Pakistanis — and Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice of the country’s supreme court.
Two days after Khan’s murder, Sindh police made two arrests, taking a pair of guards into custody. They also appointed a three-member team to oversee the investigation.
The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, reported Jan. 1 that Talpur and Jatoi had repeatedly escaped capture with the help of police informants.
Shahzeb’s father, Aurangzeb Khan, said police initially refused to register a complaint following the murder. “When my son was brought to the hospital, the police wouldn’t even come to the hospital for an inquiry,” said the victim’s father, a deputy police superintendent with 32 years on the force.
He told the Express Tribune that the Jatoi family was using its money and influence to impede the investigation. “The police only conducted raids at the suspects’ houses when they had escaped,” he said. “They should have picked up their relatives and other family members (and made inquiries). But this is not happening.”
Police began to take the case seriously after the involvement of Nabil Gabol, a senior official with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party who is a relative of Khan.
By Friday, with public interest in the case surging, Chaudhry summoned police officials to a hearing and scolded them. He gave police 24 hours to make an arrest, or risk losing their jobs.
The following day, Talpur was arrested. On Monday, he appeared in court.
“Used to sitting on comfortable sofas all his life, the son of a feudal elite was seated on a hard wooden bench outside the courtroom, waiting for his turn,” the Express Tribune reported. “The band of gun-toting guards that used to accompany him around the city was replaced with over two dozen policemen.”
At the same hearing during which the 22-year-old Talpur was remanded, Chaudhry gave police another deadline. Even as Karachi police revealed that they had reached out to Interpol after reports that Jatoi may have fled to Dubai, Chaudhry ordered police to bring him to court by Thursday.