A Special Kind Of Fear – Syed Moazzam Hai

When bodies of dead women are dragged out of graves and desecrated, when people belonging to a minority community are burned to death and when children as young as two years are raped there should be no doubt left that ours is a sick society that will never be cured by normal measures of redemption.

On Friday December 5 a woman in Qureshi Chowk, Muzaffargarh was drenched in acid by five men belonging to a local feudal family when she was on her way home from the fields where she worked as daily wage earner. The ghairatmand men of the local feudal family were ‘displeased’ by the woman’s refusal for starting a relationship with them and by her resistance to the ensuing rape attempt by them. Sixty-five percent of the woman’s body was burnt in the attack. As usual the police were reported to be under pressure by the influentials of the area.

We have become immune to such routine news and are now duly accustomed to the follow-up regimen. Such news reports are followed by the ‘notice taking’ and ‘visiting the victims or their families’ spectacle by the rulers, followed by (transitory) suspension of a few low-ranking police personnel, followed by weak FIRs, followed by the arrest of the criminals, intimidation of the victims and victims’ families, pressure by the ‘influentials’, hiring of expensive lawyers by the criminals and then an unending, painful rigmarole of ‘law;. This whole farce usually culminates in the eventual honourable release of the criminals.

We perpetually cry and decry our worsening image internationally. Our treatment of minorities, women and children is contributing heftily to our image deficit. A report in June 2014 by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) found Pakistan to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for religious minorities. Pakistan was also ranked 141among 142 countries in the annual Global Gender Gap Report published in October 2014 by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which put Pakistan in the second last position for gender equality.

During the 67 years of our professed independence – six provincial and three federal governments of the PML and five provincial and four federal governments of the PPP – the conditions for the lives of ordinary Pakistanis particularly the minorities, women and children have kept worsening. With such a track record we would probably need another 67 years to have a seemingly normal and relatively safe human society for the most vulnerable among us.

All we need is to sow ‘fear’ deep down in the murky muddy hearts and minds of the possible perpetrators of crimes against minorities, women and children. Our parliamentarians have recently shown remarkable unity in safeguarding what they call democracy, since nearly all of them (including those who deem burying women alive as their proud culture) proclaim to be the champions of the rights of the people of this country including of course the minorities, women and children.

These parliamentarians should pass legislation to form a federal rapid action force empowered to act in all provinces at the calls and news of distress faced by minorities, women and children. The rapid action force should be headed by honest and smart senior police or Rangers officers to be appointed by the Supreme Court and comprising the best police commandos from all provinces. That force should work under a vigilante panel of well-reputed senior retired judges.

Accompanying that force should be speedy trial courts to be headed by judges whose identities should be kept anonymous. These proposed speedy trial courts should be empowered to award special sentences. DNA evidence should be used in rape cases.

The speedy trial courts should be mandated to announce their verdict in three weeks. The sentences should be carried out in the fourth week. The rapid action force and speedy courts should be a wholly independent entity and must be endowed with powers to utilise relevant federal and provincial government departments for help when and where needed. This will be crucial to enable them to act against any criminal of any size and influence.

The above mentioned measures and their application would help create the needed fear factor for possible perpetrators. Only that fear can save our minorities, women and children.