It can be hard to decipher whether there was a greater tragedy on the streets of Sahiwal or in the courtroom which acquitted all suspects behind the macabre killing of an innocent family.
An anti-terrorism court in Lahore acquitted all six policemen of the counter-terrorism department giving them the benefit of doubt. The incident happened in January when a family, including three children and their parents, along with their driver were travelling when their car was stopped and fired upon by policemen suspecting the passengers to be terrorists.
Two children survived the attack while four others were killed in broad daylight. The minors did not identify the suspects in court but their lives will be forever be traumatised watching their parents be murdered. The victim’s families seemed unwilling to contest the case, raising concerns that a deal may have been struck.
The case highlights the inherent flaws in our judicial system and the lapses in prosecution which often lead to delayed trials or acquittals. There was enough video evidence linking the suspect to the killings but it was not sufficient enough to be acceptable by the court. Moreover, the verdict is an embarrassment for the government which was unable to provide justice to the victims.
To save face, the government has decided to challenge the acquittal and will appeal against the verdict. The victim’s family have surrendered and are unwilling to fight the case further having accepted the verdict. It is unbearable to see your loved ones shot and much worse when it is committed by those sworn to protect you.
On the same day as the Sahiwal suspects walked free, a court in Bangladesh sentenced sixteen to death for the murder of a student set on fire after accusing her teacher of sexual harassment. The case of Nusrat Jahan Rafi in April had shocked the country and led to several protests demanding justice.
The swift justice in Bangladesh should serve as food for thought in Pakistan. The trial was one of the quickest in the country, completed within sixty-two days. The prosecutor stated that no one could get away with murder in Bangladesh. However, back home in Sahiwal, the gruesome killing exposed the culture of impunity in crimes involving police personnel.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had vowed to reform the Punjab Police but all efforts have been in vain. He had expressed grief and anger at the killings and assured that the suspects would be given an exemplary punishment. This was a test case to prove their mettle but it seems a lot more needs to be done before justice is dispensed in this nation.