This Litany Of Killings (30 June  2000)

Pakistan Today  06/30/2000

By: Mohammad Waseem

In Pakistan, you can kill with relative impunity. You should have the right kind of motive.  A mob situation will help.  You can kill not because you are against the person, whom you may not know, but because you want to give a message to others.  Killing for a higher cause of one's community is most common. It is difficult to judge which is more numerous or more ferocious: religio-sectarian killing or ethnic killing.  Out of ten Muslims responsible for killing Christians, Hindus, or Ahmedis, only two to three are booked and one is convicted, if at all.  The same holds for Sunni killers of Shias and vice versa.  Do police hold the hands of killers?  No. Can the courts bring murderers to justice?  No, not in nine out of ten cases.  In Pakistan, you can get away with murder, literally.  Ethnic killing is carried out for supremacy in the street.  It is a function of mono-ethnic tendencies in the state structure, in the form of Punjabism for some today or Mohajirism for others yesterday.  Few among those who killed their ethnic enemies were brought to justice.  It is politics, not law, that prevails in the end.  It is considered against political expediency to pursue ethnically motivated killing.
  Bureaucracy in Pakistan contains elements within its ranks that ration out the writ of the state only selectively, in favor of sectarian brothers or co-ethnics among criminals.  Sometimes, they are part of criminal syndicates.  Murder by throwing a hand grenade in a mosq'ue or Imambargah is committed in pursuit of primitive justice.  Over the years, the state has withdrawn form the task of inculcating legality and citizen orientations among people.  You do not kill only for the honor of a whole ethnic or sectarian community.  You also kill for the honor of the tribe, faction or family.  Tribal killing in trans-Indus provinces of the NWFP and Balochistan includes revenge killing for past murders.  Justice through state is considered indirect, delayed, alien, remote, costly and incomprehensible.  Murder for murder - past or present - is a personal, quick, satisfying and understandable way to justice.  Some may consider it cruel justice but that is beside the point.
Honor killing is unrivaled as a license to kill.  In large areas of Sindh, Balochistan and elsewhere in the country, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters, and daughters-in-law are killed by brothers, brothers-in-law, fathers, and fathers-in-law.  Pakistan stands out in the community of nations in terms of intra-family killing.  Some muffled voices in Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government initially confessed that honor killing was 'also' murder.  However, no known cases of such killing have been brought before the bench for trial.  Woman is also killed for money.  Killing women by means of stove bursts or other forms of 'accidental' death is aimed at eliminating the person but hiding the real motive, i.e. lust for money, which is considered mean.  Small dowry can lead to burning of women as does suspicion about character, infertility or a situation of no male offspring.
There are murders in which no hostility is involved.  High-profile killing falls in this category.  Murder of philanthropist Hakim Saeed or Nawaz Sharif's lawyer Iqbal Raad serves the purpose of.spreading panic and political instability.  This so-called message killing reduces persons to pawns in the hands of players in the power game.  In Pakistan, life-takers are busy out in the street.  But the state has other things to do or worry about at the macro-level.  There are murders for which nobody takes responsibility.  That is even more miserable.  If one dies in a traffic accident, investigations generally do not lead to conviction.  Killing in mines or industrial units goes without any elaborate investigation. The same happens in mob killing.  A person may be killed by a slogan-raising, fuming and frothing mob for a perceived moral or religious crime.  There are no cases filed against individuals in the mob.  The crowd is their shield against prosecution. This happened when persons were accused of burning the Quran, or writing graffiti against the Prophet (PBUH) while the state is unable to unravel target killing by a mob.  It lacks the will to put murder on top of its agenda.  The killing of 100 children in Lahore in 1999 points not only to the callousness of society but also to the total incapacity of the state institutions to perform the function of law enforcement.  There is no protection for common citizens against psychopaths on the prowl.  The role of police brutality in turning a man into a beast cannot be over stressed.  Murder is a violation of the law.  This is so because there is a legal mechanism for redress of grievances.  The underworld of drug Mafia, arms traders and smugglers has little to fear from the regular courts of law in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta or Peshawar or lower down in districts.  In the crime world, violation of the prevalent 'rules of the game' has only one outcome: murder.
Many killings in the dark secret world of money launders and drug and arms traffickers from the tribal belt in the north, to Karachi in the south fall into this category.
But how about the not-so-secret world of daily life?  Here, the state kills.  It employs a variety of questionable and contrived methods to kill.  The police encounter is the most common way of eliminating perceived criminals or elements considered inconvenient. It happened under every government during the last five decades.  Fake encounters provide a recipe for killing.  The law enforcement agencies hate the so-called anti-social elements and cannot wait for the lengthy court trial and a cumbersome process of' appeals to take care of them.  They fear that courts may not find these persons guilty or may not sentence them harshly enough for their satisfaction.
Among other extra-judicial killings by the state can be included death by torture during investigation.  Lately, a government department tortured a trader to death in Faisalabad.  Another trader's death in Islamabad took place under confusing circumstances.  Hasan Nasir's death by torture in jail a generation ago continues to be the fate of many political workers as well as anti-social elements.  In the government crackdown on the MQM's cadres and workers during the 1990s, there were numerous cases of extra-judicial killings at the hands of law enforcement agencies.


Return to main documents page
P.O. Box 17202, 
Louisville, Kentucky 40217, U.S.A.