Shahzeb Murder Case: Did We Fight for Rule of Law or Retribution?


So the parents have decided to pardon Shahrukh Jatoi and his accomplices “fi sabillillah”, i.e, “In the Way of God”.

Social and electronic media is in an uproar. TV channels are working themselves into a frenzy reporting on details of an alleged deal (worth Rs. 30 to 80 crores depending on what time you turn the TV on). Footage of a smug Shahrukh Jatoi flashing a victory sign as he leaves the court after being sentenced to death is being aired hundreds of times a day. Articles are being written saying things like “Shahzeb was shot a year ago, but he died today”. Blogs are complaining to Shahzeb’s parents that their decision to settle has killed any hope of justice in Pakistan. People are swearing that they will never participate in any mass protest or movement for justice ever again. “License to kill and license to chill”, says Geo News!

Let’s try to look at this differently… maybe this is not the mockery of the law that we are making it out to be and we shouldn’t give up on the (rather newly found) spirit of fighting for the rule of law. Let’s look at the facts again:

A rich brat killed someone on a whim. Money and influence went to work and there was an attempt to “bury” the case. The police refused to register an FIR. A protest movement ensued in which thousands of people got involved. Some simply pressed “like” on a facebook page, while others worked very hard to organize protests in the streets. The movement snowballed and started getting media coverage, which resulted in the CJ taking suo moto notice of the matter. The police moved into action and did a good job to locate Shahrukh Jatoi in Dubai, swiftly extradite him back to Pakistan and put him in jail. A court case ensued and we got exactly what we wanted: a swift trial, a conviction and a death sentence. The way I see it, that is a complete and total victory of the power of public outcry over powerful individuals trying to escape the law. We won!

Whatever happens now will not change the fact that a criminal was caught, tried, convicted and sentenced, despite belonging to a rich and powerful family. Come to think of it, that in itself is a revolution in the way our criminal justice system treats the rich and powerful. After this, Shahzeb’s parents are fully within their legal rights to pardon the killers of their son, with or without compensation. And if the parents get a ton of money in exchange for the pardon, well, good for them (let’s just hope the parents settled in exchange for monetary compensation or out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because of fear or coercion). Just because we don’t like a particular loophole in the law doesn’t mean that the law of the land has not been followed. The rule of law prevails.

Are we disappointed because we didn’t realize that there is a Qisas and Diyat law in the country? Or were we actually looking for retribution (i.e. a body hanging by a noose) and not for the law of the land to be followed? Maybe instead of getting upset about Shahrukh going free or swearing never to fight for justice again, our next step should be to demand a change in the Pakistan Penal Code, section 310, which says “In the case of qatl-i-amd (murder with intent to kill), an adult sane wali (custodian) may, at any time on accepting badl-i-sulh (compensation for settlement), compound (settle) his right of qisas (equal punishment)”.

And for those of us who still can’t tolerate the thought of the feudal brat going free: don’t lose heart just yet… we still don’t know how this turns out. The courts can still wipe that grin off Shahrukh Jatoi’s face based on section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which says: “…keeping in view the principle of fasad-fil-arz (corruption/mischief in the land) the Court may, in its discretion having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish an offender against whom the right of qisas has been waived or compounded…”. In simple words, deal or no deal, the court can still send Shahrukh Jatoi to jail or to the gallows.

We may just get our retribution.