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Serving justice.

May our judicial system serve justice to all victims and survivors Justicehellip a seven-letter word the importance of which can be felt only in its absence. But today, for once in my remembrance in these seven decades, I have witnessed what its manifestation looks and feels like.

Just two weeks ago while watching the last episode of much-needed TV series Meri Guriya was I applauding commendable performances of the entire crew for aptly highlighting all the issues pertinent to the increasing nuisance of paedophilia in Pakistan. Putting a bar on girls' education and outdoor activities in order to keep them in a protected' environment, holding girls and their mothers responsible for not birthing boys, raising boys with undue and unjustified privilege and supporting them in every decision they make no matter how unreasonable or criminal, and portraying victims as the real culprits for whatever happens to them are the key factors that have contributed towards making this society frustrated and vile.

Abida, the last victim of the culprit as shown in the series, was an epitome of innocence and juvenescence, yet not fully unaware of the ideas of difference between good and bad touch and not going anywhere with strangers. The protagonist was shown avoiding interaction with strangers, she was shown denying offers to be ridden home by strangers, and she was shown protecting herself in whatever ways an eight-year-old possibly can.

Only a few of those who watched the drama can disagree to the view that presence of Abida on screen reminded us of Zainab Amin every single time. And all this time the only thought that kept my mind captivated, especially when Abida's rapist and murderer was being hanged in public, was when will Zainab be served justice.

The teleplay showed the convicted being publically hanged soon after the verdict which made me think of the time that has passed since February 17 when Imran Ali Naqshbandi was sentenced to death. Justice should be speedy just as shown in this serial, I insisted in my mind, but today's media has the power of evolving the shape of our thoughts and that, too, unostentatiously.

Stringent and convinced, I got to watch the exceptional performance of Sarmad Sultan Khoosat as Prisoner Z in No Time To Sleep. The actor aptly depicted what a prisoner goes through in his last 24 hours, but this was in the case of an innocent man who was convicted for a crime he never committed.

But what about a prisoner like Imran who has been sentenced to 21 counts of death, three life sentences and a cumulative 23 years in jail after having committed heinous crimes of abduction, rape and murder against minors? Though based on the execution of wrongfully-convicted Dr Zulfiqar Ali and telecast on World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October, the actor and his performance made me realise that dying every moment' is surely an understatement for prisoners like Imran for whom the delay in issuance of death warrants is itself synonymous to kicking the calendar. The wave of paedophilia that does not seem to stop spreading its fangs any time soon His death warrants, however, were issued by an anti-terrorism court on 12 October after President Arif Alvi rejected his appeal for clemency.

Laws are made to provide justice but when I see culprits like Imran Ali exercising their right to appeal for clemency' I feel ashamed of being a part of this society. This reminds me of Socrates who was sentenced to death by the jury of Athens.

The judicial system of that time did not allow the filing of any arraignment, plea or subpoenahellip just a verdict after a trial in response to an allegation constituted the fundamentals of court proceedings. However, the dimensions and dynamics of our legal system have changed their course.

The entire discipline of jurisprudence is now based on evidences, admissible evidences, alternative dispute resolutions, bails and pleadings. Undoubtedly, it is a more genteel and labyrinthine form of the outmoded legal system and has its own perks, but accessibility of these perquisites to perpetrators along with victims is what is worrisome.

While finding the likes of Prisoner Z in our jails is surely not difficult, many Imran Ali Naqshbandis are roaming around freely outside these prisons, making justice difficult to be served. Justice, without identifying all root causes of such incidents, will remain as incomplete as the culprit's name sans the mention of his name title Naqshbandi', as stated on his business card that went viral on social media soon after his apprehension.

The general perception of targeting a particular sect is inaccurate as the sole purpose is to make us, the naiumlve masses, identify the masks behind which these culprits hide their faces. Another video clip surfaced on social media a few days ago in which a maulvi can be seen recording the clip while molesting a girl in school uniform.

What punishment could possibly serve justice to such a miscreant who sells religion in open and robs minors of their childhood in seclusion? Is such a person not a blasphemer whose tongue preaches the opposite of what his hands do? And should he then not be punished in a way similar to what our society chose for alleged blasphemers like Mashal Khan? If Mashal Khan, despite being innocent, can be brutally lynched by a mob then why Imran Ali, a monstrous beast, should be executed in Lahore Central Jail and not in public? Make Imran and his likes an example. Give him an admonitory punishment so as to make him a warning for others.

Electrocute him, throw his corpse on the same heap of garbage on which he threw Zainab's and let stray dogs notch every part of his body, or hang him publically a hundred times, but justice will be served in its true essence only when we are successful in curbing sexual violence against children and eventually bringing it to an end. The wave of paedophilia that does not seem to stop spreading its fangs any time soon has brought our society on the verge of an abysmal future to counter which revisiting our criteria and principles of sanity has now become a necessity.

May our judicial system serve justice to all the victims and survivors, for those who are not killed by criminals are made to live with traumatised minds and stigmatised bodies till their death.
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Publication:Pakistan Today (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Oct 16, 2018
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