Justice prevails – 15 Mar 2023

Justice system does work but only when put under the spotlight

After a long delay, justice finally prevailed when the Islamabad High Court upheld Zahir Jaffer’s death sentence in the Noor Mukadam murder case and also converted his 25-year jail term into another death penalty. The household staff who were complicit in the incident too received due punishment, setting a huge precedence for people involved or for withholding information in such situations. But more than this, it is an enormous win for women across the country who regularly face violence and abuse.

The case had quickly gained national recognition and society raised its voice against the barbaric crime. All was on show for the public. Therefore, it was important for the case to conclude in a proper legal manner — without direct external intervention and with Zahir being given his plea chances in higher courts — in order to show that justice is not completely elusive in Pakistan. The justice system does work but only when put under the spotlight. Civil society should feel a sense of empowerment and activists motivated about that fact that their voices can make a difference. But this unfortunately is a rare occasion. Majority of gender-based violence cases do not receive due recognition and are often “settled” without further action. With thousands of cases pending and conviction rates deplorably low, the justice system is making matters worse by letting perpetrators off the hook. This case should be set as a benchmark for all other similar cases to be taken seriously, especially by LEAs who often manipulate evidence and investigations.

The win comes with a huge burden that we, as a collective, must continue to raise our voice, advocate, and legislate for the protection of our basic rights. It must also serve as an eye-opener for officials who need to work towards reforming the justice system of the country.

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