There was another murder in Karachi on the night of the 24th December 2012, some 5 months ago now. But this was not to be just another murder. This was to be a wake up call for the youth of Pakistan who had had enough of pointless killings and a lack of justice.
Armed with social media, facebook ammunition, and resultant press interest, the common man and woman, took to the streets and challenged the Feudal system.
This was a cry for justice in the case of Shahzeb Khan, a 20 year old man, about to enter his prime, whose only audacity had been to stand up for the honour of his sister. However, in doing so, he had insulted a servant of a powerful, feudal family and despite the efforts of his DSP father, Aurangzeb Khan, to patch matters up, his son was shot dead by a group of young men.
If one could have failed to have heard of the Talpurs and Jatois, this was no longer the case in Pakistan, after this incident. This is where the story departed from the known and beaten track. Normally in Pakistani society, no one would challenge such big wigs. Indeed they are powerful people, owning businesses and industries and media, with connections right to the top of the governance of Pakistan. But in this case, the youth demanded Justice and the case went public. An unusual turn of events and a brave move in Pakistan, to challenge the Feudal elite.
The family of Shahzeb, believe it was Allah’s will that the case took on a momentum of its own, with the youth demonstrating and Shahzeb’s parents, having lost their only son, catapulted to the forefront of the media. The Chief Justice took Suo Motto Notice and the prime suspect, Shahrukh Jatoi returned from Dubai, having breezed through security at the airport and arrogantly boarded a plane, without being stopped by authorities, despite being wanted for this murder. However, if he thought the media storm would blow over and his father’s money would buy him out of trouble, then how wrong he was, at least up to this juncture.
So the trial took place. The Prosecutor was suspiciously changed several times. Rumors were abound of Lawyers and witnesses being paid off. The question remains, is it possible in Pakistan to seek justice, when a common man, albeit a DSP is facing a wealthy, powerful Feudal Lord.
There were many challenges and hurdles, which threatened to throw the trial off course; many created by the power and money the accused’s family wielded. Now the trial is coming to a close, with the prosecution’s closing speech and a likely result by Wednesday the 5th June 2013. It is highly likely, that the Defendants will be convicted, despite the attempts of the wealthy culprits to thwart the justice process. But the real question is , what happens next?
Shahzeb’s father has not slept for months, for he is haunted by the image of his only son, smiling, dressed in a smart suit for his sister’s valima and then within minutes of the wedding celebrations, being found shot dead. This is a family whose life is on hold, with no flickering light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
The eldest sister of Shahzeb, speaking from London, states that her parents fear for the safety of the young witnesses, and they do not want another Shahzeb to lose a life, as no family should have to suffer the way they did. They feel a strong sense of responsibility towards them. As the trial nears an end, tensions are extremely high. If the Jatoi and Talpur men are convicted, Shahzeb’s family does not know what to expect next.
Shahzeb khan’s case has been a unique one. It has challenged the norms of Pakistani society, where the powerful are rarely questioned or convicted for the crimes that they commit. What distinguishes this case is, that it is not just Shahzeb’s family who have waited and fought for justice to be served, and not just Shahzeb’s brave friends who played a pivotal part, but there are thousands of individuals from all around the world who have demonstrated and watched with great interest and passion to see whether this is a test case for justice.
Of late, Shahzeb’s family has withdrawn from the public and press, which has further fuelled the rumor mills about deals having been done and blood money being accepted. It is these very rumors, which have led in part to the family withdrawing, as well as a setting depression. Indeed, speaking exclusively to The News International, in a (of recent) rare comment, they question, if they had accepted blood money, then how could the trial have come thus far? Tragically, they question, what will the family do with the money when they don’t have a son anymore, who could benefit from it?
Shahzeb’s family state, “People who say we cashed out a son/brother, the amount we cashed, Allah knows. We cashed duas and blessings from around the world, Allhumdulliah. Kindly give us your address, we are more than happy to buy you for a given price. We have lost a son, a brother, a friend and so much more. If money can buy a person or loved one, we are willing to pay a price for it.The same amount that someone could pay for our Shahzeb, we are ready to pay for you. Is anyone willing to be bought?”
There is no price for life. No amount of money can compensate them for the loss of their only, young and handsome son.
It is indeed wrong for the bystander to sit in judgment of a family who has lost everything, their son, their livelihood, their peace of mind, their safety. They are brave to have gone this far in their quest for justice, but they have little left to loose.
Whatever Shahzeb’s family do next, they are in a no win situation. The bigger, evil forces sabotaged the very Facebook page, In Memory of Shahzeb Khan, which highlighted this cause, having reached over a hundred thousand hits in just a few days. The page was recently hacked. False newspaper reports of the family entering into deals were maliciously published and posted on the page.
Money and power can buy a lot in Pakistan. It can buy witnesses and lawyers and media and social sites, but it remains to be seen if justice can ever really be achieved in this case, and thus in Pakistan generally. To have convictions in this case will result in a serious and complex situation for all those who fought for it. To have harsh and severe sentences will be tantamount to political suicide. It leaves the question, can there ever be Justice in this society, or is the quest a futile one?