Right to life is the most precious of human rights. For any society, it is the cornerstone and basic indicator of safety and security. Pakistan’s Constitution also guarantees the right to life and obliges the state to protect it. Unfortunately, this right is getting trampled upon on a daily basis in the most brazen manner. The chief cause of the violation of this right is the impunity that the perpetrators enjoy. They know that they can get off scot free after committing the most heinous crime. Modern state response to murders is aggressive policing and certainty of punishment. A very relevant and recent example is the rejection of appeal against conviction of murderers of Imran Farooq by the Islamabad High Court (reported as 2022 P. Cr. L. J). It is a known fact that Imran Farooq was murdered in London, the UK on 16th September, 2010. His murderers escaped the UK and reached Pakistan via Sri Lanka. The police in the UK investigated the case, followed up with Pakistan’s authorities, sent their officers and lawyers to testify and present their investigation in the trial and secured the conviction of the offenders. Mr. Imran Farooq was not a citizen of the UK, but the realization was there in the UK that the offenders must be nabbed to ward off the perception of lawlessness and impunity. The police, prosecution and the judicial system of the UK acted, in tandem, to respond to the crime and ensured that, in absence of an extradition treaty, the perpetrators get punishment. This type of response from Pakistan’s legal and judicial system can restore trust of Pakistanis on its police, prosecution and judiciary. To do that, the leadership of Pakistan’s legal and judicial system must take stock of the situation. Blame game within different components of the criminal justice system is counterproductive and is eroding the belief of citizens in the rule of law in the country emboldening them to take law in their own hands. Through this brief essay, an attempt will be made to share practitioner’s notes on some of the structural issues that go at the heart of policing murders in Pakistan; these issues are:
First, we must muster the will to reform. There is ample capacity, commitment and professionalism in police and prosecution in Pakistan, but the leadership needs to exhibit will power to change the way things are done. The point of departure in this regard is organizational and internal reforms enabling professionalism to steer the course of things and to act in the best interest of the organizations and public at large. Communication and reaching out to civil society and media may be a key to expressing the will as this may attribute reforms with the required level of centrality and mainstreaming. Often people talk about charter of economy to be agreed between all the political and non-political stakeholders in the country, but only very few hint at initiating commitment to introduce charter of justice. It is naive to expect that there will be any economic prosperity without peace and justice. In terms of policing murders, the federation and the provinces must work in unison as required by articles 142 and 143 of the constitution. Without complementing role of all the governmental structures, heinous crimes of murders cannot be effectively prevented, detected and prosecuted.
Secondly, there is a strong need to strategize on policing murders in the country. The strategy is to be rolled out by police and the key in preparing the strategy is the availability of statistics related to murders. Only after knowing the extent of murders, police can plan to prevent these egregious acts of murders that fuel lawlessness in the country. Resource allocation is also linked to accurate measurement of the crime. Presently, police record murder crimes on the basis of information received. This makes the exercise passive. An active involvement would require not only including and counting all the underreported and non-reported cases, but also carrying out nuanced disaggregation of data to study the modus operandi, motives, causes, victim-types and perpetrator-types. The underreported cases include murders committed on roads in form of planned fatal accidents and the non-reported cases involve cases taking place in controlled environments like houses (e.g., honour killing). An active and accurate measurement of murders will improve the data sets of other components of criminal justice system as the data sets of prosecution and judiciary are fed by police records.
Thirdly, the law related to murder has seen major recast. It was based on the English Criminal Law till 1989 when it was substituted with the Islamic Criminal Law (Qisas and Diyat regime). The mold of the Islamic Criminal Law was qualitatively different from the English Criminal Law as the latter was supplemented with developed criminal procedure practices that were subjected to judicial reviews on the standards set by the English Courts. The Islamic Criminal Law, in terms of its objectives, caters to deterrent, restitution and restorative justice paradigms of criminology. The Islamic Criminal Law requires addressing rights of victims, state and Allah. In practice, however, the courts in Pakistan confine the Islamic Criminal Law only to the rights of victims by privatizing murders. This privatization of murders has equated the compromises with civil contracts and the courts tend to show the deference of a contract to compromise without looking at the tri-partite nature (state-victim-accused) of the matter. This treatment of murders as private matters (akin to civil or tortious wrongs) is at the nub of mischief and is affecting the whole criminal justice system. Predominantly, the police have, instead of collecting evidence and arresting perpetrator on the basis of it, started working as mediating agents with dealing wheeling attitude to get cut in the blood money as ‘commission for services’. The prosecutors, likewise, have stopped preparing cases on the premise that adjudication will not take place if compromise is affected. In the same vein, the judges also find it convenient to wind up trials on the basis of compromises to earn quick credit for disposal. The procedural anomalies have nothing to do with the Islamic Criminal Law; the primer behind the state of affairs is procedural interpretation where adjective law has been given precedence over substantive law. Charging under one law or the other does not take away the right of the society and state to prosecute and punish culprits; confining murders to victims only is against the black letter law that leaves much authority in the hands of judges.
Fourthly, the murders of children and women must get special attention. Many cases are reported in media in which young girls and boys get murdered after sexual abuse. Likewise, honour killings and aggravated domestic violence cases that end up in violent murders also need to be traced and legal processes of unnatural deaths in forms section 174 Code of Criminal Procedure must be streamlined by enhancing the level of their supervision within police department. Cases of murder of children and women invite public wrath and fortify the perception that state is failing vulnerable segments by not protecting them. Killing children can be prevented by maintaining sex offenders’ registry, which must keep record of persons convicted and arraigned for sex crimes. Such persons should be kept in check by regular technological surveillance as empirical evidence shows that they kill victims to conceal their identities. Likewise, their DNA database may also be maintained to ensure that it helps in reverse tracing the culprits.
Fifthly, targeted killing is being witnessed in urban centres of the country. These target killings are committed, most often than not, by hired assassins. These hired assassins/murderers/shooters adopt criminal careers and often have a crime record, which if properly maintained, can connect them to the crime scenes. Anyone accused of murders in more than two murder cases must be red flagged and his frequent telephonic contacts must be monitored closely. Travelling abroad of these shooters/killers must be conditioned with fresh police certificates to keep them under strict check.
Sixthly, in preventing murders, the supply of arms and ammunition along with strengthening legal framework of aerial firing, can bring about a major impact. The licensing of arms and ammunitions needs to be fully regulated and law related to attempt to kill and aerial firing must be amended enabling police, prosecution and judiciary to implement the law in letter and spirit.
Lastly, the international and inter-provincial cooperation are areas in which mutual legal assistance and dissemination of information against criminals must be fully explored. The global trend of entering into international treaties is now changing and international soft law in form of statutory enabling provisions in national laws are making the international cooperation robust. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) is taking centre stage insofar as the mutual arrangement of states is concerned. In addition, the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), which is continental in its origin, has started integrating its processes with the UN system. Pakistan is a member to all these institutions and must take full advantage of the systems put in place by the international community.
These structural issues are by no means exhaustive. Each province and territory of Pakistan has its own share of challenges to deal with in policing murders. There is greater need to enter into partnerships within governmental and non-governmental organizations to make sure that every individual is protected and the right to life is fully preserved.