An outrageous case of attempted murder registered against a 9-month-old infant Muhammad Musa Khan has been withdrawn after the police removed his name from the First Information Report (FIR). The case, however, shows the unruly nature of the police as well as the dysfunctional legal system that would allow an infant to be brought to court on such charges and fingerprinted. Have they lost their minds?
Saturday April 12, 2014, 12:53 DST
It must be the most bizarre case ever recorded in history. A 9-month-old infant was charged with attempted murder in Lahore earlier this month, and astonishingly presented in court where his poor parents had to plea for bail.
As part of bringing some sanity to this outrageous case, the police struck off the baby’s name from the First Information Report (FIR), an archaic law dating back to British colonial times, enabling the baby’s lawyer to withdraw his plea for bail earlier today.
The nine-month-old baby, Mohammad Musa Khan, became ensnared in the case when a police constable, one Kashif Muhammad charged him together with his father, grandfather and other relatives, a total of 30 people, for attempted murder.
The policeman alleged that baby Musa and his family were involved in throwing rocks at gas company officials that had gone to the low-income neighbourhood of Ahata Thanedaran of Lahore on April 1, the family's lawyer Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq told AFP.
The gas officials were there to collect overdue bills and threatened to cut off gas supplies if the bills were not paid. A crowd gathered to protest against the visit of gas company officials. The people were protesting against gas cuts—a regular occurrence in Pakistan—as well as exorbitant price increases.
The unruly police that habitually create more problems for ordinary people went to work. Nine-month-old baby Musa was also booked together with his family members with attempted murder. He appeared in court in Lahore on April 4.
As the terrified infant screamed, a court official took his fingerprints. The boy’s father, a labourer, calmed the baby by giving him milk from a bottle. “He can’t even lift his milk bottle, how can he throw stones at the police or anyone else?” asked the infant’s teary-eyed grandfather.
Why the presiding judge allowed such an outrageous charge to be presented in court and then have the baby fingerprinted in beyond comprehension.
The news naturally gained widespread media attention forcing the Punjab government to order an inquiry—yes, an inquiry. The policeman was suspended until the inquiry is completed.
Did the case deserve an inquiry or the summary dismissal of the police constable and his public whipping to make him an example to other unruly police officials to prevent them from wasting the state’s resources on such frivolous matters?
“Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that's why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection,” the baby's grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters after he had brought the child to court on April 4.
While the charge against the infant has been withdrawn, it raises serious questions about the judicial system as well as how poor people are humiliated and oppressed. Why has the judge in the case not been dismissed for even entertaining such a case?
The court merely issued a show-cause notice to the policeman over what it called “dereliction of duty”.
There are different sets of rules in Pakistan. The rich can literally get away with murder in connivance with the police; the poor are terrorized and oppressed.
One is reminded of a case in 1997 when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister. Two members of the Punjab provincial assembly were stopped by an honest police officer as they violated a traffic red light. The police officer charged them for breach of traffic rulers.
Instead of appreciating the honesty of the police officer, the provincial assemblymen complained to Sharif who was then enjoying holidays in the summer resort town of Murree. Sharif immediately had the “offending” police officer as well as the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police transferred from Lahore.
What was the police officers’ fault: that they had dared stop the elites from violating the law? And what about the infant Musa who had broken no law—he could not at his age—but was charged with attempted murder?
Perhaps, the presiding judge should have asked for some stones to be brought to court and placed before baby Musa to see what he would do with them. After demonstrating that it was impossible for a baby of that age throw them at anyone, the police constable should have been whipped immediately and his superiors dismissed from service.
The judge could have gone further: he could have ordered the gas company officials to appear in court and explain whether they have ever dared to go after the elites—politicians, generals, police officers, or even judges—that have never paid their gas bills in decades. Are the laws meant only to terrorize the poor?
Unless the unruly police are brought under control and an archaic law like the FIR removed from statutes, the people of Pakistan will continue to suffer at the hands of these tyrants.