PRESS RELEASE: CONCERNED CITIZENS AND CIVIL SOCIETY DEMAND THE GOVERNMENT RE-VISIT THE QISAS & DIYAT ORDINANCE OF 1990
17th September, 2013; Islamabad: In response to the out of court compromise in the much highlighted case of Shahzeb Khan, the civil society of Pakistan sent a Petition to the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Minister for Law, Justice & Human Rights demanding that the government re-visit the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance of 1990. The Petition was signed and endorsed by approximately nine hundred (900) signatories including noted human rights activists, educationists, lawyers, media personnel, civil society organizations and concerned citizens of Pakistan. Concerns of the citizens of Pakistan were extrapolated in the following words:
“Over the past three years two major cases have come forward that have highlighted gross miscarriage of justice at a notable national level: one was the notorious case of Raymond Davis and the other the recent case of Shahzeb. This brings forth the despondent fact that the State laws are inadequate in providing justice to the victims of the crime of murder. Such laws have become the province of the rich and powerful who can easily exploit economic disparity and buy their way out of the crimes committed. A law which gives impunity to the rich and powerful is not an equitable law. We condemn this current legal disposition in strong words! Any law to be used as a tool to exploit the poor and vulnerable cannot be based on the precepts of equality and justice as enshrined in our Constitution.”
Upon circulation, the Petition had received comments from intellectuals and human rights defenders who not only endorsed the Petition but also added their condemnation of the current position of the law of murder. Dr. Farzana Bari, Director of Gender Study Center said: “The statement also includes the issue of impunity of those who kill women in the name of ‘honour’.” Many activists, including the respected Nasreen Azhar, pointed out their struggle against this law as it has also been abused over the years to exonerate those who have been criminally liable for honour killing. Dr. Fouzia Saeed simply summed up her position in the following words: “Murder should be a crime against the state and not a person” whereas Naseer Memon of SPO opined “Discriminatory laws should be abolished and justice should not be made a commodity of market.” The Petition was filled with fired up remarks from many citizens who felt that the current laws pertaining to murder protected the rich and powerful and exploited the weak and vulnerable.
The Petition concluded the following request: “We request the current government to re-visit the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance of 1990 and ensure sufficient mechanisms within the law to achieve justice and equality for all as per our Constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 3, 9 and 25. Murder should be a crime against the State and the State should take all measures to bring justice to the footsteps of the victims and their families.”
The manifold signatures and comments show that the citizens of Pakistan want to witness the change that they all voted for in the May 2013 elections. “We do not want token gestures but long-term and ‘institutionalized’ change in our systems now” remarked Khadija Ali, President of a youth-led organization named Tabeer. The NED 2013 Democracy Award Recipient and Chairperson of Aware Girls – Gulalai Ismial stated: “It’s key time to adapt our laws so that everyone is protected regardless of their financial status or religion, this country belongs to poor and powerless too.” The civil society hopes that the current government would keep its doors open to the demands and suggestions of its people and shall adopt a policy of partnership when it comes to ensuring greater protection of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.
Complete Petition along with signatures of the concerned citizens and civil society activists can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sDQDjANPqshFt3MVJO6OHzShnaRHeaBYscjq21yFIOU/edit?usp=sharing