Saturday September 18, 2021

Justice for all?

The hashtag ‘Justice for Noor’ continues to gain traction on Twitter in the wake of Noor Mukadam’s tragic killing in Islamabad, underlining the popular backlash to a horrible crime.

Even by standards of the most inhumane murders in Pakistan’s history, Noor Mukadam’s case stands out as a rare example of unprecedented brutality targeting a victim. It is now imperative that this crime must not become confined to the dustbin of history as just another number in a long list of victims, notably women, targeted with brutality.

As members of Pakistan’s civil society and others join hands to seek justice for Noor, they must continue their campaign actively till the perpetrator of this crime meets the justice that he so rightly deserves.

For Noor Mukadam’s family, notably her parents and siblings, punishment of the accused once found guilty will not end the turmoil in their lives. But at the very least, the cause of justice in this specific case will be served. Beyond justice for Noor however, there lies a long road ahead for Pakistan coming to terms with scores of other terrible cases involving innocent victims.

For Pakistan’s state, society and the country at large, the cause of serving justice for Noor – though vital on its own – nevertheless leaves the cause of justice unresolved. Tackling the many gaps surrounding the cause of justice may eventually ensure that crimes like the terrible killing of Noor Mukadam are not repeated.

At the very least, there are two pivotal steps necessary in defining the way forward.

On the one hand, there are critical steps that the state of Pakistan must take immediately. Reforming Pakistan’s police is a cause that has received ample lip service in the past. Improving the capacity of Pakistan’s police has been repeatedly discussed at various public forums though adequate action is waiting to take place. In the interim, it is vital for the federal government to move swiftly to create a world class force of crime investigators armed with adequate resources, ready to be deployed at short notice anywhere across Pakistan to probe a crime. In tandem, a high-powered task force comprising legal experts must be immediately formed to advise politicians in parliament for backing legislation to improve prosecution of criminals involved in heinous crimes, notably murders.

On the other hand, some of the most troubling details reported publicly in relation to the accused in the murder of Noor Mukadam include a long-term use of drugs and affliction with an acute psychological ailment. It is still premature to rely on these details as vital triggers behind this crime, unless they are confirmed independently.

But the proliferation of drugs and anecdotal evidence of the spread of mental health issues are important enough for Pakistan to be tackled at the earliest. For too long, successive governments have given little more than lip service to embracing an aggressive push against the widespread use of drugs across Pakistan. The matter of drugs is serious enough that it must be seen as a threat to Pakistan’s national security interests. Unlike countries in the far East, it is hard to remember an individual in Pakistan ever sent to the gallows for execution on a drug charge.

Meanwhile, the matter of mental health is alarming enough that it must be immediately adopted by all political parties, the civil society and others as a national cause. Across Pakistan, there are far too few well-trained psychiatrists, especially at affordable government hospitals, to provide services to existing or prospective patients. The shift towards enlarging such services must go hand in hand with an improvement in acceptance of mental health as an issue just like any other ailment.

As Pakistan has already wasted precious time, it is vital to move swiftly and comprehensively in tackling matters related to policing, prosecution and trial of perpetrators involved in murders, especially in cases targeting women. Without a dramatic change in protecting women from such crimes in future, Pakistan will never succeed in progressing to become an enlightened country. And even with the closure of Noor Mukadam’s case through successful prosecution, her sacrifice must become a trigger to mark a long-awaited change in Pakistan.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist who writes on political and economic affairs.

Email: [email protected]