Pakistan forgiveness laws: The price of getting away with murder
The murder was so brutal it shocked even the hardened detectives who arrived at the scene on the outskirts of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Bushra Iftikhar, a 28-year-old housewife, had been stabbed with such force that the knife her assailant used had bent out of shape, and he had continued the attack with a screwdriver.
The killer? Her husband, Sami Ullah.
The couple had four children already, and at the time of her death Bushra Iftikhar was pregnant with their fifth. Why exactly her husband killed her remains unclear. He claimed in court to have been suffering a mental breakdown and to have no recollection of the incident. Her family says he accused her of wanting to convert to another religious sect.
But what does seem clear is that Sami Ullah was a violent man. He had previously been accused of the attempted murder of a neighbour, and of being part of a violent argument at a restaurant.
Police believe he should have been in prison, but instead he didn’t even face a proper trial.
According to Bushra Iftikhar’s brother, Sami Ullah’s family were influential in the local area and had paid money to the victims of those earlier cases.
“In the old cases, he gave money and quickly got out of prison,” Mohammad Zakaria bluntly told the BBC.
Under Pakistani law, victims or their families have the right to forgive suspects in a number of serious crimes, including most instances of murder. All they have to do is state in court that they forgive a suspect “in the name of God”. In reality, legal observers agree that the primary motive for that “forgiveness” is normally financial, and the informal payment of money to victims is not illegal.
Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
What Every Muslim, Christian and Jew needs to know: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath