Pakistan’s society has always been violent. At least that's how I’ve known it since I can remember and began to analyze people's behavior in various circumstances.
Society seems to have one solution for all problems and that is awarding maximum punishment to every person who commits a crime, irrespective of the nature of the crime.
The same “rule” is applied to punish children even for minor acts. Corporal punishment at school as well as in homes is normal and the rationale is: “They will never think of committing such an act ever again.”
Let’s shift the focus of penalty to the verdict in the Noor Mukadam murder case in which an Islamabad court awarded capital punishment to Zahir Jaffer — the prime accused in the case.
After the heinous murder of 27-year-old Noor in Islamabad came to surface in July 2021, every person in the country was demanding that Zahir be hanged so that justice can be served to the victim and the bereaved.
Now that we have the verdict, we can ask has justice been served to Noor and her family?
I’d prefer to ask another question: Is capital punishment the only sentence in the country’s justice system for crimes, such as murder or rape followed by murder?
If you believe it is, then why has the rate of violence against women and children not reduced despite the death sentences awarded to rapists and murders?
According to a Sustainable Social Development Organization report, 1,980 cases of child abuse, 1,422 cases of domestic violence and 9,401 cases of violence against women, 4,321 cases of rape and 15,714 cases of kidnapping were reported in 2020 across the country.
Perhaps we need to think deeper and analyze why violence persists across society?
One reason is the patriarchal mindset prevailing in our society.. This mindset has assigned certain roles to women and barred them from taking part in other roles. Male members of family — fathers, brothers, husbands, cousins, you name it— take it upon themselves to act as decision makers on behalf of women n their families.
Are we working to resolve this issue that is deeply rooted in society?
How a woman should dress? Where should she go outside the house? Who can she leave the home with ? At what time should she go outside the house? Which profession should she pursue? The list of decisions made for her by male members of her family is endless.
Then there’s a male’s upbringing which plays a major role in crimes against women and children. Usually, Pakistani parents consider their sons more capable and stronger than their daughters. This establishes an imbalance attitude with children where girls are considered less in all spheres of life compared to boys who are reminded time and again that they are in a dominating position. It encourages young boys to consider women inferior, use power against them and force them to act according to men’s wishes.
Are parents working to promote and implement equal attitude towards daughters and sons? Are they working to raise sons in an environment wherein they ensure the young boys learn to respect women, their views and most important admit their presence in society as an equal human being?
There’s plenty of literature to show how many perpetrators of violence against children and women have been abused in their childhood. This is not a justification of committing assault against the vulnerable but does society ensure safety for children and that their mental health remains a priority?.
Have we thought about all the questions raised above?
If yes, then are we implementing them in homes?
If society hasn’t done the work on this, how can it award capital punishment for crimes as heinous as murder and rape and other acts of violence against females and children?
Can we think of other solutions to rehabilitate men in prisons, especially when hanging them has not proven to be a successful detriment to crimes?
Their rehabilitation allows them time to reflect on what they have done, why they have done it, what are its consequences and all other questions which make them regret their commission of crime.
No regret will bring a deceased back or minimize the harm which has been done in society. However, this regret along with proper counselling, training and education may help change a criminal to a person who can invest in society.
Noor won’t return and her family’s suffering would never become less. But will hanging Zahir resolve the issue of violence against women and children? Or should the justice system move towards rehabilitation of criminals?
The writer is a staff member and tweets at @fatimash29