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Serious measures needed to take acid throwers to task

Serious measures needed to take acid throwers to task

Karachi: Acid throwers are going unchecked due to one reason or the other and a number of such cases are pending with different courts for disposal.

Though the laws dealing with such offence have now been made stricter, there is a dire need for timely disposal of such trials so that the victim families could get justice and the acid throwers the punishment for their crime.

Once there was a very negative trend of throwing acid on the faces of actresses and artistes belonging to showbiz but now it has emerged as a common weapon to settle old scores from some families.

The irony is that such violent and abnormal people sometimes act jointly to throw acid on the faces of their enemies even at public places. And most of the victims happen to be women.

Recently, four men facing trial for the heinous crime of acid-throwing managed to slip away from the City Courts premises after a sessions judge rejected their bail applications.

Usually, when a court rejects the bail application of an accused he was immediately taken into custody by the police concerned.

However, in this case, when Additional District and Sessions Judge (South) Shahid Hussain Chandio rejected the bail pleas of Asif, Yousuf, Sabir and Khadim Hussain, the City Courts and Eidgah police failed to act in time as there was confusion over jurisdiction.

Two FIRs against the four men were registered at the City Courts police station and three at Eidgah.

When the court dismissed the bail applications, these four accused exploited the technical problem on the part of the police and slipped away with ease.

The complainant in the case, Sakhawat Hussain, had alleged that the four men along with their absconding accomplices Ejaz, Iqbal and Shahid alias Guddoo, had attacked several of his relatives with acid.

It is pertinent to mention here that a few days earlier, two men had thrown acid on the face of a man in the court of district and sessions judge (West).

Acid attack has become an offence punishable with life imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs1 million after the lower house of the parliament unanimously passed a bill on the issue. However, the law has not been implemented in its true spirit, as the assailants usually get off the hook.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, one of the directors of the Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face (who was interviewed by journalist Samira Shackle) had termed acid attacks in Pakistan as a sorry story of male egotism.

The interview had pinpointed that filming on such a sensitive topic in a shame culture like Pakistan was always going to be difficult. Tension surrounded the screening of the film within the country, after some women who featured fleetingly in the film complained that they did not give permission for it to be shown in the country. No doubt the situation in Pakistan is not like that as has been painted in the interview, yet it needs to save the country from such defamation.

Acid attacks in Pakistan had hit the news again some two years back after the death of a 15-year-old girl Anusha. The parents of Anusha, the residents of Kashmir, had thrown acid on her as punishment for looking at a boy, and she died two days later.

The incident highlighted the bleak situation for women in the country, particularly in remote areas, where they are being viewed as second-class citizens.

Acid attacks – which destroy lives in an instant – are made possible by the easy availability of acid as a cheap cleaning fluid, or for use in the cotton industry. Laws introduced last year set a minimum sentence of 14 years and a maximum of life for acid attacks, but owing to the dysfunctional legal system just 10 per cent of cases make it to the court.

Though the introduction of harsh laws for the offenders is a good development, it needs much more than this in order to control such offences. Unless and until the issue is taken and considered seriously on the part of the rulers, governments, law department, prosecutors and courts the heinous crime of throwing acid on the faces and bodies of the people, particularly women, cannot be controlled.

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