05th Feb, 2023. 09:10 am

Minimum justice

A legal notice seeking the disqualification of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Jam Awais has been sent to Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani for his involvement in the chilling murder of journalist Nazim Jokhio. The case for disqualification has been made on the grounds of the blood money that Jam Awais paid to the victim’s family. The notice states that the payment is a form of punishment and an admission of guilt hence, reason enough for the MPA to be disqualified. To be honest, the demand for disqualifying the PPP lawmaker and the reasoning for it is only fair. The province of Sindh, out of all others, desperately needs to set its governance culture straight; setting an example that powerful feudal lords cannot get away with everything, especially murder.

Twenty-six-year-old Jokhio was found tortured to death at the farmhouse of Jam Awais in Malir, in November 2021. Jokhio’s brother Afzal had nominated Awais and his elder brother MNA Jam Abdul Karim Bijar in the initial FIR. Jokhio was alleged to have been murdered for refusing to take down a video he had filmed of the Jam’s foreign guests hunting the critically endangered and globally protected houbara bustard. The bird species has been on the red-list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2014. In Pakistan, the hunting of the houbara bustard is officially banned, yet every year a few licenses are issued to certain foreign guests for this blood sport. If this was not criminal enough, the fact that a lone man merely trying to do the right thing was murdered in cold-blood is damning. The events that followed the murder are an even greater slap in the face of Pakistan’s criminal justice system, which has repeatedly failed the underprivileged. Jokhio’s family, for whom amassing the kind of wealth and privilege the Jams enjoy could take a hundred years, if not more, was pressured into withdrawing the names of the lawmakers from the case. Jokhio’s wife even came on record to state that she has been “left alone”, eventually pardoning the murderers in exchange for blood money.

The fact that the PPP did not even pay lip-service to the allegations of murder against its lawmakers speaks volumes of all that is wrong with Sindh. At no point throughout the case did the PPP bother to disassociate itself from the Jam family. The party’s current federal minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman, was recently seen on many prestigious international platforms championing the climate justice cause in the aftermath of the 2022 floods in Pakistan. All that chest-thumping is for nothing if the party cannot set its own house straight when it comes to protecting the climate. Jokhio can very rightly be termed Pakistan’s first climate justice martyr. The Sindh government must not only appreciate his actions, but also encourage others to follow suit.

Much has already been said about the role of the police and courts in many such tragic cases. Another recent verdict against a certain police officer being a case in point. There is anything ‘just’ about the way our criminal justice system works. Evidence, witnesses, and motive – nothing appears to matter when it comes to the powerful. In Jokhio’s case too, the civil society complained about the prosecution’s dilly-dallying over presenting a charge-sheet, pointing to the protection and influence that the accused enjoyed. When the charge-sheet was eventually presented, the IO had put down the names of the Jams and their 10 servants in column II with blue ink. This is done to recommend to the court that the following names be removed from the charge-sheet. However, the judge has the power to disagree with the IO’s opinion, and nominate suspects he/she believes should be nominated. The authority remained unused in Jokhio’s case. All those nominated by the family for the murder went scot-free.

Now that the issue of the PPP MPA’s disqualification from the provincial assembly has come to light, the Sindh Assembly speaker must do right by it. The PPP should and must support the disqualification, for the sake of Jokhio’s family, as well as for each and every citizen of this province.


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