Shahzeb and Hamza: What makes murder worthy of coverage?

Published: April 4, 2013

The logic is simple: demand versus supply. But does media coverage really matter?

He was just around 20. He was his parents’ only son.

He was shot dead — allegedly by the son of an influential person — at point-blank range. His body was found in the DHA locality.

Shahzeb Khan? No. This is Hamza Elahi.

A resident of Lahore, Hamza was found dead in DHA Phase VI on June 2, 2012. He was allegedly murdered by his friend Shan Khusro, over jealousy (as claimed by the administrators of his memorial page). Shan — son of former Lahore commissioner and Additional Federal Secretary Khusro Pervaiz — admitted to shooting, but by accident. Shan said he was trying to remove a bullet from the chamber of a gun he was carrying, when it went off accidentally, hitting Hamza in the head. In panic, he threw the body out of the car and drove away, he said.

This murder happened around six months before Shahzeb’s killing. However, not many people know about it.

Why? Because the media treated both cases differently.

Shahzeb made it to the front page right from the beginning, but Hamza was buried between many trivial stories on the inside pages. For The Express Tribune alone, the website has a separate URL for Shahzeb where all the stories related to the case can be found. But Hamza only managed to garner 12 stories in the paper and the website altogether.

The Karachi killing is usually slugged as “Shahzeb Khan murder case” but the Lahore one is tagged just as “Murder case.”

One wonders why so?

My guess is the social media outburst that followed Shahzeb’s murder. Media picked up on the killing because of the uproar created by Shahzeb’s loved ones online. In a matter of a few days, almost everyone knew the details of the murder, thus swelling the pressure group. However, Hamza was still just known to his family and friends.

The media fed its audience, who wanted to know about the developments in Shahzeb’s case, while there was not much calling for what is going on in Hamza’s murder trial.

The logic is simple: demand versus supply. But does media coverage really matter?

Yes. Sadly, we live in a society where murders have become a part of our daily lives. There are just too many killings taking place for our system to hand out justice swiftly. We have the Sialkot brothers, the Lyari twins and hundreds of others. But what’s more ironic is the fact that our system, at times, selects who deserves justice on the basis of the victim’s background, media coverage and the public response to the murder.

Why is a murder not just a murder? Why do we classify a killing on the basis of ‘who’ is murdered rather than just the death of a human being?

Read more by Ferya here or follow her on Twitter @ferya_ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

A sub editor on the Web Desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @ferya_ilyas (twitter.com/ferya_ilyas)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pro Bono Publico

    Miss Ferya,

    Thanks-so-much for sharing the info, its a very-painful reality for all us. Though i am from Karachi, i am sure many are still unaware of such case. Its really a heart-wrenching condition for the people of Pakistan, those who are bearing the brunt of ever-increasing tax, double-digit-inflation and numerous lot others are not even safe in their very own country. For surely, i would term these(payments-to-govt) a bhatta. Cause in both the cases, you end up loosing and wasting your hard-earned-earnings.

    May Allah S.w.t bless this nation with pious and sincere leaders. AmeenRecommend

  • Rehan

    Also, Shahzeb’s father was DIG Police or something and was related to Nabeel Gabol. This Hamza guy knew no one influential.Recommend

  • Something Clever

    “Why is a murder not just a murder? Why do we classify a killing on the basis of ‘who’ is murdered rather than just the death of a human being?”

    That’s not the thing to concentrate on. People have to hear about something to bring attention to it. If new information doesn’t come in, the story fades. The deciding factor is how loud people linked in some way to the murder are. Even thinking it’s due to being famous isn’t completely correct. Famous people just have a lot of those loud people.Recommend

  • T

    shahzeb’s background has not much to do with the coverage he got. As far as i believe it was the outcry of his family and friends on social media and outside which resulted in such media coverage and public response. They exerted great effort in coming out, rallying and protesting and raising a voice for this injustice. And yes it was for shahzeb but that takes into account all other injustices too.

    Therefore, singling out shahzeb as a special case is unfair. Infact, we should acknowledge that at least someone was heard in this jungle. Again, shahzeb’s family and friends did not do this for shahzeb only. There is no discrimination here. Recommend

  • Sheikh Salman

    You are highlighting this story in Media so it is cover-able and good for your blog publicity, May be persons living in DHA and Clifton are human. What about thousand of others killed???Recommend

  • Skeptical

    Shahzab Khan’s murder coverage has nothing to do with his influential family background. His murder case is hyped up all because of his family and friends, who are brave enough to face TV and Newspaper interviews and speak out the truth.
    Media in this case is not to be blamed!! Who from Hamza’s family or friend’s circle came on media front? Let aside Hamza….What about the Lyari twins?? I read at ET only that their parents have left the place they were living at and were unwilling to face media. If they, themselves are not willing to fight for justice then why do we expect media or anyone to get into this…..
    I salute Shahzeb’s family and friends for their bravery!!Recommend

  • The Rebel

    I was Hamza’s class mate in A level last year. The sudden news of his passing away, right around the time of our exams, took us all by shock. But the media probably didn’t think of it as a high profile story, hence the snub. Still can’t believe it’s almost going to be a year since his death. How time flies. :(Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    I had a gut feeling, it was a matter of time before some one mentioned this, not too sound insensitive, but the amount of activity on social media and those using offline channels with respect to Shahzeb Khan murder case would probably have not happened if he was not so popular among his friends,family,cousins and their social circle. If he was just an ordinary chap among his friends and family, he would have long become a fading memory by now.Recommend

  • some one

    Has Either of them Got JUSTICE ?Recommend

  • Shaiza

    Well, to some extent I agree with you but again, this was somewhat due to the efforts of his friends, they knew that the case would just be regarded a murder case if they dont take quick measures about it. They have sort of paved a path for those who dont get justice and the attention they deserve from the media.
    But coming again to the fact that despite all of this attention his case is still lingering in the court, the eye witnesses are being threatened and bribed. Where is the media now?Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    Human life has become cheap in Pakistan, due to the corrupt system be it the police or the judiciary. Shahzeb’s father is a police officer. I wonder if in his long career he had ever let out a murderer because an influential person’s phone came…If you do not set your country straight and let the wild animals roam, they will surely at some time come back and attack your own home…Recommend

  • Asjad

    Well lets then a uproar on social media for Hamza too shall we? can we? lets just hope we can make a difference like Shahzab’s sister does each day many times?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/alibajwa Ali Bajwa

    A very ill-informed blog post to say the least, Shan was immediately taken into judicial remand unlike Shahzeb who fled (difference between Punjab and Sindh dare i say?) Shan has already been booked for murder, if you only had checked the case facts.Furthermore Shan has not even applied for bail unlike Shahzeb. If one has to draw analogies make sure at-least they have some form of link. Thank youRecommend

  • Sane

    Our law enforcers and government as whole has failed to book murders and dispose justice. This is badly needed that a voluntary citizen’s forum is formed to highlight and provide aid (not legal) that such crimes are brought in limelight and justice is disposed. This needs to have a proper follow-up of all case proceedings put on website as well.

    This is the only way in my opinion that heinous crimes could be curtailed. Otherwise, our govt or those who matter……….??!! no need to explain.

    Would media come up for HAMZA?Recommend

  • Dania

    @Skeptical:
    I second with Skeptical.Recommend

  • Maxwood

    We are ashamed of ourselves Recommend

  • Sane

    My beloved Pakistanis: Shahzeb Murder case is a test case. If killers are not punished this time then in future no powerful or influential shall be punished. All such cases would be ‘Reymond Davis’ case. Standup United against criminals.Recommend

  • Shaiza

    Exactly, the Shahzeb murder case is a test case. We all know what happened, we all know who were the murderers, we all saw how the murderers managed to escape and how the victim’s family was threatened and witnesses were bribed. Let’s see how just our system is.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I do remember reading about Hamza’s case and what you have said is most true.
    In the last 5 years just about everything has gone wrong, the politicians looted and plundered, the establishment went into hiding, the bureaucrat always the opportunist stayed true to himself, the religious extremists saw confusion and capatalised on it, the media did try but realised its limitations but most of all our law enforcers and the judiciary are to blame for failing miserably in doing what they are duty bound to do.
    In such an environment I am not surprised that Hamza was deliberately forgotten and every effort is being made to scuttle the porcess of giving justice to Shahzeb.Recommend

  • liberal_pak

    One murderer was supposedly son of Sindhi Feudal cum businessman and a easy punch punching bag in Media but other was not. That may answer ur question. Recommend

  • Maxwood

    @liberal_pak:

    This is true, Feudal and Politicians are easy targets for media campaigns. But taking the life of a human in such cold blooded manner is a crime.

    And in our society which had no system before, it is expected to highlight something more than the other.

    But, with the will of God, we as Pakistanis will witness the new era in 5 to 10 years time Inshallah, after selecting people like Arif Alvi, Aleem, Mian Rasheed and others and obviously under the supervision and lead of IK Recommend

  • Sheraz

    Very interesting blog indeed! I noticed that both the murderers of these innocent kids belong to very influential families. So the question is could one(Khusro) MANAGED to suppress this in media where the other trying the same but could not- since it went too far?
    Some other commonalities:
    1-Both the muderderes had escaped the country and came back after the immense pressure from the street.
    2-Both of them are enjoying the highest amenities in their Jail- rather Shan Khusro has not been yet sent to central jail even after his indictment.
    3-In both the cases politicians had to be involved to get the arrests and get the case going – God knows under what assurities.

    What a shame!Recommend

  • http://WWW.REGIONALPOST.COM ZIA

    you should highlight this matter on the Social Media,,,Recommend

  • Kiran

    What an absolutely inappropriate post! The reason that Shahzeb’s murder case became so popular and known to everyone was solely because of his family and friends’ courage, dedication an determination to get justice for their beloved son/brother/friend. My heart goes out to Hamza Elahi, he was an absolute gem and there is no doubt whatsoever that he deserves justice as much as Shahzeb does but the fact is that his murderer was caught and sentenced as well but Shahzeb’s murderer is still confident that he will get out. Who says that Hamza Elahi wasn’t rich? He was rich, more than Shahzeb so this is no argument. Shahzeb’s case is a test case because his murderer belongs to an extremely influential family, and we can see what is being done to this case. This case deserves to be highlighted because the murderers are known and are very influential.Recommend

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    Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your blog. You have some really good articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an e-mail if interested. Cheers!Recommend