In Bhakkar, breakfast is Tiffany

Published: April 17, 2014
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Two brothers arrested for the second time, for the same crime - cannibalism.

People eat strange things. In Southeast Asia, insects are a delicacy and in East Asia, the same goes for dogs. Pig meat, a major source of protein in the diets of many peoples, are taboo for Muslims and Jews. The same applies to the noble cow for Hindus.

The reasons for these differences are manifold. So before we get ahead of ourselves, it is important to agree that ‘food’ is not an easily defined word.

In Bhakkar, two brothers were arrested for desecrating a grave. While saddening, it is not really the worst of crimes. But that is only because under Pakistani law, their ‘real crime’ does not constitute a criminal act. Again, there’s nothing surprising here. After all, how often have you heard of someone look for their lunch in a graveyard?

Lawmaking is usually reactive. A socially-unacceptable act is committed, the judicial branch realises the party committing it cannot be given a justifiable punishment under the existing laws, and the legislature reacts by making a law to ensure that a case of ‘fool me twice’ does not occur.

That explains why the Bhakkar cannibals were never tried for eating ‘Tiffany ka korma’ the first time around – it wasn’t illegal.

The problem is, three years later, when they have been caught red handed for the second time – it is still not illegal.

So where were the lawmakers?

One would assume that the local elected representatives would be most concerned by this embarrassing development in their district, yet, despite both being from the current ruling party, the issue was not brought up by either of them. While one was only elected last year, the other was also a member of the assembly when the brothers were arrested and convicted in 2011.

That time, the brothers had been enjoying dishes including a human leg, specifically that of a young woman whose body was found in the house, sans one leg. News reports on that arrest and conviction suggest that the duo had stolen, cooked and eaten over 150 bodies from graveyards, but since there was no evidence of them committing even a single murder or other violent crimes, they couldn’t possibly be given a heavy sentence.

This time, it would seem they were getting ready to cook some ‘maghaz masala’, judging by the head recovered from their possession. Much akin to their last term as guests of the Punjab Prisons system, black magic is being blamed for their acts.

Clearly, the Punjab Police have not been able to hire the services of a quality sorcerer to address this situation, and it is highly doubtful that David Blaine, Criss Angel, David Copperfield, or the guy that performed at my eighth birthday can help.

A few years ago, the much-touted acid crime law was passed. It was not in reaction to one incident but to hundreds. But there is the argument that there was one specific case that pushed it through – Fakhra Younus. It wasn’t that Younus’s case was any more or less tragic than those of hundreds of other victims, it was because of who her attacker was. A big name from a family well-acquainted with the corridors of power, the story became major news and stayed that way.

At some point, lawmakers had to do something.

Unfortunately, these two chefs from hell are not from famous families, or otherwise remarkable. They will fade from collective memory in time, and after they go to trial and then jail for another two years, they will probably be back, shovels in hand, looking for lunch in another graveyard.

Unless of course, lawmakers do something … maybe their jobs.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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