School, college, prison: The ethics of the educated criminal

Published: November 5, 2010

The ten-year-old was brutally tortured by her employer until she escaped.

The recent report of a lawyer who tortured his ten-year-old maid in an attempt to exorcise evil spirits should drive out any ideas elitists may harbour about the lower classes being responsible for backward values.

Far too many people point fingers at the poorest of the poor and blame them (or their poverty and illiteracy) for the moral bankruptcy that surfaces in our headlines every day. Far too many people equate literacy with enlightenment. In an ideal world, with an ideal education system and an ideal society, perhaps this could be a fair correlation. However, the truth stands that literacy in and of itself has little to do with building character.

The crime committed against such a young child initially disgusted me too much to write about; is there anything left to say about barbarism and inhumanity? What stands out in crime reports lately is not the nature of the crimes-human rights abuses have always existed and have always been disturbing-but the background of the perpetrators. Last month’s newspapers carried stories of rape, torture and gross miscarriages of justice carried out by doctors, lawyers, professors and policemen. Such is the state of our literate (I cannot call them educated) classes.

Any individual can choose to be enlightened, but it seems that this has become a choice rather than a necessity when going through school and college. People can acquire professional degrees without acquiring a modicum of decency or humanity along the way. There is no doubt that a lack of education poses enormous hurdles to our development as a nation but much deeper thought needs to go into our definition of education. Until then, barbaric professionals will continue posing as our “educated” classes-and the abuse will continue.


Sarah Elahi

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College who works with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan

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

  • Khurram

    I think the best way to put this would be that such people exist in both parts of the society but such behaviour is prevalent more in the lower class of our country than the upper class. This is due to the upper class being more educated where women are aware of their rights and are willing to fight for it.

    Also, this behaviour is a result of a sick mind and doesn’t relate to whether one is educated or not. If that was the case then such acts of stupidity would not have been taking place within the more educated west.Recommend

  • sarah.elahi

    you are right that this has more to do with a sick mind than anything else, but my point was not that education is useless-quite the opposite. My argument is that education in Pakistan must be woefully inadequate if it fails to instill morals in so many advanced degree-holders. The news will tell you that crimes-both violent and otherwise-are as likely to be perpetrated by the literate upper classes as the lower classes. Take our corrupt politicians as an example.


  • faraz

    Individual education wont yield results; such barbaric practices are part of our culture, we need to educate the whole society. Recommend

  • Khurram

    True but if you are talking about our politicians most of them don’t even have a proper degree and even those that do have to give in to the system in order to survive. I also believe these acts depend on one’s moral values and upbringing rather than how educated they are.

    Hence, a person who has been taught to be kind and loving to another human being since birth is unlikely to do such an act compared to a person who has always been subjected to abuse or torture. The point being such acts can only be condemned and frowned upon with checks and balances put in place to lower the possibilities of these events taking place but eradicating them completely from society is sort of difficult.Recommend

  • amjad irfan

    our people think that if anyone gets a degree he/she is a good person or an accomplished.
    degrees can be gotten by rattafying books,doctors,MBA’S,chartered accountants,engineers can learn as much medicine,accounting,physics,economics as they can cram,but in our society their mentality remains stuck in the dark ages.

    The values,attitudes & mentality of the Alevels educated crowd is the same as the ones studying in the govt. schools.Rattafying books doesn’t change the misogyny,intolerance & relgious bigotry that all segments of our society proudly & fiercely sticks on to.Recommend

  • R. Qureishi

    The problem exists in our social structures and the educated are part of it.

    Africa is the worst when it comes to black magic etc. I have met many African professionals in London who strongly believe in the powers of such things. There has been many scandals of evil pratices in African churches in London (with claims that even abducted children from Africa where killed with torture).

    I know a Pakistani guy who has studied law at Masters level from University of London. His relative died and there was speculation that the disease was made worse as a result of some magic by some jealous relative. The ‘magician’ said he is not ‘allowed’ to tell who was behind the magic. This educated guy was planning revenge on the basis of suspicion!!!!Recommend

  • R. Qureishi

    And lets not tar every lawyer in Pakistan as being educated. Many of them are from neglected background who have worked hard (memorised sections of the law) and got the privilege of being a lawyer. For the majority, it is a low paid profession. Recommend

  • Mubarik

    In the ‘Islamic Republic of Mullah-Isthan’ humanity and Islam are mutually exclusive.Recommend

  • jumanji

    Even though you point out a valid point regarding the rather delusional correlation of the literate being less likely to commit acts of violences and crimes in ‘Pakistan’. Is it any different in the US? Recommend

  • Humanity

    Poor, helpless child! God ease her pain and heal her heart and soul.

    Islam becomes a religion of peace only when one shuns intolerance and practices tolerance. Islam becomes a religion of love only when one rejects arrogance and adopts humility. Is this what is being preached and practiced in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Certainly not.

    Allah lives in a humble heart that loves Him and that therefore, must loves His creation. Allah enlightens a human conscience that is willing to discern the difference between right and wrong through the senses of humanity.

    The fundamental requirement, therefore, is to become human. It then becomes relatively simple to understand that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. In other words, don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to you. This is the message of Islam, in a nutshell. Is this what is being preached and practiced in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Certainly not.

    What remains in the name of Islam in Pakistan is a rotting carcass of ignorant traditions. Don’t blame education for the disgrace for humanity that this society has become. Blame the strangle-hold of orthodoxy that has asphyxiated the brains. The national conscience has de-generated into a fossilized mindset. A society that is unwilling to adapt to the ecosystem of the 21st century is destined to be left behind to rot in its ignorance. A mindset that insists on living by the inhuman customs and traditions makes a morally dead nation.

    A nation that refuses to interpret the divine guidance according to the needs of the time is bound to practice witchcraft. The holier than thou start to condone murder to honor a false religion. They start practicing human sacrifice to appease the idols of their own arrogance.

    The business of religion booms in Pakistan as the clerics peddle hatred and ignorance in the name of religion. The people allow fake degree holders with personal agenda to interpret divine statutes. They collectively enshrine laws that keep the fire of their hatred burning. Look at the mayhem and decay and then decide for yourself if this critique is unjustified.

    We, humans live as if we are god. We try to control whomever we can. We judge every one else around us, but fail to see our own wrongdoings. It is time to shatter our own idols. It is time to realize that God waylays the people who are unwilling to shed their ego. God does away with those who insist on blindly following the footsteps of their fathers refusing to adapt to the needs of the time.

    A monumental shift of the mindset is in order. It can only happen one mind at a time. Do it for the little child, if you say you are human.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    Sarah, I have to agree with Khurram’s comment, educated classes=educated women that don’t take any crap from anyone. And regarding what you said, I think education only goes so far in developing a person’s morality/intellect/personality etc. And the example of our politicians isn’t valid at all, lets face it, fake degree or real, they’re all morons. If education had any difference in their lives, they wouldn’t be doing such a craptastic job at running the country. Kudos to you for blogging about this though, its just sick how someone could do this to a child. Just terrible.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    The issue is that there isnt degree in humanity or teaching sensitivity…….or having love and respect for fellow being………The problem lies within social infrastructure………….Recommend

  • parvez

    An extremely relevant article. I do agree that literacy in itself has little to do with character building. Having a rounded education especially for girls is vital towards character building and the over all well being of society.
    Crime, such as the above case must be dealt with through the process of law, if it is to be contained. It is the legal and judicial system that has failed us so miserably.Recommend

  • Mariam

    I was unable to take this picture out of my mind for the last few days, it is HORRIBLE. And this practice will continue as the accused are allowed to live freely. Remember the christian girl shazia, who was murdered brutally by her master…

    Education is helpless in Pakistan.Recommend

  • mr

    @Humanity: your reply has struck the chord of the matter, and analyzed with astuteness and understanding.. jazakallah. [May Allah reward you.]Recommend