Will the amendments to the Diyat and Qisas laws make any difference to the Shahzeb Khans out there?

Published: November 21, 2015
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Shahzeb Khan (L) and Zain Rauf (R) - This week, legal amendments to Diyat and Qisas laws have been tabled for parliamentary review.

When murder is committed within Pakistan, the victim’s family is usually offered blood-money by the perpetrator’s family as a way of pardoning the punishment of the crime itself. Diyat or ‘blood-money’ differs from Qisas which is the pardoning of the crime by the victim’s family without any monetary compensation being paid. These two concepts have courted controversy recently since they have been abused in practice by the wealthy to rid themselves of any culpability, as seen in the Shahzeb Khan and Zain Rauf cases.

The purpose of accepting financial compensation following murder is to espouse forgiveness and mercy in people’s hearts. But in Zain’s case, where the victim’s family is being threatened to accept the money, it then goes against the basic principle. When the family of the victim has requested the death penalty to be carried out and waives blood-money or forgiveness, the state must carry out the particular punishment. Putting pressure on families, who are already in a distressed state, to accept money for the death of their loved one is ridiculous and contradictory to the principles of Islam. It must be a genuine acceptance of the money, not one made under duress. Shahzeb’s family also succumbed to this pressure, undoubtedly to stop the harassment they faced from the murderer’s family.

It was of some relief that, this week, legal amendments to Diyat and Qisas laws have been tabled for parliamentary review. The new law proposes that murderers convicted of their crime can only be pardoned for their crime by the family of the victim without offering blood-money. So the remorse or forgiveness must be genuine and cannot be swayed by the temptation of tainted money. This is a welcome change to the law and will hopefully go some way in alleviating the difficulties that families of innocent victims face.

If the Shahzeb Khan and Zain Rauf murders had been committed post amendment, it would be interesting to note how different the outcomes would have been. Shahrukh Jatoi would most probably be languishing in some jail somewhere and Mustafa Kanju would have also suffered a similar fate, if not worse. Neither families of the victims wanted leniency to be shown to the perpetrators of the crime, and Zain Rauf’s mother was adamant about Mustafa Kanju being hanged or having the same punishment meted out to him. However, as is omnipresent amongst Pakistan’s justice system, there is no certainty about whether Shahrukh and Mustafa would have ever faced any kind of consequences for their actions. What has become abundantly clear is that the public will no longer allow VIP culture and feudal lords’ blindness to the law remain acceptable.

The real question is whether it will make any difference to the blasé ignorance of the law that the children of feudal lords live within?

Most probably not, going by previous custom.

The rich and wealthy will still keep their errant children shrouded in bubble wrap and will probably find ways to put pressure on the families of future victims through threats and harassment. Until and unless we have a clear example of feudal flouters facing the penal consequences of their actions, they will continue to find ways to bend the law to suit them. Let’s hope for Shahzeb’s and Zain’s sake that they cannot do so any longer.

Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

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

  • Shakir Lakhani

    No one will dare to make any changes to this law, which will always be used to protect killers. It is ingrained in Muslims tribal societies. However, for being drunk and using unlicensed weapons when killing, the state can alw
    ays sentence the killers to prison terms (of at least ten years), even after the victims’ heirs have “forgiven” them.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The day a child of the rich and powerful is actually punished to the full extent of the law……will be an auspicious day in Pakistan.
    Realistically speaking, those who are expected to amend the law are the ones most likely to be affected by the amended law……Our problem is not more laws but implementation of those that are already there.Recommend

  • Saleem

    It is pretty naive to argue whether any amendment to Diyat and Qisas laws will affect Sharukh & Kanju. There is a problem in the law that criminals like them can go free and laws must be amended so that it doesn’t happen again.Recommend

  • Sane

    Both Mustafa Kanju and Shahrukh Jatoi must be given a chance of fair trial. I mean fair trial in letter and spirit. And if found guilty must be punished as per judgement. No power or money should play their game.Recommend