In April 2015, Mr. Kamran an influential person of Burewala forcibly entered Mr. Ashraf’s house and shot his daughter dead. At the time of her gruesome murder, Sidra was 21 years old and her crime was to refuse a marriage proposal from her murderer.
Such violence against women is rampant in Pakistan. Especially in rural areas, the judicial system is highly undermined by local traditions whereby people arbitrate such crimes through local Jirgas (elders’ committees) rather than resorting to courts. As a result, the perpetrators are rarely held accountable. Importantly also, people fail to take such cases to the actual dispensers of justice i.e. courts because they lack platform which could guide them better. Keeping in view this, in 2009, Transparency International Pakistan envisioned rendering such a platform through its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC).
Sidra’s story was brought to TI Pakistan during one of its Mobile ALAC camp organized in Chak 315, Burewala. The victim’s father had gone from pillar to post to lodge the First Information Report (FIR) against the accused. Given that police in rural areas is under the influence of local influentials so to weaken the case, police changed the type of weapon used in murder in the First Information Report. This was done with an intention to sabotage primary evidence of the case. As such cases are examined through Ballistic, forensic investigations, so a difference in the gun and bullets fired would have created a benefit of doubt in favor of the accused. However, to help complainant, TI Pakistan advised the complainant to go to the trial court accompanied by TIP Pakistan’s local NGO partner – where the matter was sub-judice and filed an application for the inquiry. Throughout this period, TI Pakistan’s ALAC team had remained in constant touch with the complainant and provided assistance from legal advice to actual facilitation on the ground. As a result of these efforts, the trial court ordered forensic inquiry of the bullets and gun and found complainant to be correct.
Though the trial court has released the accused but with legal advice provided by Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC), the victim’s father was able to abandon his fear and encouraged to raise voice for the right of his deceased daughter. The ALAC team also advised the victim to file a criminal acquittal appeal before the High Court. Therefore, the matter is currently sub-judice in the Lahore High Court, Multan branch. Through such efforts, TI Pakistan aims to promote transparent and accountable system in Pakistan where each of its citizens is held equal in the eyes of law.