Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sialkot lynching: Destroyed, but not defeated

Brothers Mughees Butt and Muneeb Butt were lynched by a mob. PHOTO: FILE
LAHORE: Six months have passed since the tragic lynching of two brothers Hafiz Mughees and Muneeb in Sialkot and despite being assured of justice by top officials, including the president himself, the family continues to await justice.

“The statements of prime witnesses are yet to be recorded,” the brothers’ ailing grandfather, Khwaja Anwar, says. “We were assured that the case will be completed within days, but it has been several months now and we have no idea when the court will give its verdict – if at all.”
Earlier, the judge hearing their case had been transferred and there was no replacement for a month and a half that led to a delay. However, with the appointment of a new judge the case will now be heard on February 15 (today).
Anwar added that his family has been receiving death threats for pursuing the case and has been warned by unidentified men within the court premises to withdraw their case as well. “We lodged an FIR against these men, but that was later disposed of by the police,” said Zarar Butt, the brothers’ uncle who is dealing with the case on behalf of the family. He believes that the government is using delaying tactics to discourage them from pursuing the case.
Living under surveillance
Meanwhile, the family is being provided with 24-hour security by the police who have been staying in a small portion of their house. “Initially, there were 10 to 15 policemen, but now there are only three,” disclosed Khwaja. Surveillance cameras have also been installed on the street outside the house.
Although these security measures make the family uncomfortable, the police have declined to do away with them anytime soon. “We also have to feed the police officials with three meals a day, which is not easy to afford,” said Butt.
When inquired about the expenses of the case, Zarar Butt disclosed that their lawyer, Dr Shakeel Thakur, is voluntarily working on the case, however, the cost of transportation and documentation is borne by the family. “We have spent about Rs450,000 so far.” Earlier, the family deposited their compensation cheque worth Rs1 million given by the government along with an additional Rs10,000 from the flood relief fund.
When contacted, Dr Thakur said that with the evidence and witnesses at hand the case should have been completed within two months, but the hearing is postponed each time.
The case is being heard by an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala against 28 accused, including 10 policemen and 11 civilians. All those accused nominated in the case are in judicial lockup except one – former DPO Waqar Chohan – who is on bail.
Nowhere to go
Khwaja Anwar often slips into the past as he recalls the incident and the manner in which it was reported. Quoting a US-based newspaper he said: “They ran a headline that read ‘Sialkot – City of Educated Animals’. Our family has been living in Sialkot for the last seven generations and we have been educated here, do you realise how it feels when someone writes this about your city?”
On August 15, 2010, hundreds of people watched the lynching of his grandsons on national television and the internet, but Anwar says he has still not seen it. “I did not see their faces before burial either. I just couldn’t,” said the 87-year-old in a choked voice. Twelve years ago, his grandsons helped him set up a free medical dispensary for women that he continues to run to date.
Their mother, Fauzia Sajjad, is yet to recover from the severe mental trauma she suffered after the death of her sons. “She doesn’t cry anymore,” said Zarar Butt, “but her eyes often question me. She wants to know if justice has been served … I have no answer, but I will not stop trying. I feel I owe this to her.”
The father, Sajjad Butt, also rarely talks. “My sons were not robbers, they were students,” was all he had to say.
In many ways, the family has been fortunate to have hundreds of thousands of people mourn their loss. “People from US, Europe and other countries continue to send condolence letters to us and call us to share our pain,” disclosed the grandfather.
But the family wants more. “We want the culprits to be punished,” demands Khwaja. “This will not bring Mughees and Muneeb back, but it will prevent people from committing such a heinous act again … it will also prove that
there is still respect for law in this country.”

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