They say the Law is an Ass, and nowhere was this more apparent than in Pakistan this week as a nine-month old Pakistani baby appeared in court accused of murder. The child, Muhammed Musa Khan, yawned loudly as the charge was eventually dropped on Saturday. With his bottle of milk clutched tightly, he sat on his Grandfather’s lap, clearly ready for naptime. He may never remember this incident which has made him a brief and befuddled talking point, but hopefully, the stupidity of the case will lead to changes in Pakistan’s outdated judiciary.
Pakistan has drawn international incredulity for its treatment of the little boy. Along with 12 other members of his immediate family, he was said to have taken part in an orchestrated march on police officers in Lahore. The world watched the footage in amazement as the tiny tot’s fingerprints were taken and he cried loudly, before his first court appearance. The charges Musa Khan faced were, incredibly, planning a murder, interfering in state affairs, and threatening police. He was initially remanded on bail.
The protests began when security officers were sent in to enforce overdue payments of energy bills, but the accused, including the infant’s father, grandfather and three uncles say they were drawing attention to acute electricity shortages. Stones were thrown, some of them supposedly, from the toddler’s hand. The assistant superintendent of police who said this family were trying to kill him, has been suspended, pending further enquiry. Charges against the rest of the family still stand. It is a worrying day for Pakistan if a public servant working in upholding the law can seriously believe he is about to be murdered by a Pakistani baby.
As the child’s grandfather, speaking on his behalf, pointed out, the child was barely capable of holding his own bottle, never mind propelling a rock at police. The Chief Minister for the Punjab, Muhammad Shabhaz Sharif is said to be upset by the whole fracas and he has asked for clarification on the embarrassing matter. The Judge would seem to agree with him, saying in court today that the case should not have been brought before him. Speculation that there may be more to the case than the dispute over gas and electric bills alludes to an issue over land rights. This still does not explain the accusations against the little Pakistani baby.
As the child was carried out of the courtroom, it became incumbent on the Pakistani law-enforcers not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The endemic flaws in the system have been seen by all the world, with the finger-printing and distress of an innocent. Reform is required.
The legal age for criminal responsibility in Pakistan used be seven years old. That was raised, only in 2013, to an more internationally accepted standard of twelves years, exempting any cases of terrorism. How this minor was brought before the courts in contradiction of this law is yet to be satisfactorily explained.
The Senior superintendent of Police, Rana Jabbar, spoke to the Times of India, and made the defence that the whole affair was due to “sheer misunderstanding” aknowledging that a nine-month old Pakistani baby was incapable of such a crime.
By Kate Henderson