Pakistani baby accused of attempted murder goes into hiding
Relatives of a nine-month-old baby charged with attempted murder in Pakistan have taken him into hiding, a relative said on Tuesday 8th April, in a case that has thrown a spotlight on Pakistan's dysfunctional criminal justice system.
Little Mohammad Musa Khan appeared in court in the city of Lahore last week, along with his father and grandfather after a mob protesting against gas cuts and price increases stoned police and gas company workers trying to collect overdue bills.
It’s been alleged that baby Mohammad Musa along with his father and other family members had thrown rocks at gas company officials in the working-class Ahata Thanedaran neighbour-hood on 1st February.
Inspector Kashif Muhammad, who attended the alleged crime scene and has since been suspended, wrote in his report that it was a case of attempted murder.
Appearing in a packed court room with others accused in the case, Musa was seen crying as his grandfather Muhammad Yasin held him on his shoulder.
Yasin later fed him milk from a bottle while fielding questions from reporters.
"Everyone in the court was saying 'How can such a small child be implicated in any case'? What kind of police do we have?" the 50-year-old labourer said.
The charge is in direct contradiction with Pakistan's minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was raised from seven to 12 years in 2013 except in terrorism cases.
Yasin accused the police of fabricating the charges because they were colluding with a rival party who wanted to see the accused evicted from their land and had obtained an order to remove their gas connections.
"The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses. Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done.
"But later we found out that cases have been filed against us," he added.
Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, though he will have to appear at the next hearing on 12th April.
"The court should have simply referred the minor's case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case," said Sadiq.
"This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating," he added.
Feisal Naqvi, a supreme court lawyer has said the naming of family members in police reports was a common tactic employed by complainants in order to exert pressure on parties with whom they were involved in a dispute.
He said: "It's not common for babies to be accused but it is common for other family members to be accused," he said.
"What happens then is that vendettas are going on so everyone gets picked up and gets chucked in jail," he added.
Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, added that the system operates via 'first information reports' that date back to British colonial times, which give too much weight to allegations made by accusers.
"The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around," Suddle said.
The baby is on bail and due to appear at the next hearing on April 12 but Yasin said he was not sure if he would take him to court for the case.