On December 25, Shahzeb Khan was shot dead in Karachi. Since his death, Shahzeb has become a symbol in Pakistan, with his picture spreading across social media platforms. Ordinary Pakistanis want his death to be the end of Pakistani feudal class, who live above the law in the South Asian country.
The alleged killers, Siraj Talpur and Shahrukh Jatoi, are the member of two powerful feudal families. Pakistan’s political and social systems are still rife with corruption, leaving families like the Talpur and Jatoi outside of the reach of the law for many ordinary Pakistanis.
The argument which apparently led to the killing was one of seemingly everyday banality. One of the guards employed by Mr. Talpur passed a lewd comment about Shahzeb Khan’s sister. Shahzeb’s father, a Deputy Superintendent in the Police, resolved the argument peacefully. Later that day Khan was shot dead in his car.
After the murder of Shahzeb, his family had a difficult time registering the case. Pressure from the families of the alleged murderers tried to keep the case off of the books. The original report filed was a dummy, it was only because the victims father was a police officer that he managed to have a real report of the crime filed.
Since the murder, Shahzeb Khan’s name has begun to ring out across Pakistan. The injustice of his death, amplified by the power of social media, has made the twenty year old a symbol for a population fed up with an unequal justice system.
This case is about much more than the death of Shahzeb Khan. A system which allows powerful families to get away with murder is, for ordinary Pakistanis, the real criminal. Messages from many people rang out on the Facebook page put up by Shahzeb Khan’s friend, Umer Mukhtar. The page has received more than ninety thousand likes in the week since it was created.
Messages of support, calls for justice and invitations to protests organized to ensure justice on the killers abound. The communicative ability of the internet makes it the most important weapon in the fight against injustice for millions of Pakistanis.
The weight of that support has changed the course of this case. Today, the Governor of Sindh, Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan and the Chief Minister of the Province, Qaim Ali Shah, directed the authorities to find the culprits, and make them answer for their crimes. The move may relieve some of the pressure on the authorities, but it will almost certainly not be enough to completely resolve the case.
One of the suspects, Shahrukh Jatoi, appears to have absconded to Australia. That puts him, at least temporarily, outside of the reach of Pakistan’s justice system. It was revealed earlier today that police investigating the crime had written to the Australian authorities to verify that Jatoi was indeed present in the country. Earlier in the week the same authorities denied that he had managed to escape the country.
Jatoi, according to information from sources close to the family, studies in Malaysia and was in Karachi on Winter break. Two figures in the family’s employ, one a security guard, have been arrested by police but charges have yet to be filed against them.
The particulars of this case do not matter as much as the environment that allowed such a murder to occur. According to the father of the victim, “This is the brutal reign of the feudals. They don’t spare anyone.” Carrying guns publicly has become common across Karachi.
Karachi’s feudal system is a common attribute of the political and social systems across rural Pakistan. Certain families exert influence over vast tracts of land and keep the local populace in check, using violence and debt bondage. Members of the powerful families feel above the law, and in many cases they are.
This is the atmosphere that caused two young men from affluent backgrounds to believe that they could follow, shoot and kill a human being on a Karachi Street. Several similar cases have been prominent in recent years, with each case the public’s awareness of ongoing corruption becomes more widespread, and the hold of the feudals on the populace becomes weaker.
Pakistan’s feudal system, and the psychology that springs from it, forms one of the most detrimental influences on the country’s political system, and social structure. The country is, without a doubt, in the midst of a quiet revolution that hopes to bring about change. Shahzeb Khan is now the poster child of that cause.
It is hoped that he will be the last symbol the movement ever needs. If feudal lords are forced to obey the same laws as the rest of the population, one of the country’s most obvious problems will come to an end, and Pakistanis will be secure in the knowledge that their country has a working legal system.
With one of the suspects seemingly out of the country, and the other still not in the custody of the police, justice for Shahzeb Khan seems far away. If, however, the worst case scenario comes true, and neither of the perpetrators are convicted, Shahzeb Khan’s death will still not have been in vain.
Pakistan’s citizenry, in particular the youth, who make up more than half of the population, have been inspired by the death of this young man. Change always begins with the yearning for justice. As more and more people get behind this movement, that yearnings burns brighter, and it can’t be ignored by the country’s rulers.
In the mean time, there is still a long way to go in getting justice for Shahzeb Khan. The perpetrators will first have to be arrested and given trial for their crime. That process may take months, particularly if extradition from Australia is necessary.
The longer this goes on, and the more people that get involved, the more change it is likely to bring to Pakistan. There is some hope for a population living at the behest of feudal lords.