November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Zaira Rahman/Pakistan

 

Muneeb Butt (left), and Mughees Butt, victims of lynching

 

The Sialkot Lynchings:

A Year Without Justice


Pakistani independent journalist Zaira Rahman has followed the story of two young men beaten and lynched by a mob in a neighborhood of Buttar village during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2010.  Nearly a year later,  the outrage remains, and still no one has been called on to account for the crime. The following article for Ragazine provides some background on the event, and sheds light on how difficult it has been to enforce either civil or religious law in a tight-knit community where kinship and friendship outweigh the ideals of Justice.


By Zaira Rahman

August 15th, 2010, was just another day for most of us, but for two brothers from Sialkot, Pakistan, that day became the most horrifying ever. It was the day that took their lives away and ended their youth brutally. This is the true story of Mughees Butt (17 years) and Muneeb Butt (15 years) who were killed by the residents of a town for a crime they never committed — under the very nose of law enforcement officials. This story is being told so the world  knows that even in these progressive times, in some places the value of life is nothing. It is simply worthless.

There are too many versions of the incident that I have come across during my investigations to tell them all.  In addition are the stories from a number of journalists who covered the story, who spoke with witnesses  present at the crime scene, and to family members of the two brothers. The background of the story is crucial and might help us connect the dots to understand just what happened, and who was responsible.

Just one week before the lynching incident took place, both the brothers went to the suburbs of Buttar village, in the outskirts of Sialkot, to play cricket. However, they had an argument with a gang of local youth who wouldn’t allow them to play cricket. Thus, a fight broke out between the brothers and the locals, and Mughees and Muneeb left the ground.

On 15th August, 2010, the brothers returned to the same cricket field again in the early morning after keeping their fast, since it was the Holy month of Ramzan (Ramadan), which is considered very precious and sacred by Muslims. When they were on their way back on a bicycle, the trouble began. The boys saw a crowd was gathered in Buttar and there was some commotion. The young boys could not help being curious and stopped by to see what was happening. Perhaps, they should not have been so curious. The locals were angry because a robbery had taken place. One of the villagers was severely injured by the robbers, and later on died.

It is said that one of the youths who had argued with the brothers the previous week shouted in mere vengeance that the brothers were friends of the robbers. That false accusation was enough to trigger the already angry crowd, who for no other reason, without logic or thought, started beating the boys with sticks. The two teenage boys could not escape the wrath of the barbarians who had became a law unto themselves on that sacred day of Ramzan.

Surprisingly, the mob beating of the boys allegedly took place in the presence of Sialkot District Police Officer Waqar Chauhan, and eight other police officers, though some reports claim there were at least fifteen police officials present at the crime scene. The younger brother, Muneeb, was injured badly in the beginning, and almost immediately lost consciousness. After beating them with all their might, the two boys were handed over to Rescue 1122,  a local organization whose purpose is to assist locals in emergencies.

However, in this case, subsequent investigations revealed the Rescue 1122 staff members showed utter negligence by not calling immediately for medical assistance. Since the 1122 staff never moved the boys to a hospital, the mob again started beating the boys to death. Thus, this is no mere accident. It was murder by an angry and unreasonable mob that was facilitated by the police officials and Rescue 1122 personnel in broad daylight in Buttar village, in the outskirts of Sialkot.

YouTube Videos Recount Beatings

Sadly, it was one day after Pakistan’s 63rd Independence Day. This incident talks greatly about how much (or how little) we have progressed in these years as a nation. What can we say when the law enforcing agencies and organizations that are supposed to help the citizens are involved in such criminal acts? How can we talk about progression when illiteracy rules the minds of so many – who could not realize that it is inhumane to beat two unarmed boys for hours? How can those who killed two innocent boys preach about Islam, when they could not even respect the sacred Holy month themselves? How come it is okay to kill kids so easily in front of law enforcing agencies? Do we even have the right to talk about human rights when countless people who witnessed this public killing opted to make videos for their entertainment rather than standing up against the wrong?

What is shocking is to see that with hundreds of witnesses, countless images and extremely strong evidence in the form of live videos of the entire incident, we can see that justice is still being delayed. Last year, when the incident took place due to the media coverage and protests by common citizens, the Pakistani government announced that this case will be solved within a few weeks, but we can clearly see that nothing of the sort has taken place.

As for the police officials at the scene, some witnesses said the police themselves tied the boys’ hands and returned them to the crowd so that they could be lynched. At that point, there was no stopping the mob. Mughees and Muneeb were beaten to death. The amateur video, that not everyone has the stomach to watch, shows clearly what happened that sad day. The video footage, widely available on the internet, is extremely painful and heart shattering. People, like myself who have seen the footage to seek the truth, can never take out those images out of our minds.

Unforgettable Images Not Enough

The brothers were beaten with sticks by numerous men. Muneeb, the younger brother died quickly, but the elder brother suffered for some one and a half hours. It is said that he was begging to be killed quickly just to stop the pain. Even as the brothers died for something they had not done, the angry crowd didn’t realize the crime they themselves had committed. The brothers’ dead bodies were paraded around the neighborhood in an open truck. And the final touch to this brilliant act of cruelty was that the boys were hung by their feet to a pole like some dead goats, just minutes away from the police station.

Their first post mortem report was not accepted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Thus, the bodies of the lynched brothers were re-examined again in September 2010 by senior doctors appointed by the Supreme Court. Upon investigation, it was discovered the two boys were good students and were never involved in any criminal activities or illegal acts. On the false claims, that the brothers were dacoits, it was not surprising to discover that the boys were unarmed and no (stolen) valuables were recovered from them.

On the other hand, Buttar’s chief of police, Waqar Chouhan and regional police chief Zulfiqar Cheema, were under scrutiny for negligence on their part in the entire matter. Cheema is alleged to have encouraged extra-judicial executions in the past. The officers   present at the crime scene were suspended, but most of the people involved in the crime managed to escape, or were freed on bail. The case is still being handled in the courts, but the process is slow. The latest news I have read is that one of the accused is arguing   that it is irrelevant to use the camera footage as evidence in court.

 

The boys' grandfather waits for justice.

 

Family Trusts in God

The family of Muneeb and Mughees, have left everything on the hands of God. They lost their sons for no reason in a country where life has no value. They hope that God will give them justice for the way their sons were brutally killed, and how their bodies were humiliated even in dead. Their father was relieved that at least the court absolved his sons of all the charges of robbery; but, they are waiting for the day when justice will be delivered and all the culprits involved in this mob killing are punished.

Meanwhile, this very sad and inhumane incident that took the lives of two teenage boys, must not be forgotten. They were killed by illiterate local people who seem unable to listen to anybody in a sane manner. And two curious boys who set out one morning to play cricket, returned to their homes with mutilated faces and crushed bodies that were nearly unrecognizable to their loved ones.

Since life is so uncertain, should people stop leaving their homes? In a country, where law enforcement officials themselves can encourage such acts of violence because they know they can get away with it,  who would feel safe?

For most people, the two boys were just a story that lasted a few weeks, that angered some of them enough to turn out to protest. The protests got the attention of higher level government officials, but for the family of these boys, the loss is eternal. I know these brothers are not alive to fight their own battle, but as caring humans we must work to ensure this tragedy is not forgotten, and to see the guilty are punished.

While it is not absolutely relevant, if these two boys were like Raymond Davis (the CIA station head in Pakistan accused of killing two people in Lahore, and who was freed after paying “blood money” to their families), their case would have been resolved quickly. However, since they were two innocent local and very common Pakistani boys, for the time being their souls will wait for justice, and we will have to see if it will take a good ten years or longer to give them that miraculous justice!

 

Zaira Rahman is a writer, blogger, copy writer and animal rights activist. She lives in Karachi, Pakistan. Rahman has an MBA in marketing, is author of “Pakistani Media: The Way Things Are” and co-author of “If Mortals Had Been Immortals and Other Short Stories”.  Her previous article in Ragazine was a Bollywood film review.