July 5, 2020
By Zulfiqar Kunbhar
A court in Sindh’s Sanghar district has initiated a trial of a rare case that deals with the killing of a pet dog, during an attempt of theft.
Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate Sanghar put up the case following the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) lodged at Chotiari Police Station.
The complainant of the FIR, Fateh Muhammad Mari, is a resident of the village Dhani Parto Rajpar, located some 30 kilometres away from district headquarters Sanghar.
In the FIR, Fateh has accused four persons for their involvement in killing his pet dog of the complainant during an attempt of theft.
According to the FIR, on May 29, 2020, complainant Fateh’s son Ghulam Jan took his goats for grazing in a nearby field along with their family dog. At one point he went to drink water from a watercourse. When Jan returned he saw that neighborhood brothers, Nawaz, Qadir Baksh and Allah Juriyo Panhwar, equipped with axes and batons, were trying to steal a goat. Upon seeing this the dog started barking. Jan also started crying for help after which some of the family members rushed to the scene. Reacting to the situation, the accused persons left the goat but before fleeing the scene, they hit the dog with axes and batons and injured it so badly that the dog died on the spot.
Fateh approached the District and Session Judge Sanghar and appealed for the lodging of a case, which the police registered on June 22, 2020 under Section 379 (punishment for theft), 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences), Section 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any animal of the value of 50 Rupees) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
“We bought this dog from Punjab around three years ago,” said Fateh speaking to Voicepk.net. “It was worth Rs150,000.” However Fateh is not sure of the animal’s breed.
Advocate Iqrar Panhwar, the counsel of the accused, while speaking to Voicepk.net rejected the allegations leveled by the complainant to his clients. According to Advocate Iqrar, there was a dispute going on between the complainant’s Mari family and the accused Panhwar family. “The Mari family in order to pressurize the Panhwar family over a land issue has lodged a fake case,” he said.
Meanwhile court has awarded bail to the accused persons.
Complainant Fateh has also appealed honorable court to order to the concerned officials for the exhumation of the dead body of the dog to ascertain the cause of death of the animal.
Despite the fact that the case motive was different, the killing of the dead was indeed a cruel act. It must be noted that Pakistan is a signatory of various animal rights conventions and is a member of the World Organisation on Animal Health, also called Office International des Epizooties (OIE).
According to information available on internet Pakistan as an
OIE member country has to ensure five basic freedoms for animals: freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour relevant to the animal’s own kind.
Pakistan is also a member state of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, also known as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention.
Although Pakistan is signatory to various conventions, the state of animal rights in country has not remained up to a satisfactory level, according to animal conservationists and experts.
It is not even known by the general public that there is a “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890” – a century old law which has remained dormant for years as there has been no implementation on it.
In 2018, Senate updated 1890 Act and passed “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Act, 2018”.
Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja whose tenure as Senator ended in March 2018, was the mover of the bill. Senator Khawaja while talking to Voicepk.net termed the use of a century’s old 1890 law that was made in the British era as ‘embarrassing’. “This amendment in the law is a proud moment,” he said.
The amended Act also enhanced a fine for killing an animal with unnecessary cruelty from Rs200 as per 1890 law to Rs300,000 along with imprisonment.
After the 18th constitutional amendment in Pakistan, animal-rights has become a provincial subject. In an attempt to protect rights of animals, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party-led Sindh government decided to legislate in this regard in its previous term.
In December 2017, Sindh Cabinet approved a draft bill for “Sindh Welfare and Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 2017”. Then Sindh Minister for Livestock and Environment Muhammad Ali Malkani while featuring the proposed draft was quoted as saying that “the law will make it illegal to cruelly kill, beat, kick, ill-treat, overload, torture, infuriate or terrify any animal.”
However the legislation could not reach its logical conclusion hence draft could not be converted into a law.
In some experts’ opinion, Senate’s “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2018” does not apply in Sindh.
“The 2018 (Act) is a post-devolution so (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (Amendment) Act, 2018) would only apply to the Islamabad Capital Territory in my opinion,” said Advocate Uzma Farooq who is also an animal rights activist. “Therefore in Sindh, for animal cruelty cases “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890” would come into action in such a case, she added.
The law says that if any person kills any animal in an unnecessarily cruel manner, he shall be punished with a fine which may extend to Rs200, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with both.
But Senator Khawaja differs. “In my opinion, “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Act, 2018” has become the law of the land so it will prevail throughout country,” he said.
Lack of facilities for animal cruelty cases
Dr Jhaman Jan is Tharparkar-based retired official who has worked as Additional Director at Central Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory, Mithi till around 2018. He points towards a serious shortage of facilities in Sindh especially if animal abuse related cases ever arrive.
For instance he says there is no medico-legal veterinary officer (MLVO) in Sindh. “To my knowledge there are no MLVOs for animals in Sindh. So when it comes to dealing with a legal case, veterinary doctors have to play their role. But they don’t know how to fight legal wars,” he said.
The government should appoint MLVOs on district level. Like every zoo has a medical doctor for the treatment of animals.
Similarly, at Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Tando Jam and six other provincial veterinary diagnosis centers located at Karachi, Mithi, Naushero Feroze, Larkana, Dadu and Sukkur, there is no facility to examine for any poison case.
“Only animal diseases can be diagnosed at these diagnostic centers. If a case pertaining to poison comes whether in animals or in humans, there is only one center in Sindh located in Karachi,” Dr Jan added.
According to former veterinary officer, in 2018 Sindh government decided to establish six new veterinary diagnostic laborites including at Mirpurkhas, Badin and Thatta. However there was no any follow up after that.
Social media new hope for animal rights
According to Mahera Omar, a Karachi-based animal rights activist, there is no significant data available for animal abuse or killing unnecessarily in Pakistan. However that does not mean cases are not happening around the country.
“We have seen an increasing number of graphic images of animal cruelty shared on social media in Pakistan. Citizens should report animal abuse and neglect to the law enforcing authorities so that such crimes are prosecuted under the law,” said Mahera who is also a filmmaker and co-founder of Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
Mahera’s views on rising social media activism regarding are evident in recent animal rights violation incidents which not only grabbed masses attention but also forced authorities to take action in some.
For instance earlier this month, media reported arrest of man in Karachi after he allegedly tied a dog to his car and dragged it on Siraj-ud-Daula Road until it allegedly died.
The video of the incident went viral on social media creating an uproar.
The Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF) working for animal rescue shared the video with the caption: “We as a nation enjoy torturing animals. Where is the justice you promised for all the vulnerable? @ImranKhanPTI #Pakistan”.
Later a senior officer from Sindh Police confirmed through a tweet that the police arrested the vehicle owner and a case was registered.
Similarly hundreds of starved and caged animals were found dead in Karachi’s Empress Market in April this year after authorities closed the market following COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
An ACF volunteer’s Facebook video helped in identifying that “70 per cent” of the market animals were dead. Thereafter a rescue operation also started for the rest of the animals.
However these video viral incidents did not stop the killing of the animals. On June 22, 2020, ACF highlighted another incident where hundreds of its rehabilitated dogs tortured and poisoned in Karachi
ACF in a Facebook video said that the “hundreds of dogs that had been rehabilitated and released to a ‘safe zone’ in Karachi’s Malir area were found tortured, tied and poisoned to death”. It was not revealed that who was involved in the incident.
Dr Jhaman Jan calls Sindh government to amend the law. “Sindh Assembly should update the old existing laws related to animal rights. They have become outdated,” he said. “After the 18th constitutional amendments Sindh has made many new laws but when it comes to animal rights there seems to be no ownership among the legislators.”
Mahera recalls the time where there was a court in Karachi that used to deal with animal-related cases only. There were also animal inspectors. “Nowadays we don’t even know about the existence of animal courts and inspectors. So this is also one of the areas which the government can focus on reviving in order to improve animal rights,” she added.
She also calls for the revival of animal related organizations as in past. “There was Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SCBA). Founded in 1880s in Karachi, the Society worked for the enforcement of laws protecting animal rights,” she informed.
“Recently SCBA celebrated its 100th anniversary. However with the demise of the old guard we have stopped hearing about the activities of this forum,” she said. “The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should be revived in all our provinces, and animal inspectors reinstated.”
Advocate Uzma Farooq stresses for more police awareness for animal rights laws. “Police does not include animal cruelty related articles in the FIRs because of lack of awareness,” she said. “Also there is a need for animal rights awareness generally. Cruelty to animals is something most people don’t consider a crime.”
Dr Lakesh Khatri is Mirpurkhas-based psychiatrist. He stresses for different awareness campaigns to reduce animal cruelty cases.
“Our educational syllabus does not include this very important aspect of life the way it should be included. If a child learns from his early childhood, naturally such cases will be reduced,” he added.
According to the expert, in psychiatry this is called sadism – when a person derives pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation on another.
“This mindset of abusing animals exists in our society since a long time,” he said. “However with the increase in population these cases are also on the rise. The only difference that has been made recently is with the arrival of social media, and that these cases are being reported and highlighted.”