October 30, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
After a 12-year incarceration period, the Lahore High Court has finally acquitted a woman of double murder charges.
Farzana Bibi was sentenced to life imprisonment on two charges of murder by an Additional Sessions Judge from Faisalabad in 2012. She was accused of murdering her husband and sister–in–law in 2009, within a time frame of 36 days.
Since Farzana’s in-laws were complainants against her, she was left alone to languish in jail without any proper legal representation required in murder cases. Her own family including her brothers and sons did not meet her after the arrest, so much so that, Farzana’s son was produced as a witness against her in the case related to his father’s murder.
In the LHC, Farzana was represented by the legal team of the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AJLAC). The AJLAC team met Farzana during their routine jail visit to the Faisalabad district jail in 2013, where she was serving a life sentence.
Robina Shaheen, Women Protection Officer at AJLAC told Voicepk that Farzana was suffering from the most miserable conditionsin jail as her family had not come to meet her since her arrest in 2009.
“She was in a destitute condition and had been diagnosed with depression, hepatitis and diabetes. All she wanted was freedom from these fake cases and to start a new life but she had no means to hire a good lawyer,” Shaheen recalls Farzana’s condition when she first met her in 2013.
Farzana was nominated in two separate police FIRs one for murdering her husband and another for killing her sister-in-law who was residing with the accused after being widowed.
According to the first FIR, Farzana’s husband Haji Nazir Ahmed used to work in Kuwait. He acquired a leave to come back to Pakistan on September 24, 2009, but went missing the very next day. Nazir Ahmed’s family tried to locate him on their own but could not trace him.
On 1st October, a few male members of Nazir Ahmed’s family went to his house and interrogated his wife Farzana about his whereabouts. After a brief argument, Farzana ‘confessed’ to killing her husband and told the men that she had killed him with the help of an acquaintance Muhammad Nadeem around six days ago, with a cricket bat, and had buried the dead body underneath the bedstead.
According to the FIR, she also confessed to having estranged relations with her husband and they had had a quarrel after his return to Pakistan and this is why she murdered him.
The second FIR was lodged after 36 days of the registration of the first FIR. According to the contents of the second FIR, Farzana’s sister-in-law Parveen Akhtar was residing with her for the last year and a half but she also went missing about six or seven months before the date of registration of the FIR. It further stated that after 36 days of confessing to the murder of his husband, she also confessed to the killing of Parveen Akhtar with the help of Muhammad Nadeem.
According to the FIR, Farzana also pinpointed the location in her house where she had buried the body of Parveen. The police dug that area and recovered the body of the deceased.
Why the court rejected the prosecution’s side
The single bench of Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhary had completely discarded the cases made by the prosecution against Farzana Bibi. The court had issued two separate judgments exonerating Farzana from all the charges.
The verdicts by justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhary questioned the veracity of the events narrated in the two FIRs. The judgments noted that both the FIRs were registered with inordinate delays and no explanation was given by the prosecution regarding them.
In the case related to the murder of Nazir Ahmed (Farzana’s husband), the court noted that it was based on the extra-judicial confession made by the accused in front of a few ordinary men.
“According to the first information report Mst. Farzana Bibi (appellant) was implicated in this case on the basis of extrajudicial confession allegedly made by her before Muhammad Aslam, complainant and Nazar Hussain, Haji Noor Muhammad and Sabir Bashir. The said piece of evidence is not helpful for the prosecution because it is not understandable as to why the appellant [Farzana] made extrajudicial confession before the complainant and other PWs despite the fact that they were not influential persons”, the court noted.
The court further noted that the mode and manners in which the appellant had allegedly committed the murder of the deceased have not been brought on record by the complainant and that the son had dishonestly testified against his mother.
The bench also disbelieved the testimony of Sajjad Hussain, who was a son of both accused and deceased, as he tried to make dishonest improvements while appearing before the trial court. Sajjad Hussain stated that he saw Farzana Bibi inflicting a bat blow on the head of Haji Nazir Ahmed and then strangulating him to death. However, the court noted that the said cricket bat was not stained with blood and the autopsy report did not observe any ligature mark or other sign of throttling on the body of the deceased.
In the case related to the murder of Parveen Akhtar, the bench noted that there had been no FIR of her disappearance for seven or eight months and the FIR of her murder of her FIR also didn’t mention the exact date of the incident.
The court also said that the complainant didn’t produce those persons before the trial court as witnesses before whom Farzana confessed the killing of Parveen Akhtar. It also noted that the co-accused Muhamad Nadeem almost had the same role as that of Farzana but the trial court acquitted him from the case and the state didn’t file an appeal against his acquittal.
“Therefore, the evidence which has been disbelieved to the extent of Muhammad Nadeem alias Dooma, co-accused cannot be believed against the appellant without there being any strong and independent corroboration which is very much missing in this case”, the verdict read.
The judgment also said that the alleged weapon of murder (ghotna) had no bloodstains on it and the medical evidence did not point towards the accused.
“Therefore, I hold that evidence furnished by the prosecution is shaky in nature and cannot be relied upon for maintaining the convictions/sentence of the appellant”, the court order read. AJLAC had acquitted nine people in the last two weeks.
Nida Aly, executive director of the AJLAC welcomed the decision of the LHC and said that Farzana was wrongly implicated in the double murder case and she had already lost all hopes of starting a new life as a free person.
“Her family has already deserted her and she was suffering from some health problems due to the long incarceration and being completely cut off from the outside world”, Aly said.
She added that the AJLAC provided free legal aid to over 1800 people, the majority of whom were languishing in jails.
“In the last two weeks, the AJLAC team have facilitated the acquittals of eight people including two women and a Christian man. They all were serving life imprisonment in different jails of Punjab. One of the acquitted men was on death row”, Aly says.