March 21st, 2022
By Asra Haque & Ahmed Saeed
A two-day training session on gender-based violence (GBV) and gender sensitivity, organized by the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, was held today at the Center for Professional Development (CPD) in Lahore. More than 30 prosecutors from different districts in Punjab participated in the training session.
AGHS Legal Aid Cell law associate Maryam Najamuddin briefed the participants on the aims and objectives of the workshop.
Director CPD, Mohammad Jahangir, briefed the participants on the history of rape laws in the country, and stated that the prosecutor’s role has become essential in rape cases as substandard or faulty police investigation is the primary reason for a dismal conviction rate of just 2% in such cases.
“I believe that the prosecutor’s responsibility is increasing day by day,” he said, addressing the attendees. “In my opinion, the best prosecutor is one who is not only a good lawyer, but one with an excellent understanding of the medico legal side, one who has a psychological inclination, and one who is aware of the problems plaguing the police.”
Former Prosecutor General of Punjab, Justice (R) Ehtesham Qadir, gave his keynote address in the inaugural session of the training. He also gave a lecture on the new anti-rape laws and quizzed the participants on the practical application of these laws.
Speaking on the occasion, Ehtesham Qadir said that he was not aware of any other case besides the Zainab Ansari rape and murder case where the convict had been convicted and punished in due accordance with the law.
The 2% conviction rate for such a heinous offence is for the trial court stage. An appeal may follow, and when it goes to the high courts and the Supreme Courts, that percentage hits zero,” he explained. “There is no case [with a conviction], except for the Zainab Ansari case in recent times in which the judiciary awarded the sentence sans any direct evidence but on the basis of circumstantial and DNA evidence.”
He was also of the view that public prosecutors should be conferred greater powers in order to improve Pakistan’s criminal justice system.
“If there is any way to better this system, then only the prosecutor can by guiding the investigating officer on collecting evidence for the offense and providing that evidence to the judge to secure a sentencing.”
Leading lawyer Saima Amin Khawaja held an interactive session with participants regarding GBV and gender sensitivity, and gave important tips on how to discourage gendered prejudice in cases of sexual violence.
Attending prosecutors praised the initiative behind the workshop, adding that today’s session would clear up much of the ambiguity in their minds about the new rules.
“The difficulties we face during the trial due to the bad investigation and lack of communication between the police and the prosecution were brought up in this workshop,” stated Rabia Jameel, an additional public prosecutor (ADPP) of the Lahore district.
“The session was motivational, very academic and effective in helping us learn. When we go in the field and to the courts, we expect to see results when we practically apply these skills,” said Rana Zubair, ADPP Lahore.
“The 2% conviction rate was being brought up consistently, and we have to ask why it is 2%,” Tabassum Sufi, ADPP Lahore with extensive experience in GBV courts, told Voicepk.net. “The reason behind most acquittals is because the victims resile.”
Director AGHS Legal Aid Cell Aliya Malik said that the purpose of conducting such training sessions is to enforce new rape laws to prevent crimes against women.
“It is extremely difficult for a woman to get justice in nearly any kind of legal case. But our social setup and our legal system make access to justice for a female victim of rape nearly impossible,” she said. “AGHS Legal Aid Cell holds training sessions on different aspects, and we thought it was imperative to train all stakeholders regarding the new anti-rape law.”
It has been more than four months since the anti-rape act was enacted. However, it has yet to be properly implemented as the departments and institutions responsible for enforcing these laws do not have the required training. Attending prosecutors felt that the workshop would help in the enforcement of the law.