June 2014 - The Assassin of Lahore
by Richard W. Millar, Jr.
I usually write about cases that have been decided, most often on appeal. Occasionally, I write about recent filings, but as far back as I can remember (i.e., yesterday) I don’t think I have ever written about a recent filing in a foreign country because I know nothing about foreign law and my spellcheck throws up its little hands with the people’s names.
This time, I cannot resist.
According to three separate news reports, which makes it three times as likely to be true, one Muhammad Mosa Khan has been charged with attempted murder. As near as I can piece things together, residents in a place called Muslim Town had not been paying their electric bills.
While I cannot speak with the authority of experience, it has always been my understanding that if I didn’t pay my electric bill, Southern California Edison would shut off my electricity. They might also sue me. I would not, however, expect them to raid my house like a SWAT team.
The electricity company in Lahore is state-owned, which may or may not explain things, but recently the police and “energy officials” raided several homes of residents accused of not paying their bills. Somehow, I can’t get my arms around the vision of a parade of SCE tinted-window Suburbans and troops with battering rams attacking an Orange County neighborhood of utility scofflaws. The next thing I’ll hear is that there is a new Pakistani Reality Show called “Raiders for the Last Arc.”
In any event, the populace was not, shall we say, entirely receptive. Muhammad Khan and several of his family allegedly (and in his case I should qualify that as very, very allegedly) attacked the police with wooden rods and pelted them with stones. According to some variations in the reports, Muhammad was charged with stone throwing, an “assassination” attempt on police, attacking a staff member of the utility company, and attempted murder of police officials. The charges, in short, were serious.
Muhammad appeared at what I would call a bail hearing with his Grandfather. He was upset and reportedly crying, although not as copiously as Oscar Pistorius. Rather than sign the bail forms, he had his thumb dipped in ink and imprinted on the forms.
According to at least one report, Additional and Sessions Judge Rafaqat Ali granted interim bail to Muhammad and continued the hearing to a later date, stating that while he thought the charges were absurd, he was powerless to dismiss them.
The case created an uproar. The Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif called for “stern action” against the police officials who had filed the case. The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Khalil Tahir Sindhu “took notice,” whatever that means, of the human rights violations by the police. Someone identified as sub-inspector Kashif Ahmed, who purportedly registered (which I take to mean filed) the case, has reportedly been suspended.
A defense attorney, Chaudhry Irfan Sadi, asserted that the case exposed the incompetence of the police and the way they operated. The Police Operations Director, whom I won’t name because spellcheck has rebelled, assertedly said that it was a “sheer misunderstanding” on the part of the police and was not done on purpose.
At this point, it is unclear whether the case has been dismissed or just continued, but I think it is safe to say that if it hasn’t been dismissed yet, it is only a matter of time. With the public glare on the case, there is no way this prosecution will go forward.
Muhammad Mosa Khan, you see, is only nine months old.
Richard W. Millar, Jr. is a member of the firm of Millar, Hodges & Bemis in Newport Beach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.