Curious case of harassment


The retraction of her earlier statement by the alleged victim girl in one of the worst sexual harassment cases in the country has given a bizarre twist to the case. In her previous statement before the police, she had stated that she and her partner were forced by Usman Mirza and several of his cohorts to strip and perform sexual acts in front of them in an Islamabad guesthouse. The video of the purported act of the heinous sexual violence surfaced last year, and it shocked the entire nation. Later, the government took notice of the incident and a case was lodged on behalf of the state. The main culprit in the case, Mirza, was arrested along with several of his alleged accomplices on July 6, 2021. The case was brought for trial before the Islamabad High Court which granted bail to some of those arrested, barring the chief accused and a few other co-accused.

On Jan 11, came another shocker when the girl said she did not recognise the accused persons appearing in the video, before the court. The U-turn by the alleged victim has given the case a Kafkaesque surrealist turn. The girl’s new statement contradicts her own earlier testimony bringing the nature of the video in doubt. However, a senior police officer maintains that a forensic test has proven the video real. Moreover, since the state has lodged the case, only it can withdraw it. The relevant judge of the IHC has also emphasised this aspect as when the girl told him she would not be appearing in future hearings of the case, the justice emphatically replied that she will have to appear before the court.

Legal experts are of the opinion that the accused cannot be let off entirely. They can only get reduced punishment because a forensic test has established the authenticity of the video. There are precedents that even if aggrieved parties grant pardon to accused/convicts, courts have refused to accept the pardon. The trial in the case will continue, so will continue our faith in the justice system of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2022.

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