LAHORE (AFP) ‚Äď While many children his age are still learning how to crawl, a nine-month-old boy in Pakistan has been accused of attempted murder in a case observers say highlights endemic flaws in the country‚Äôs legal system.
Baby Mohammad Musa along with his father and other family members was booked for throwing rocks at gas company officials in the working-class Ahata Thanedaran neighbourhood on February 1, the family‚Äôs lawyer Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq told AFP Friday.
Inspector Kashif Muhammad, who attended the alleged crime scene and has since been suspended, wrote in his report that it was a case of attempted murder.
Appearing in a packed court room with others accused in the case on Thursday, Musa was seen crying as his grandfather Muhammad Yasin held him on his shoulder.
Yasin later fed him milk from a bottle while fielding questions from reporters.
‚ÄúEveryone in the court was saying ‚ÄėHow can such a small child be implicated in any case‚Äô? What kind of police do we have?‚ÄĚ the 50-year-old laborer said.
The charge is in direct contradiction with Pakistan‚Äôs minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was raised from seven to 12 years in 2013 except in terrorism cases.
Yasin accused the police of fabricating the charges because they were colluding with a rival party who wanted to see the accused evicted from their land and had obtained an order to remove their gas connections.
‚ÄúThe police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses. Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done.
‚ÄúBut later we found out that cases have been filed against us,‚ÄĚ he added.
Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, though he will have to appear at the next hearing on April 12.
But Sadiq, the lawyer, said the charges against the child should have been dropped.
‚ÄúThe court should have simply referred the minor‚Äôs case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case,‚ÄĚ Sadiq told AFP.
‚ÄúThis case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating,‚ÄĚ he added.
Feisal Naqvi, a supreme court lawyer told AFP the naming of family members in police reports was a common tactic employed by complainants in order to exert pressure on parties with whom they were involved in a dispute.
He said: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not common for babies to be accused but it is common for other family members to be accused,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúWhat happens then is that vendettas are going on so everyone gets picked up and gets chucked in jail,‚ÄĚ he added.
Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, added that the system operates via ‚Äėfirst information reports‚Äô that date back to British colonial times, which give too much weight to allegations made by accusers.
‚ÄúThe moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around,‚ÄĚ Suddle said.
Illustrative photo of a random baby with no legal charges pending. (photo credit: ayes/Wikimedia Commons/File)