Justice denied.

LESS than a year ago, it seemed justice had been served in the March 2013 murder of Orangi Pilot Project director Perween Rahman, whose death left Karachi's marginalised residents bereft of a selfless campaigner for their rights.

The country's criminal justice system, however, has emphatically dispelled that impression. On Monday, the Sindh High Court acquitted all five men who had been convicted of the crime by an anti-terrorism court in December 2021, and ordered their release.

Four of them had been awarded life imprisonment, while one was sentenced to seven years behind bars. The conviction brought a measure of comfort to a citizenry shaken by the murder of the architect and urban planner who, instead of a lucrative career path, had chosen to work on improving the lives of the underserved millions in Karachi.

The trial took eight long years, and laid bare the rot within the justice system, including a criminally defective police investigation that destroyed evidence and spoiled the case from the outset.

Consider that less than 24 hours after the murder - before any forensic tests were even carried out - the police claimed that Perween's killer, allegedly a TTP member, had been shot dead in an 'encounter'.

Dogged efforts by her family and friends in subsequent months to expose the flawed investigation prompted the Supreme Court to step in. Over the next few years, no less than one judicial commission and three JITs were formed on the apex court's direction to uncover the facts behind the assassination.

In her pursuit for social justice, particularly with regard to rights on land and water - precious...

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