The moment Farooq Bandial, a convicted robber and rapist, joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), social media unleashed its wrath on PTI so furiously that they were left with no option but to quickly change their decision and save themselves from bad press that could be a greater risk for them than carrying a stinking baggage. With this wise decision, PTI closed this chapter but the controversies it unveiled were too horrendous to be fathomed. Many ugly aspects of our society had remained shrouded beneath the orchestrated layer of cover-ups, but were suddenly undraped, raising many unanswerable questions.In a country where weak prosecution is blamed for the acquittal of many hardcore criminals, the causes for acquittal in this case were altogether different. Since this is a 40-year old case, most of the available information is sketchy. Yet the story, according to some reports, goes something like this: Farooq Bandial and his four accomplices barged into the house of film actress Shabnam and subjected her to gang rape in front of her husband and son. Since the culprits belonged to influential families, they managed to influence the police to register the case for burglary and not for gang rape. Later, General Ziaul Haq was reported to have intervened in the matter and had the case registered under Hudood Ordinance. The military court announced death sentences for the culprits. The ‘free for all’ atmosphere lamented by SM Zafar in his letter became a ‘free for influential’ atmosphere as the crime continues unabatedly to this dateKnowing the loophole of the Hudood Ordinance, Farooq Bandial’s family, mother and sisters, visited the house of the film actress and begged her to forgive her tormentors. Fearing the repercussions that a denial could bring upon her and her family, Shabnum, being an actress of Bengali descent, had no choice but to submit.After obtaining this pardon, Shabnum’s lawyer SM Zafar (known as one of the best lawyers of the country with a past history of serving military dictators) wrote a letter to General Zia ul Haq. He referenced the social and moral decadence rampant in the society as a result of the “free for all” policy of the previous (Bhutto’s) regime. It was the main reason that the perpetrators committed a crime worthy of a death sentence. With shifting all the blame on the social environment and naming Bhutto, the archenemy of Ziaul Haq, as the promoter of immoral values in the society, the lawyer indirectly boasted of the moral superiority of the dictator and incited him to prove his superiority over his rival by granting the requested clemency to the death-row criminals. The letter ended by provoking the humanitarian feelings of the dictator who was better known for his ruthlessness against his opponents. It said, “…This [clemency] will also be consistent with the doctrine of Ihsan (kindness).”What a mental torture the victims of a heinous crime must have gone through to see their own lawyer advocating the case of their opponents. Nearly six months before denying clemency to the former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the heart of the military dictator melted with a feeling of kindness towards Bandial and his ilk, and he changed their death sentence to life imprisonment.One letter from a lawyer proved to be more effective for the General to change the fate of the convicted robbers and rapists than all those letters and requests that he later received from many country-heads and the world-level dignitaries seeking clemency for a former prime minister. The honour and dignity of women or chadar aur char divari that was very dear to Ziaul Haq couldn’t stop him from letting these abusers go free from the penalty they were awarded by the court. The ‘free for all’ atmosphere lamented by SM Zafar in his letter became a “free for influential” atmosphere as the crime continues unabatedly to this date.The use of the ‘doctrine of Ihsan’ in SM Zafar’s letter is an excellent example of Shakespearean tragedies where lofty ideals are used for some hideous objectives. A good ethical principle was used to seek protection for the most heinous crimes that might have earned the lawyer good rewards in terms of the fees he must have received from them. The letter also quoted ‘armed robbery’ as the offense but made no mention of the heinous crime that was committed in front of the husband and son of the victim. Could an armed robbery compel victims to leave a country where both, Shabnam and her husband Robin Ghosh in this case, were at the height of their professional careers? Talking to a national newspaper lately, Farooq Bandial emphasised that the facts about the case shouldn’t be distorted. “Never ever, I have been convicted of a heinous act like rape, I was convicted by a military court in the era of Gen Zia over the charges of dacoity at the residence of actress Shabnam and she was the first one to pardon me, one could confirm it from her”.What led him and his accomplice to commit dacoity when all of them belonged to rich families?On 25 November 2016, a stage dancer, Kismat Baig was gunned down in Lahore and the killers were her stage promoter and his accomplice. Her family pursued the case for nearly six months and then gave up because of the financial crunch and intimidation they faced from the culprits. She wasn’t the only actor whose families remained unsuccessful in achieving justice for the crime; there are several others such as Sangum Rana, Yasmeen, Karishma Shah, Naina, Nagina Khanum and Nadra whose families also met with a similar fate.Soon after the expulsion of Farooq Bandial from PTI, another similar character sought PTI membership. He was an influential tribal leader and former chief minister of Punjab, Dost Muhammad Khosa. Having bitten before by Farooq Bandial’s case, PTI excused itself from allowing him a membership because of a scandal related to a mysterious and unresolved murder of his second wife, Sapna, a stage actress by profession.Those who are weak are often taken for granted by the influential; a phenomenon very common in all countries but grossly prominent in socially backward countries like ours.Once Bhutto lost his power, a lawyer was quick to use his weak position for his advantage. Women, being financially weaker than men, are subjected to all sorts of crimes without feeling any remorse or facing any repercussions. A daughter can be murdered for not making a roti properly or a wife can be killed for not opening the door quickly.Regardless of what crime Farooq Bandial or Dost Muhammad Khosa had committed, one fact remains undeniable: the weakest are the worst victims of crimes in our society and the powerful perpetrators remain unexposed till nature takes its own course of retaliation.The writer is a Senior Research Fellow, Center for Research and Security StudiesPublished in Daily Times, June 6th 2018.