The Case of Saima Farhana – a woman who died pleading innocence in the Central Jail

According to reports, a Karachi court acquitted a woman named Saima Farhan, and four of her family members, for their alleged involvement in a murder case on the 10th of January. While this may seem like a victory for Pakistan’s criminal justice system, the verdict came too late to be celebrated. The innocent Saima needlessly languished in prison for almost a year-and-a-half before giving up on life in the Central Jail on the 14th of June, 2021. The woman was acquitted seven months after her death. According to jail authorities, 35-year-old Saima was a cancer patient who died due to severe abdominal and kidney issues.

Timeline Of The Case

The case against Saima

Saima was an aalima who used to teach the Holy Quran to the person she was accused of killing. Saima’s incarceration began on the 14th of February, 2020, after she was arrested for allegedly poisoning her neighbor and friend, Rukhsar.

Rukhsar’s death occurred on the 24th of February, 2019, in Karachi’s Civil Hospital, where she was rushed after her health deteriorated at her residence in Liaquatabad. Following Rukhsar’s death, her mother, Shahnaz, sought to register a complaint against Saima and her family members for allegedly poisoning her daughter.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against Saima and four of her immediate family members at the Liaquatabad Police Station on the 12th of September, 2019. In the FIR, Rukhsar’s mother, Shahnaz, accused Saima and her family members of killing her daughter in a bid to usurp her property.

Saima’s sister, Nusrat Naz, brothers Muhammad Ali and Zahid Ali, and sister-in-law Asma Muhammad Ali were booked under Sections 302 (punishment for death or life imprisonment for murder) and 34 (when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Saima’s family pleads innocence

Speaking to a media outlet, Saima’s family members said:

The complainants built a false case against us with the help of the police to usurp the property Saima owned.

According to police reports, after filing a case, Shahnaz sought the exhumation of her daughter’s grave to back her claim that Saima and her family had poisoned Rukhsar. Once Rukhsar’s body was exhumed, it was discovered that she died due to zinc phosphide — a compound used in pesticides such as rat poison. However, the report categorically stated:

Manner of the death cannot be commented upon.

The report could not establish whether the poison was self-consumed or given by another. After years of hearings, the court at last held in the final verdict:

Despite Rukhsar’s death due to poison, Saima and her family can not be implicated in the crime.

Saima died before her innocence could be proven

Murder charges against Saima were officially framed on the 6th of February, 2021. During the trial, her health started to deteriorate. After repeated treatment applications filed by the defense counsel, the court directed Saima to the Civil Hospital. However, due to the severe delays in her treatment, Saima’s health was far from recovering.

Taking note of the health ignorance and violation, on the 12th of June, 2021, the judge ordered the investigation officer to take appropriate action against the jail authorities. However, it was too late by then. A day later, Saima was rushed to the Civil Hospital on emergency due to abdominal pain. After the checkup, she came back to prison. The doctor had advised her to visit the facility for further tests the next day, but Saima died in prison on the 14th of June, 2021.

For seven months after Saima’s death, the trial continued in her absence. Finally, on the 10th of January, 2021, the judge announced the verdict, declaring all the accused acquitted. The additional district and sessions judge noted that the prosecution “miserably failed” to prove its case against 35-year-old Saima and four of her family members.

Saima’s family await justice

After winning a legal battle and emerging innocent, Saima’s family members still await action against the jail authorities who denied Saima timely medical treatment. Speaking to a media channel, they said:

Divine retribution certainly comes (Allah ki laathi be awaaz hai). The court and the judge served us justice. Our sister died right before us while suffering in jail. We are poor people; what could we have done for her? We were helpless.

The defense counsel — Muhmmad Akbar Khan and his associate Sheikh Saqib Ahmed — said:

During the trial, Saima asked us at every hearing: ‘Wakeel sahib, hamein bail kab milegi? (When will we be granted bail)?” Now that she was finally acquitted, we won’t be able to share the happy news with her.

The jail authorities and the court is currently silent on the matter of health violation in the Central Jail. Only time will tell whether authorities take action against the responsible or Saima’s death too subsides with time.

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