In Defense Of Justice
Before starting, let me clarify that I am not a lawyer. I am just an ordinary citizen of Pakistan who looks at the injustice or delayed justice to fellow citizens and feels the pain. Often it seems that law is being served instead of justice whereas law may or may not contain justice since judges are bound by law and evidence presented in front of them. Sometimes, (read: most of the time) it seems obvious that a crime is being/ has been committed, but in the court it may appear otherwise. Sometimes, the accused is apprehended based on some initial evidence. The proceedings continue for ages and then the accused is acquitted, leaving the question as to who actually carried out the corruption since there was hue and cry and people actually suffered.
A similar example is the recent judgment in Ayaan Ali vs Sate in which the so-called supermodel was acquitted from the money-laundering case, leaving common citizens of Pakistan, like me, astonished as to why she was apprehended in the first place and when proven innocent why wasn’t there any action against the authorties responsible. It is evident from the exit of Ayaan Ali from the country the day she got a final clean chit, that there was a judgment, there were court proceedings, there was prosecution and then there was a defense. So, the questions left unanswered, that may be stupid insofar as jurisprudence is concerned, just cannot be responded to by chest-thumping banters and the flinging of sundry legal terms and judgments in front of the common citizens.
The judgment states, and I quote,
“Ayaan Ali was apprehended at ASF Counter in the Rawal Lounge of Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, when Waqas ASI, of ASF, considering her suitcase as suspicious, conducted search of the same and recovered therefrom US Dollars 506,800. He then handed her over to the Customs officials who booked her in the said case.”
So why was she travelling with a hefty amount of money with her? There is a clear Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) law that allows USD 10,000 to be taken outside of the country as cash. Paragraph 5 of the judgment states that when Ayaan was apprehended, the stage of correct declaration of amount had not yet been arrived at.
Now let’s take a break and try to find out the answers to the following:
- Is there any order of precedence mentioned somewhere regarding stages of declaration? Isn’t it a duty of the traveler to keep only the prescribed amount of money with him or her? Or can any sum of more than USD 10,000 be taken along by just declaring it?
- But, why declare unlawful money? Isn’t it the same as if I take any restricted item with me without prior approval to an airport with an intention to travel and when the same is checked I say, “Oh! I was going to declare that and after declaring I was going to travel with the same?”
- What would have happened anyway, after the declaration of the amount? Would Customs have let her go or apprehended her for trying to take more than the prescribed amount of money outside of the country? In this case, the officials arrested her, which seemed to be the right thing to do at that point as she was carrying an amount which was not allowed. Also, if someone unlawfully breaks into a house and gets arrested, he or she cannot say that it was the duty of police to stop him or her.
- By the way, at every airport the customs counter is the first one along with ASF Security, so which stage was yet to be arrived at? Secondly, Customs booked her, which clearly implies that Customs officials were well aware of the situation and could have told ASF to let her “declare” the amount. However, Customs officials remained silent and instead booked her in the case as she failed to declare the amount in the first place. This raises brows on the professionalism of the prosecution as to why this point was not contested and the defense of the accused destroyed. The prosecution could have shown the blueprint plan of the airport to indicate where the customs counter was.
If Ayaan Ali’s intention, as she claimed, was not to travel with that much money, what else was it? It is claimed that she wanted to give this money to her brother who was coming on the same flight. In the judgment, it was clearly mentioned that court wanted a probe by the prosecution with reference to this claim. Did the prosecution carry out the same or did something somewhere get compromised? For example, was the ticket, the exit stamp on the passport and boarding pass of the brother produced by the petitioner (Ayaan Ali) in front of the authorities in order to establish her claim? Well, the answer to that question never saw the light of day.
Furthermore, where was she supposed to hand over the money to her brother? Clearly, airports are meant for travelling and not for money transactions. This claim further begs some more questions:
- If her intention was not to travel but to exchange money, why wasn’t someplace other than the airport chosen?
- Why weren’t financial institution channels used to transfer the money to her brother’s account?
- If she did not mean to travel, how was she allowed to enter the airport? It is mandatory to produce travel documents in order to enter airport premises. If one is going to greet anyone, one won’t be allowed to go beyond the security check and must wait at greetings area.
- If the intention was not to travel, how was she able to access Rawal Lounge without the necessary documents? The access to Rawal Lounge is restricted to passengers and dignitaries. Clearly, she did not belong to the latter category and was a passenger with the “intention” to travel otherwise she would not have access to the lounge. Under which carpet I should hide the news of Ayaan Ali being supported by the personal assistant of some ex-President to have access to the airport?
- Initially, the officials maintained that they had the ticket and boarding pass of the accused, but the judgment said otherwise.
This clearly indicates that the prosecution was not up to the mark and the correct evidence were not presented in the court in front of the judges.
Ayaan Ali maintained that the money she was found with was earned by selling her property in Bahria Town. Now over which wall should I throw the earlier statements of FBR officials where they maintained that Bahria Town negated any such claim which was admitted to later on?
The material I am forced to buy is that, ‘you may travel with money more than the prescribed limit, with no details of source whatsoever. If customs book you for not declaring the same, you may say that the stage of declaration was not yet arrived at and you may even negate your intention to travel, citing that the money was supposed to be delivered to such and such person in the passengers’ lounge only.’
As a common citizen of Pakistan, I see loopholes and flaws in the Customs law and unprofessionalism of politicized prosecution. Under such circumstances, none of the prosecuting officers would dare make a case against or apprehend someone with connections.
Paragraph 6 of the judgment stated that the act of taking foreign currency out of Pakistan beyond the prescribed limit was not immoral or anti-social in nature, but was technical. I keep on pondering upon the definitions of “morality” and “social” to find my answer(s).
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organisation with which he might be associated.