By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: Allegations, whether true or false, can sometimes stick like glue and that is exactly what happened with Zohaib Ahmed. A fourth grader at the time, Zohaib was wrongly accused of being involved in a shoot-out in Daral Valley in 2015 by police inspector Raji Rahmat.
Although justice finally shone through—the boy was released and the policeman put behind bars—life for Zohaib is notably different.
“Everyone in my school and the valley looks at me like I am a terrorist,” Zohaib told reporters in Chilas, the headquarters of Diamer Valley on Sunday. “This has distracted me from my education, I feel bullied.”
Just seven years old at the time, Zohaib was booked under the anti-terrorism act (ATA) by Rahmat.
According to his relatives, the boy suffered injuries to his arms when the shoot-out occurred. Many others were also wounded in this incident. He was sitting on a wall and watching people vote when the firing started. Later, an advertisement published in local newspapers declared Zohaib as an absconder evading arrest.
On Friday, when Zohaib and his father Jehanzeb Khan appeared at an anti-terrorism court, Judge Raja Shehbaz Khan reprimanded Rahmat and ordered the inspector be arrested and Zohaib be set free.
The inspector was handcuffed in the courtroom and taken away by police. Raja Shehbaz also directed IGP Zafar Iqbal Awan to take action against Rahmat under departmental rules.
“I appeal to senior officials to look into the case and ensure due punishment for those who have played with the future of children,” said Zohaib, who is now back home in his valley some 200 kilometres from Gilgit.
Jehanzeb remains shocked over the manner in which his son was portrayed in the case. “My son is a school topper and accusing him of such a heinous crime is shocking,” Jehanzeb said.
He pointed out Zohaib’s class fellows tease him over the charges levelled against him. “His friends call him ‘ATA’, but I am hopeful things will become better after the court’s decision.”
The father said he would appeal to all in his area to get an education as it was the sole remedy of all evils.
”I will encourage others in the valley to send their children to school if they really want them to compete in this fast-changing world,” said Jehanzeb, whose Diamer district is one of the most underdeveloped areas in G-B. According to Alif Ailaan’s Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015, Diamer is ranked 95 of 148 districts in terms of education and 127 in terms of infrastructure
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2016.