In response to PEMRA’s Notice to TV ONE…

The appended letter has been sent to PEMRA electronically as well as having been physically delivered to PEMRA Headquarters, Islamabad.

 

June 1, 2017

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority

Headquarters

Mauve Area G-8/1, Islamabad

ALLEGATION AGAINST QUAID-I-AZAM IN SAHIR LODHI’S PROGRAMME ‘ISHQ-E-RAMAZAN’ SHOW CAUSE NOTICE ISSUED TO TV ONE

This is with reference to the press release on the captioned subject issued by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Islamabad, vide reference no. 2(05)/PR-2015/I, dated May 31, 2017.

First and foremost, I, as a citizen of Pakistan, would like to express my gratitude for issuance of the said notice to TV One in violation of Section 20(c) and (f) of PEMRA Ordinance 2002, Section 15(1) of PEMRA Rules 2009 and clauses 5, 3 (I) (a) and 17 of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct of 2015.

While management of TV One has been called on for an explanation on account of Sahir Lodhi, who while hosting “Ishq-e-Ramazan” on May 28, 2017, held Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, responsible for deaths of those martyred during partition of the subcontinent, the following is presented for your consideration:

  1. There was a young female involved, supposedly named Dr. Saba Rizwan, who was abruptly interrupted and was not allowed to complete her speech, charging her of being insulting to Quaid-i-Azam, holding the Quaid responsible for all social evil in Pakistan today.
  2. After watching the speech, which is available on various social media sites, general belief of the masses is that the charges levied against her were wrong and the overall behavior of the host, Sahir Lodhi tantamount to Mr. Lodhi being discriminatory, rude and insulting and harassing to the debater and the public at large which supported her argument and clapped.
  3. Mr. Lodhi challenged the other’s patriotism and implied that other, especially the debater, do not care about the moralities, values of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and that the founding fathers are not respected by others as much or more than they are respected by Mr. Lodhi.
  4. Even if the debater was guilty of all the charges levied by Sahir Lodhi, what right and authority can be exercised by a host/anchor person on live TV and what is the conduct to be observed in such cases?

The following is presented as reference:

 

  • Electronic Media Code of Conduct, Section (3) (1) (a) “No content is aired which is against the Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan or founding fathers of the nation…”
  • The treatment dispensed towards the debater was seemingly much against the Islamic values and the ideology of Pakistan, both of which put women at highest of honors.  Being humiliated on television for false charges and no being heard may be in direct contrast to the quoted regulation.

 

  • Electronic Media Code of Conduct, Section (3) (1) (f) “No content is aired which is likely to incite, aid, abet, glamorize or justify violence…or leads to serious public disorder.”
  • If various individuals including certain known ones present on the stage can clap on Mr. Lodhi’s outburst, is it not possible that his speech may incite violence in view of publicizing ‘his’ definition of patriotism and implying others who do not conform to his definition are somehow lesser Pakistanis and putting the debater under direct threat?  Matters of patriotism are personal and one’s being denounced may have dire consequences not only towards the individual being criticized but a larger group who may not agree.

 

  • Electronic Media Code of Conduct, Section (3) (1) (k) “No content is aired which amounts to intimidation, blackmail or false incrimination of any person.”
  • Mr. Lodhi’s hurling of insults to the individual and the entire episode was based on false pretense.  Not only did Mr. Lodhi react on something which was never said, he actually held the public responsible who had much better level of understanding and applauded the debater.  Mr. Lodhi’s demeanor was insulting and derogatory towards the debater and this attitude was baseless and on false charges.  If his demeanor was not intimidation, the honorable PEMRA is requested to elaborate on the application of the quoted clause.

With utmost respect for the founding fathers of Pakistan and the rules and regulations laid down to ensure overall quality of content improves and a discipline is maintained on electronic media, PEMRA is requested to kindly let the public of Pakistan know while rightfully honoring a great founding father of Pakistan, how does PEMRA view the honor of a living Pakistani in light of the quoted clauses.  If the honor of a living Pakistani is important, which does seem to be the case in light of various rules and regulations some of which have been quoted for reference, why is it then none of these reasons were felt important enough to make it to the notice referred to above issued to TV One and why is there no notice against Mr. Sahir Lodhi in particular?

Vide this letter, it is stated that I, as a Pakistani, have been offended with such a display as the one under discussion here.  These are not the values of our society and such behavior needs to be condemned in the most powerful words and punished as per law.  

In the opinion of a viewer, a young female was reflecting upon the issues faced by a female, and she was proven right on live TV.

Mohammad Ali Rahman

A Concerned Pakistani

 

Physical Letter dispatched to: PEMRA Headquarters, Islamabad

Email to: chairman@pemra.gov.pk; exec_member@pemra.gov.pk; dg-ops@pemra.gov.pk; dg.admn@pemra.gov.pk; dg.lic@pemra.gov.pk; dg-pp@pemra.gov.pk; secretary@pemra.gov.pk; info@pemra.gov.pk; finance@pemra.gov.pk; legal@pemra.gov.pk

The untimely brides…

tumblr_n22we90sql1supmtwo5_1280“Most people simply don’t know the extent of the problem.  An estimated 25,000 child marriages occur every day.  That’s mind-boggling, so much so that to many people, it becomes abstract, unreal.” – Gavin Weston, Author.  Indeed unreal should one opt to browse through the statistics published by UNICEF. According to UNICEF, a startling 21% of girls married in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the year 2016 were below 18 years of age, 3% below the age of 15.  The poverty, illiteracy, customs, gender inequality, insecurity and much more contributes to this evil practice, almost always leading to the girl’s physical, mental and social health causing serious overall health issues.

Being a member of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), an inter-governmental body which has adopted a regional action plan to target child marriage, Pakistan was among the first few states to propose a target to end child marriages by 2030.  This commitment seems evident in the overall developments in the legislation at Federal as well as Provincial level.

Despite Pakistan’s Child Marriage Restraint ACT (CMRA) 1929 setting the legal age for marriage to 16 for women and 18 for men, the transgressions continue unabated.  In February 2017, the Parliament adopted an amendment to the Penal Code introducing tougher punishments for the offenders with imprisonment of at least five years and up to 10 years which may be accompanied with a fine of up to Rs. 1 million.  April 2014 witnessed adoption of Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, increasing the minimum age to 18.  Punjab introduced a Bill introducing harsher punishments for offenders while maintaining the minimum age at 16. The Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body which gives Islamic legal advice to the Government of Pakistan, declared the laws prohibiting child marriage un-Islamic followed by severe criticism from various quarters.  Noman Ali of East London Mosque had these views which indeed seem to be a ray of hope.

While the legislation, its implementation, prevalence of justice remain a challenge and as the common people keep on being sent in all different direction in the name of Islam, there are certain individuals who make it a point to do all they can using any medium possible to create awareness among the masses, pushing for education, equality, sending out a loud and clear message that a daughter is an asset and not a liability.

Waqar J. Khan, a young man in late 20s, in his continuous pursuit to add value and address perhaps the most controversial issues which plague the society, conceptualized a photoshoot to create awareness.  Waqar had recently been the talk of the town for his efforts in introducing the first transgender model , objective there being social inclusion and bringing the historically oppressed into the mainstream.

17021642_10208737192163143_8189294907609529331_nPartnering up with Muhammad Haseeb Siddiqui, a teacher of Photography and CEO & Founder of Haseeb Siqqiqui and Saima Rashid Bargfrede, hair designer, makeup artist, and styling expert, who lives to inspire or get inspired, the tremendous trio showcased beautiful young girls in an inspiring and effectual fashion shoot.  What could have been better than tackling gender inequality in the conventionally male dominated sports arena?  The girls were carefully selected from an age group typically falling prey to the stigma of early marriage.

Areeba is 8 years old.  She loves to play cricket and is currently enrolled in Grade 4.  12-year-old Suman is training to be a boxer while studying in Grade 8.  She is the first girls to partake in an outdoor activity. Esha enjoys playing football, is 10 years old and a student of Grade 5.  These powerful picture etch the soul.  The left reflecting upon the sacrifice of a precious life as young girls are married to become more of slaves for labor and object of pleasure, while the right reflects upon the inordinate resolve, to grow, to fulfill dreams, to contribute, shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. 17022335_10208752959357313_9030649482856461776_n16938466_10208752959277311_474656129055450329_n 17021361_10208752959317312_8275697457533421913_n These young girls did not just pose for this shoot to make a statement.  Here you see an actual cricketer, a boxer and a footballer.  How did all this become possible? The answer lies in a dream of a man named Zakir.  Coach Zakir.  Zakir knows not how to differentiate between a girl and a boy and believes in provision of equal opportunity irrespective of gender. Zakir runs the Muslim Sports Complex Orangi West in Karachi.  The facility provides training to males, females, young and old.  Zakir wanted to inculcate a competitive attitude in the community transcending the boundaries ever so ingrained backed by a long history of gender bias and caste system.  It was initially an uphill task for Zakir to enroll females for training in his sports complex.  However, perseverance paid off.  Zakir doesn’t only train young and old males and females in the sports activity of their choice, but also reinforces the concept of mutually coexistence across caste, ethnicity, dispensing one of the most important responsibilities of bringing up tolerant youth.

maxresdefaultWaqar, Haseeb, Saima and Zakir have certainly proven that much can be done to improve the quality of life and addresses various social evils at the individual level and every issue can just not be left to the legislation and subsequently, to the law enforcement agencies to implement the law, if it becomes at all and doesn’t fall prey to various interpretations of Islam.

The silver lining…

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaliaaaajdewyjazyjg3lwyymtgtndi5ns05otrklwvmzwm3owmxzgq1mqShanaya’s ordeal  is nothing out of the ordinary.  There is an unending list of brutal events wherein transgender people have been subjected to physical assault and sexual abuse.  As men and women struggle to make their place in our society, earn a decent living, be respected, the struggles of the transgender community are of a totally different nature.  They struggle to survive, to breathe, to live.

As Urooj Murtaza mentions, transgender people were also the caretakers in Kaaba. During that time, they had authority and a high status in society. The key to the door of Kaaba is still with them. “Even the Saudis couldn’t eliminate this,” One transgender told Urooj that they have special ritualistic roles at Sufi shrines. The first chaddar placed on Bari Imam’s grave was by a transgender. How can those who were once caretaker of Kaaba be now banned from even entering the Holy Land?  Saudi Arabia has banned transgender persons on Tuesday to perform Umrah, religious visits to holy places in Madina and Makkah.

What if you were Riffie Khan, double masters in Economics and Political Science, and the only opportunity you had was to be a receptionist at National Medical Center, paid only Rs. 15,000/- a month and that too only till you were asked to leave because you didn’t fit in?  “What if you were a transgender?” , asks Kami.  Kami, Board Member & Volunteer at Rights Now Pakistan, Member of Sexual Minority Group, Sindh Human Rights Defender and Asia Pacific Transgender Network, is regarded as regarded as the future Laxmi Narain Tripathi, a veteran transgender rights activist from India.  Kami matured from thinking she is mentally challenged to discovering herself and decided to be a voice for many, a voice of assurance, a voice of confidence, a voice that matters.

Amid the much tainted milieu with the recent incident in Sialkot, Waqar J. Khan, an 13173919_10206543269116438_6575766346771089581_nentrepreneur, who has always spread peace with yoga, or his designing or just by being his great self, decided to team up with Kami and was supported all the way by Nighat Misbah of Depilex, and Muhammad Haseeb Siddiqui, photographer, to make a statement.  A statement which, perhaps is the need of the hour.  A statement of inclusion. A statement of compassion.  A statement of belonging.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaad7aaaajgfkndjjyzyylta2mjctngi3mc04zdc0lty0ymrlmmq0njqwmqA fashion shoot was planned with Kami.  A concerned Waqar Khan searched for a venue which will be safe and secure, conceptualized exposing the beauty which is often overshadowed by the gender, draping and embellishing the model with nothing but her own belongings.  The outcome was nothing less than sheer magic.  Kami may well put many super models out of business!
A few more of such initiatives, perhaps at a much larger scale will probably prevent Alia and many others who are tortured, raped, deprived of basic facilities like education and health, from fleeing the country in search of safer grounds.

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As Mother Teresa said, “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” Thank you Kami, Waqar, Haseeb and Nighat, for being somebody to so many.  Thank you for the silver lining. All that is needed for inclusion is a simple mindfulness that others might have a different reality which is absolutely fine.

A young leader, Omar Bilal Ahmad…

12885874_10209266081753106_231989603653230480_oOmar Bilal Ahmad, a face all too familiar. A successful model having showcased renowned products and services from Pepsi, Cadbury, Djuice, Suzuki, Qmobile, Clear, Pizza Hut, Jang Classified, Hashmi Ispaghol, UBL, and the list is unending, proves that age is just a bias when it comes to leadership.

Only three days of young Ahmad’s life of over two decades are the subject here.  It is a matter of pride to be writing on this great initiative recently undertaken for our beloved city, Karachi.  The superfluous garbage, the lack of attention from the government and the recent statement by Chief Minister Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, has brought a new life to one of the most important issues this great city faces.  The towering pile of garbage at almost around every nook and corner of the city has unfortunately become its identity.

While tens of thousands took to social media criticizing the provincial government, Ahmad reminded us that there is a lot more that can be done.  Ahmad, a successful model, an entrepreneur, an entertainer, took to self along with his friends to lead the way under the banner of corporate social responsibility by SavYour which he owns, and turned a location around not only by cleaning but planting trees in places infested with garbage, smell and disease.

11053242_10207527684534262_7810515503631601497_nFrom the various pictures of Ahmad, the one with Sir Edhi is perhaps the truest reflection of young Ahmad and what he stands for.  Quoting Brigadier Rashid Ali Malik, President APSAA, from Yasmin Aftab Ali’s article, ‘On Edhi-ism’, “Edhi should be coined into a new word; into a concept of life. Of care. We should teach Edhi, about his life, his care and love for humanity…”, and here, we have Ahmad, practicing humanity, love, care in his own way.

This video details the initiative. Here is what Ahmad was up to along with his friends for three days:

 

Considering Ahmad’s age, profession, his passion as seen in the video calls for many more to follow.  As long as this nation is a mother to such youngsters, there is hope.

Ahmad’s passion to serve and bring happiness to others is reflected in his line of business as well.  Do visit SavYour website to learn more.

Thank you Omar Bilal Ahmad.  Salute.

Note: The garbage doesn’t just pile-up on its own.  While cleanliness is the responsibility of the government, we cannot be absolved of the same.  It is an attitude and has little to do with the level of education or wealth.  Windows of chauffeur-driven cars have often been rolled down to throw out wrappers of food, used tissue, fruit peels right in the middle of the roads without hesitation.  We need to stop being part of the problem in order for our voices to be heard when we raise them reminding others of their responsibility.

Storm brewing in Mandi Bahauddin…

PMWho is Imran Masih

Imran Masih, son of Sharif Masih, resident of Chak 44, Tehsil Phalyian, Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, employee of a local health care center and works as a janitor.

April 16, 2015

Imran Masih, attends wedding of a Muslim colleague’s daughter and records a small video clip just like any of us do at such occasions.

April 19, 2016

Imran goes back to work where his colleagues ask him to show them the video clip of the wedding.  Imran hands over the phone without hesitation, thinking he has nothing to hide, and continues to finish his work.

Upon returning, Imran finds Bilal, a drug store owner, showing provocative lectures by Pastor Sami Samson to other workers.  Upon asking Bilal to return the phone, Bilal hits Imran on the face accusing him of watching anti-Islamic lectures on his phone.

Imran swears that he has never watched any such video but he is not believed and is locked up in an empty room.  Imran calls members of his Catholic Church Committee to apprise them of the situation using another phone which he fortunately had.  Aamir Masih and Arif Masih tell a senior doctor at the health center that Bilal is not educated enough to be able to browse and use search engines.  After persuasion, they are able to get Imran Masih released.

April 22, 2016RT

Coworker, Maulvi Manzoor tells Imran Masih that Bilal is very upset with him and that Imran should seek Bilal’s forgiveness.  Imran accompanies Mansoor to Bilal’s shop to ask for forgiveness.

Bilal, being absent from his shop, is called on the phone by Manzoor, only to learn that he is in Sargodha seeking opinion of religious scholars on the incident.  Bilal informs Manzoor that a decree (fatwa) has been issued finding Imran Masih guilty of blasphemy and is entitled to be killed.

Imran Masih is advised by Manzoor to run and hide to save his life.  Imran does not go back home, instead, goes in hiding.

April 23, 2016

Sharif Masih, Imran’s father, contacts the health center to ask about his son and is told that Imran never showed up to work.

Sharif is not satisfied with the response and asks a few Chuch Committee members to accompany him to the health center.  Upon visiting, they learn from Maulvi Manzoor about the conversation with Bilal because of which Imran Masih has run away.

April 29, 2016

Till this day, the incident is spread across villages while Imran is still in hiding.  Local Muslim clerics urge all to socially boycott Christians and to not do any business with them quoting “harboring a blasphemer’ as the reason.

Irshad Jhakar, a Muslim businessman, announces Rs. 1 million reward to anyone who kills Imran Masih.

One committee of Muslims, led by Inayat Mahajir announce to organize an attack and torch homes of the Christian community and Church.

Another committee of Muslims, led by Mohammad Riaz, request Inayt Mahajir to not take any action until accusations are proven.

CMMay 2, 2016

Muslim committee members visit the health center where Imran Mash worked and inquired on the incident.  The committee was told that no such incident of blasphemy took place.  Committee is not satisfied with the response and continues to plan the attack.

May 5, 2016

Iqbal Masih, a Christian resident of Chak 44, approaches the mosque, seeking permission to have his daughter’s marriage ceremony on May 6, 2016.  Iqbal Masih is denied permission and instead, told if Imran Masih is not handed over, they will be attacked at midnight. Young men are deployed to keep an eye on Sharif Masih’s house.

May 6, 2016

After Friday prayers, Muslim clerics call upon all Muslims of adjoining villages to gather in ARChak 44.

Aamir Masih calls 15 (police helpline), sensing trouble as a large crowd gathers outside the mosque.  Police arrives fairly quickly and disperses the crowd.  Muslim committee members are taken to Imran Ghuman’s house to record statement while not a single Christian is asked for a statement.

Dr. Ashraf Fazi (convert from Islam to Christianity), standing nearby, is beaten up by a few of those who had gathered outside the mosque.  Police drags Dr. Fazi inside Imran Ghuman’s house and later take him along.

May 7, 2016

Dr. Ashraf Fazi is released after staying overnight with the police.

May 12, 2016

Ali Zain of Daily Pakistan Global reports that the local police has concluded that the blasphemy charges level against Imran Masih were fabricated.  Muhammad Nawaz, Assistant Sub-Inspector, says there is no evidence to confirm the crime.

DLSalim Iqbal (National Director of Care Council for Human Rights) accuses minority MNAs and MPAs including Kamran Michael, Shehzad Munshi, Tariq Masih and SHakil Marth and others of doing nothing while enjoying perks of representing minorities.  Iqbal is fearful any action by them will be only after tragedy strikes.

Iqbal’s fear may be justified as Muhammad Saleem Bhatti, who heads the mosque committee and who is an elected vice chairman of the union council on PML-N’s ticket, has announced to do whatever possible to bring the blasphemer to justice.

The Christians, many of whom have reportedly already left to take refuge with friends or relatives, are living in fear, having difficult access to food, security, peace… And how can they feel at peace or secure when there are only about 300 Christians out of total of approximately 3,000.

Should any one decide to record concern and raise the voice, contacts are given below.  Others can continue to watch the smoke from a distance till the fire is too close to be put out.

This is not the first time, but it can be the last!

DPO, Mandi Bahauddin: 0546-502324Fax: 0546-503068, E-mail: mbdinpolice@yahoo.com

SDPO Phalia (Circle): 0546-596126 Local Police Station Phalia 0546-596007

Mohammed Zafar, SHO, Thana Gojra: 0321 7777154

Sources:

  1. Centre For Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement
  2. Ali Zain, Daily Pakistan Global
  3. Shamila Ghyas, The Nation

Could they have stayed? A little longer…

One after another, Pakistan is losing her best.  The sane voices, which shout inclusion, pluralism, love, respect, mutual coexistence, which try to turn a pencil sketch into a brightly colored painting, are silenced.

PR

Parween Rahman

A fighter for the poor silenced…” said a staff reporter of Dawn.  Parween Rahman, gunned down on February 13, 2013. What was her crime? She was a kind soul who felt far too much for the less fortunate.  She wanted the poor to have something they can call home.  She wanted them to feel self-sufficient as she worked hard day and night to empower all who felt deprived.  She made the mistake of loving, of documenting about lands which have been grabbed and coffers being filled by billions.  And as a result, billions lost a kind-hearted person many referred to as a mother.

Rights advocate gunned down in Multan…” said the print.  It was Rashid Rehman this

RR

Rashid Rehman

time and the date was May 7, 2014.  Regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a well-known lawyer, Rehman believed.  That was his crime.  He believed in the justice system.  He believed that every defendant has a right to a lawyer.  He was known by many as a helper, an enabler, particularly for the downtrodden.  He made the mistake of representing Junaid Hafeez, accused of blasphemy.  With full cognizance of the risks, he went ahead.  And as a result, he too was murdered in cold blood.

SM

Sabeen Mahmud

Director T2F shot dead in Karachi…”. The date was April 24, 2015 and it was Sabeen Mahmud’s turn.  The lively, chirpy Mahmud, a human rights activist, loved by many all across.  What was she thinking challenging the injustice and discrimination? Everything about her was all inclusive.  She lived for the people and their smiles.  Perhaps that was her crime, to think more for others than herself.  She wanted to give a voice, wanted to make sure all were heard, brought everyone to the table and there was almost nothing which could not be resolved over a cup of tea.  She held a session for the voices of Balochistan.  Was it ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ that silenced her, or was it her various stands against the injustice and defending the rights of one and all.  Whatever the reason, hope for many was lost.

Rights activists killed in Karachi gun attack…”.  May 7, 2016 was the last day for Khurram

KZ

Khurram Zaki

Zaki, a journalist, a human rights activists, one who had to raise his voice for all minorities and against self-proclaimed gods.  He took on the big ones, Maulana Aziz of Laal Masjid and Aurangzeb Farooqi of ASWJ for the hate-speech against Shias.  He was equally vocal for Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis, rather all minorities which are being persecuted.  His crime was that he took others to heart.  He felt and wanted to alleviate the pain.

Various groups claimed the fate of all these wonderful human beings.  Ruthlessly killing all, rendering Pakistan to a poorer state.  Ever wonder how easy it is for them to kill? These lives were precious for they spoke for many, stood up for the not so privileged, screamed for harmony, peace, coexistence and love.  Silencing these voices equate to silencing of hope for millions.

While the claims are there, the responsibility, perhaps, lies elsewhere.  It lies in the silence.  The killer silence which thinned these beautiful voices.  Why was it that these heroes, celebrated at the scale they are upon and after their death, are not celebrated at the same level while alive?  Why were their voices so thin and not that of millions when they were out taking on the monstrosity that plagues our nation?  Did their lonely voices, only joined by a handful, not make them an easy target? If every call made by them were joined by hoards, would it have not made the killers realize they are outnumbered?  Or are they?  All of them made top trends on social media upon their death.  Facebook, twitter, whatsapp groups and all other forms of communication are full of support.  Where was all this support when these voices silently whispered in all our ears to join them?  They were let to be alone, left to be silenced.  One only wonders if millions or even thousands were out with them taking a stand, would the monsters find it so easy?

It is our hypocrisy, our silence that killed them.  We are all responsible for letting them fight the fight on their own sending a loud and clear message that they are dispensable.

Join your hero while alive, become an invincible wall, make it happen.  The rogues may think twice before trotting those guns and spraying bullets.  And we might, just might have such voices live a little longer, stay a little longer…

#Lorilei

ssDecember 20, 2015, a play, Lorilei – A Meditation On Loss, produced by Olomopolo Media, presented by Justice Project Pakistan, featuring Sania Saeed, followed by dinner, a silent one with occasional exchange of thoughts with my wife, subdued, gentle, measured statements, calm responses, agreements, disagreements, moving on to retiring for the night.  I was going to sleep, or was I awakening?

The question asked in the very beginning, ‘Do you believe in capital punishment?’, set the tone for the evening.  Discussions broke out, audience turned to each other, shared views, argued, with people sitting next to them being complete strangers in a lot of cases.  The narration of Lorilei’s story by Sania Saeed was vivid, as if I were there, right there, saw it all happen in front of me.  The captivating delivery, countenance, emotions pulled me into the story and made me a part of it.  I could feel the helplessness, the anger, the pain, the vacillation, the solace, perhaps in that order.

6 year old, Jeremy Guillory, murdered by Ricky langley

6 year old, Jeremy Guillory, murdered by Ricky Langley.

Delving into history, the case revealed certain astonishing facts.  Ricky Langley was tried three times.  After being arrested for murder of 6 year old Jeremy Guillory, whose body was found in Langley’s closet, his first conviction for first degree murder and death sentence was overturned because of the way the jury foreman was picked.

Rickey Langley, charged with more than 100 cases of child molestation and murder of Jeremy Guillory.

Ricky Langley, charged with more than 100 cases of child molestation and murder of Jeremy Guillory.

Upon conclusion of second trial and conviction, the second degree murder was again overturned because the Judge had walked out of the courtroom during concluding arguments rendering the trial unfair.  Third and final time, a life sentence was awarded prior to which Lorilei had heard Langley call for help.  He may have called for years, he may have called many, Lorilei chose to respond.

The family was finally ready to start the healing process after 17 long years of an unfathomable ordeal.  This story, however, is not just a story, it is a test, a test of faith, realization, resolve and unflinching believe.

Lorilei testified on Ricky’s behalf. I asked her whether she felt that the killer of her child had been mentally ill when he did it.

“I think that Ricky Langley has been crying out for help since the day he was born,” she said, turning to the jurors. “And for whatever reason, his family, society, the legal system has never listened to him. And as I sit on this chair, I can hear the death cries of my own child, Jeremy; but I can still hear Ricky Langley crying out for help.”

After 17 years, “I think the ultimate judgment to him would be given to him another time another place”, says Lorilei with eyes welled-up, as she battles to keep herself calm and composed.

Watching the play and going through the history of this case has left me with a lot of questions.

  1. Is one going through a rough childhood or any other incidents in life a justification for someone to turn into a cause pain?
  2. Should the troubled background of a criminal result in leniency? If at all, one who has been sexually abuse, for instance, and turns into an abuser later on in life, should be held accountable more as this person has experienced the worst of it and knows exactly the sort of physical or emotional pain such abuse can cause.
  3. Even if it is agreed that the mental illness or soundness of mind must be taken into account, is it not true that any single person committing any crime of any sort is not of sane mind, at least while the act is being committed? If the soundness had prevailed, the crime may not have been committed.

At the end of it all, the fact that human intelligence is limited, a life ordered to be ended based on human intelligence seems to be a transgression.  At home front, there is hung jury on this point.  And I am sure everyone who has watched the play is facing somewhat similar situation within the circle of family and friends.

“Lorilei” has been a success as it has certainly been able to create the atmosphere and given a reason to discuss.  I feel the discussion may last long.  There may not be quick answers, no rights, no wrongs, but there certainly may be a lot of questions.  And that, in my humble opinion, is a good way forward.

In case of Ricky Langley, I feel divine intervention, death sentence twice overturned on technical grounds, saved as the heart of Lorilei Guillory fills with mercy, not to forgive, but to listen to the cries for help, 17 long years, perhaps it was meant to be a test case for the world.  Who knows?

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates