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The Killid Group
Stabbings on the Rise, Opaque LawWritten by
Saturday, 03 April 2010 12:43
By Ezazullah Zaland and Najib Qane
Unsurprisingly, the violent use of knives and other sharp tools is against the law in Afghanistan. More surprising perhaps is the fact that Kabul police recorded 422 cases of sharp tool attacks in the Afghan capital last year. Two hundred of which were homicides.
Doctors in Kabul hospitals say that stabbings are on the rise. According to Dr. Nadir Afghan, head of the surgery department in Ibn-e-Sina Hospital, their hospital alone registers at least three cases of sharp tool attacks ever day. "If things continue the way they are right now [the] security situation will become even worse," says the doctor.
Shaken Kabul residents complain about the wide spread use of these instruments by rival gangs in altercations that can sometimes end in death. Compounding the tragedy is the reality that under Afghan criminal law those convicted of committing a crime using a sharp tool can be sentenced to as much a life sentence or, in some instances, even death.
Critics argue that besides banning the violent usage of sharp tools, a new law should be introduced which bans open selling of these tools. They believe that if the government forbids the buying and selling of these tools in bazaars, the crime rate will drop dramatically.
In a very recent case, 22 year-old Malik Shah was killed after being stabbed repeatedly by unknown men. Malik Shah lived in district four of Kabul city. His father, Malang Shah, says "my other son called me and told me that Malik was stabbed and he has died due to his wounds and his body is in Ali Abad hospital". Malang Shah believes his son was stabbed somewhere in Paikob Naswar, in a neighborhood called Taymanee. He says his son was innocent and hated criminals and kidnappers and traffickers. "They killed my son and I want his murderers to be tried" he said that while sobbing.
Malik Shah continues to criticize the Afghan police for failing to jail his son's murderers. However, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kabul Police, Abdul Ghafar Sayeed Zada, says that " Malik Shah's murderers have been arrested and the case has been referred to the Attorney General's office and the court will soon announce its decision."
In a similar case last year, a 20 year-old boy was stabbed to death in the Kart-e-Naw district of Kabul. Dr. Nadir Afghan, who knows the family of the young man, refused to give the victim's address. He did, however, share the name of the victim, Qais, and the fact that he succumbed to his wounds en route to hospital. Qais was brought to the hospital by the relatives of his murderer, who, once they realized Qais was already dead, tried to escape but were apprehended by guards and handed over to police.
Following an argument with classmates, Zubair, another Kabul resident with the scars of puncture wounds on his body, was stabbed by "friends" after leaving a private education center. Although Zubair declined to give the names of his attackers he did feel the need to condemn his stabbing as an act of lawlessness. "Laws and rules are made only for the poor. The riches commit crimes with impunity."
The use of knives and sharp instruments in violent attacks is not restricted to street stabbings, they also surface in family disputes. In a family dispute in Behsood of Nangrahar province, 8 people were severely injured and two other were killed. Abdul Ahad, a Behsood villager, told us that it was in fact cousins who stabbed each other. "They attacked each other with knives. Ten people were injured and two of them died in hospitals," said Ahad. After the quarrel subsumed, police arrived to the village and arrested 15 people.
Mohammad Ghafor a spokesperson for the Nangrahar police says that he didn't remember the details of this specific incident but that over 1000 criminal cases were registered last year, of which two-thirds were attributed to the usage of sharp tools.
Proponents of the proposed law against the open selling of sharp tools say that the police won't be able to reverse the growing trend of stabbings unless the government finds a way to rid the streets of these makeshift weapons.
In downtown Kabul, knives can be found displayed on wooden trays amongst the busy and crowded street vendors in front of Pol-e-Kheshti Mosque.
Jamshid, a 25 year-old who just bought a knife, says he bought the knife to use at home but also believes that some are bought for less domestic uses. " I have seen some young boys with my own eyes playing with knives," he said.
But for some, the buying and selling of knives is a means of survival. Wazir, a 36 year-old knife seller who inherited the business from his forefathers, says that if the government bans knife selling he will be out of job. "People use knives for different purposes, some people use it for stabbing other people some use it for house works. We just make a living with selling the knives. The government should give us a job before they ban our business."
Another knife seller who declined to give his name explained that " the government has banned the fighting knives not the regular knives. I know some people who sell fighting knives. The police don't prevent them because they pay the police". Kabul Criminal Investigation Department Head Abdul Ghafar Sayeed Zada denies these allegations while admitting that the usage of knives and other sharp tools has increased.
Officials say that police cannot collect the knives from the streets because the current law doesn't specify whether the police have the right to collect the knives. Mr. Sayeed Zada says that while the opaque law prevents his office from taking decisive action against illegal knife selling, the Afghan police have issued some conditions for knife selling. "We have taken some action in this regard but we can not ban the selling of house knives, because people need them for house works," Mr. Sayeed Zada added.
Yusuf Halim, the head of the Legislation Department of Ministry of Justice says that the use of knives hasn't been banned completely because they "can be used for positive purposes as well." According to Mr. Halim there is no restrictions on possessing and selling sharp tools in Afghanistan's criminal code. However, "if somebody commits a crime by using a knife or any other sharp tools, he or she will be punished in accordance with articles 407 through 413 of the Afghan criminal law," he added. If someone attacks another person using a sharp tool they can face anywhere between one to 15 years in prison. If the attack results in death the accused could face life imprisonment or execution.