LAHORE - Relatives of a nine-month old baby charged with attempted murder have taken him into hiding, one said on Tuesday, in a case that has thrown a spotlight on Pakistan's dysfunctional criminal justice system.
Baby Musa Khan appeared in court in Lahore last week, charged with attempted murder along with his father and grandfather after a mob protesting against gas cuts and price increases stoned police and gas company workers trying to collect overdue bills.
"Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that's why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection," the baby's grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters.
The baby is on bail and due to appear at the next hearing on April 12 but Yasin said he was not sure if he would take him to court for the case.
"There is immense pressure on me from various corners," he said.
At his first appearance in court last week, Musa cried while his fingerprints were taken by a court official. Later, the baby sucked on a bottle of milk and tried to grab journalists' microphones as his grandfather spoke to the media.
"He does not even know how to pick up his milk bottle properly, how can he stone the police?" Yasin asked journalists at the court last Thursday.
The baby was apparently charged because an assistant sub-inspector complained in a crime report that Musa's whole family beaten him up and injured his head.
The case has once again highlighted dysfunction in Pakistan's police and justice system. Poorly trained and underpaid police are frequently accused of corruption and human rights abuses. Many are not even qualified to write a crime report.
Commanders say it is not their fault, pointing out that the this year's federal budget gave the military about $6 billion and the police a paltry $686 million.
The provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah Khan, told Reuters that the provincial chief minister had ordered an investigation into the charges against Musa. One policeman had been suspended, he said.
"He has directed police authorities to take action against the officials who booked the infant," he said.