Guidance

Bereavement Information Pack - Pakistan

Information and advice if a family member or friend has been a victim of murder, manslaughter or died in suspicious circumstances in Pakistan.

This information is to help you understand what you need to do if a British national has been a victim of murder or manslaughter or has died in suspicious circumstances in Pakistan and you are the next of kin.

You should also read the guidance available on what you need to do if you are bereaved through murder or manslaughter abroad, and what support the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can provide

Post-mortems (autopsies)

In murder or manslaughter cases in Pakistan a post mortem will always be conducted. The post mortem is normally completed within 24 hours, to allow the burial to take place under the time frame set by Islamic law.

During a post-mortem, complete organs, or organ samples, may be removed for testing without the consent of the next of kin. Next of kin and the British High Commission are not routinely informed about the removal of organs. The deceased is normally returned to the next of kin without any organs that may have been removed for testing. These organs will be disposed of by the forensic laboratory.

If you would like a copy of the initial post mortem report you can make a written request to the relevant police station in Pakistan. A report is usually released within 2-3 days. However, detailed toxicological/histopathology reports can take several months to be issued as backlogs are high and there is only one lab in Pakistan with this facility. In cases where the deceased is to be buried locally, the post mortem report acts as a document for registration of death with a Union Council or other local government authorities.

The deceased is released for burial, cremation or repatriation once the post mortem is complete.

Repatriation

You should appoint an international funeral director who can make arrangements for repatriation. Embalming may be carried out if the deceased is to be repatriated. Sometimes local embalming methods mean that the full range of tests cannot be done if a second post mortem is requested. Embalming procedures may have an impact on the efficacy of any subsequent post mortems (for example, if one is ordered by a Coroner in England or Wales).

Burial/Cremation

Pakistan is an Islamic country. It is tradition for the deceased, no matter what their religion, to be buried within a few hours of death. If there are special circumstances, such as family members not being present, or there is an ongoing police investigation, burial is usually delayed provided the deceased is in cold storage.

As mortuary facilities are only available in major cities and none are up to the standard of equivalent facilities in the United Kingdom, it is important that decisions on repatriation or local burial are made quickly, especially if the death occurs in a remote village or town without appropriate facilities. In some cases the authorities will need to take the deceased to the nearest city with suitable facilities.

Local burial practices are carried out according to Islamic law for Muslims and for other religions according to the individual’s religious beliefs. Burial usually takes place in a white shroud and the deceased is placed in an earth grave generally without a coffin. You can arrange for a coffin if you would like one to be used.

There are no cremation facilities in most Pakistani cities. However, in the Districts of Karachi, Sindh and Sheikhupura, Punjab, cremations can be performed at Hindu and Sikh temples.

Police Investigations

The local police will lead the investigation and prepare an investigation report. Requests for police investigation reports must be made through a legal representative. The British High Commission can request updates on your behalf, however the authorities might refuse to share any information with us (especially in sensitive and high profile cases) as they consider the British High Commission to be a third party to the case. Release of information from the police may take months.

On receipt of information of murder, manslaughter or suspicious death, each of which constitute a cognizable offence, police prepares a First Information Report (FIR). A FIR is generally lodged with the police by the victim of a cognizable offense or by an eye witness or a person who is acquainted with the facts of the crime. Filing of an FIR is important for initiating the process of law as an investigation is legally allowed only after an FIR has been registered.

If a family member is an eye witness or is acquainted with the facts relating to the Charge or files the FIR, then such family member can appear as a witness for the prosecution. The police are bound under law to complete their investigation and submit their report to the magistrate’s office within 14 days of registration of the FIR. However, if no one is arrested and charged, the investigation is not concluded and the case can remain open for years. In these circumstances an incomplete investigation report is submitted by the investigation officer to the magistrate’s office. If the case is closed by police, but if you consider the circumstances around the death to be suspicious you can ask for re-investigation by writing to a senior police official or by approaching the relevant court of law – you should seek legal advice on how to do this. However, it is unlikely that a new investigation will be opened unless new evidence comes to light.

Local Judicial Process

The timeframe for the conclusion of a murder trial is not fixed by law and varies from case to case. On average a murder trial can take 2-3 years but may take many more years for the appeal process to complete. A murder trial leading to a conviction of death will be conducted by the Sessions Courts.

For the purposes of successful prosecution, participation of witnesses is essential. If a family member is called as a witness but fails to attend this may delay or halt the trial. In some exceptional cases, murder trials are open to the public.

There is no legal requirement for you to appoint a lawyer and updates can be sought directly from the police and court. However you should consider appointing a lawyer so that the lawyer can represent your interests in court, provide you with regular updates on proceedings and provide legal advice on the Pakistani law and judicial system, including how best to address any concerns that you may have.

In Pakistan murder cases carry the death penalty. The UK Government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe its use undermines human dignity, there is no proof of its deterrent effect, and errors made in its use are irreversible. Where there is a risk of the death penalty being imposed and carried out for the crime under investigation, the UK will seek assurances that anyone found guilty would not face the death penalty. Provision of UK assistance and related information may not be provided to the overseas authority if inadequate or no assurances are received.

Other useful information

  • Death certificates issued at hospitals can be unreliable for documenting cause of death. They may, for example, state a diagnosis and cause of death which subsequent forensic or laboratory tests find to be inaccurate. There have been cases where a death certificate issued at a hospital states a cause of death that can only be confirmed through testing, before any testing has actually taken place.

  • Please consult your consular officer for advice on death registration as local procedures vary.

Published 5 May 2017