Analysis | For Whom The Law Works
A non-Pakistani historian of the political history of Pakistan once said that in this country, the law is not enforced or implemented, it is rather negotiated. The law enforcing agencies and executive arm of the state negotiate with the violators of the law in accordance with the power status of the violators—a weak and poor violator might face the full force of law and a powerful violator might get a drop to the gates of their residence by the local SHO.
This attitude of the law enforcers is not restricted to how they deal with petty crimes. Negotiations for the implementation (or non implementation) of law continue between powerful violators and the vicissitudes of political governments in Islamabad.
Implementation of the law doesn’t come into force automatically, as per the requirement of the law or its logic. It depends on the nature of the promises that the incumbent political government has made with the populace. For instance, if the ruling party has made an election promise that they would conduct accountability of the financially corrupt, the state machinery might go into overdrive to get hold of all the “corrupts”.
It matters little if the same ruling party might become an obstacle in the way of implementation of another law on the statute book—least of all Article 6 of the Constitution and the High Treason Act 1976.
In the final analysis, at the moment, all those accused of financial corruption have, in fact, been accused of violating one or the other law and the PTI government and rest of the state machinery are in overdrive to implement these laws. While at the same time, the PTI government and the rest of the state machinery are blocking the implementation of law in the case of the violation of Article 6 of the Constitution and High Treason Act 1976 by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.
The debate on whether financial corruption or abrogation of the constitution is the bigger crime is useless in the light of the fact that both these laws are on the country’s statute books and, at least on paper, require the efforts of the state machinery to prosecute both types of accused.
Hypothetically speaking, the situation could get reversed if today’s parliamentary opposition—PML-N and PPP—were to form a government in Islamabad in the coming days. In such a situation, the state machinery might seriously start prosecuting the accused in High Treason cases and ignoring the cases of financial corruption.
The implementation of law in our society is not automatic. It depends on the whims of the executive branch of the state—hence it would not be off-the-mark to conclude that the Pakistani state machinery doesn’t take the laws on the statute books very seriously. The law is implemented or not implemented according to the whims and ideology of those wielding power in Islamabad.
In some cases, this may even appear to be a good thing – as some of our more ferocious laws, luckily, are seldom implemented. This provides some relief to religious minorities and others on the margins.
But these are not the signs of a functioning state machinery. As such, the functioning of the state machinery has been restricted to the coercive mechanisms of the state, while administrative and judicial functions are greatly weakened.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.