What Is Wrong With Pakistan’s Judiciary?
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed reflects on two recent verdicts by Pakistani courts that highlight the issues with judicial excesses, death penalty and questions how can the state express commitment to citizen rights when it allows people to be penalised under draconian blasphmey laws.
What is wrong with the judiciary?
I have gone through the Musharraf Judgement and besides the legal questions which many are posing about it, Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth writing such cruel and primitive way of carrying out the sentence ‘hanging Musharraf fro three days and dragging his body in D-Square’ is too shocking.
His brother judges have not agreed with him in using such language. How can a judge write such language?
First of all – no chance this is judgement will be carried out and I am not sure this is some great beginning of civilian supremacy – it is the supremacy of the mob mentality, lynching and all the primitive ideas relishing cruelty.
Experts are also wondering if the judgement is sound legally because some of its arguments apply retroactively but about those aspects I would rather leave it to experts to decide.
Crime and punishment
This is the title of the Great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky’s most famous novel and one of the greatest in the history of literature. I am using it in a different context: the debate arising from Gen. Pervez Musharraf being found guilty by a three-bench special court which by a 2-1 decision handed the death sentence to him for subverting the constitution in 2007 and imposing an emergency.
I was in Lahore then and witness to what happened. It set in motion the lawyers’ movement and finally in August 2008 Musharraf had to step down.
There is absolutely no doubt that during his time in power many wrongs were committed and to find him guilty should not surprise us. I may add that if all those who have ruled Pakistan were to be put on trial many would be found guilty of far more crimes and that includes not only military Rulers but also civilian rulers.
However, Musharraf has been tried, found guilty and a punishment announced.
Many of us were perturbed by the raw, crude and gross wording of one remark of Justice Seth. I think that wording was not the language somebody enjoying high position in the judiciary should use. Saying this does not absolve Musharraf of his crimes nor mitigate his responsibility. Connecting the two is not logical though at the gut reaction level it is perfectly understandable.
For those who have been direct victims of the excessive use of brute power by the state no punishment is enough.
In this regard, let me point out that no organised crime against humanity exceeds the cruelty the Nazis inflicted on hapless Jews, Roma (Gypsies), people with physical and mental disabilities, homosexuals, Communists Social Democrats and even others who were simply opposed to Nazism. 6 million plus people were annihilated.
At the Nuremberg Trials most of the top leaders captured of the Nazi Party were tried and sentenced to death although some pleaded that they simply followed orders. Israel hunted down some Nazis, found them, put them on trial and hanged some. The last one was Eichmann. Thereafter Israel abolished the death penalty.
The death penalty began to be abolished afterward in Europe and now all EU members have abolished it. Of course there is a misuse of it. People like Altaf Hussain and many others who are guilty of massive crimes against humanity are not deported because Pakistan has not abolished the death penalty.
However, public executions are now all but gone.
The way Justice Seth wants Musharraf to be punished is based on some assumption of collective catharsis for those who suffered at his hands. There is a point in it but it simply makes brutality respectable as part of justice.
Death sentence for blasphemy accused Junaid Hafeez
Amid the celebrations of the season: Raise your voice against the barbaric sentencing of teacher at Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan Junaid Hafeez to death on charges of blasphemy.
Dr Junaid Hafeez taught in the Department of English at BZU. Six years ago he was arrested on charges of blasphemy which many say were groundless. Now comes this shocking judgement.
We were just discussing how brutal and savage the sensibilities of Pakistanis have become but my lifelong research tells me that the trouble always begins at the top.
How can a state claim to be a democracy with equal rights for all citizens and then go about applying a draconian, primitive repugnantly inhuman law such as the so-called blasphemy law and go around in the world forums and demand the the rights for Kashmiris suffering under curfew in India.
I think we all need to raise our voice and the social media is one channel open to us.
The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has written a number of books and won many awards, he can be reached on [email protected]