Pakistan State Machinery’s Partial Implementation Of Law
Umer Farooq discusses all that went wrong in Pakistan in the recent past and how efficient law-making and strict implementation bodies could have reversed that damage.
The greatest political thinker of our times, Francis Fukuyama has explained in one of his recent writings the reasons why common citizens in western societies are generally law-abiding. He says there is a general prevalent belief in the western societies that the legal and judicial system they are living in is fair to them and every other member of the society, irrespective of his or her social and economic class, ethnic origin, racial background or nationality.
This general perception and belief lead almost every member of the western and especially Northern European societies to lead a life of law-abiding citizens. There exist horrendous social and economic inequalities in European societies but this doesn’t stop the state and its machinery from implementing the law regardless of the class origins of the complainant or the accused.
Pakistan is not a law-oriented society. Rather the peculiar nature of our political journey from 1947 up till now —military coups, power struggles and mockery of law at the hands of those at the helms of affairs has defined more than 70 years of our existence — has transformed us into a power-oriented society.
The rich and the power think that their subjective personal, family, business, or party logic must prevail if any of them comes into conflict with the law of the land. And they have the wherewithal to enforce their subjective logic in public life. The poor and middle classes think that they could somehow get their way as far as the law is concerned if they have the right connection with someone important or powerful in the state machinery.
State machinery, itself, is ready to oblige anyone who comes to them with the right kind of qualities or credentials. These qualities and credentials include a lot of money, a lot of power, or of late a lot of nuisance to cause trouble for the state machinery. In this equation, media has emerged as a powerful actor — breaking news and the stuff cause exactly the type of nuisance that can force the state machinery to favor the person or the group, which media portrays as on the right path.
In this whole scenario fairness of the law is the first casualty — nobody in such a situation believes Pakistani legal and judicial system to be fair. Just imagine what message Pakistani masses would have perceived when they would have come to know through social media that the daughters of Malik Riaz, who attached and brutalized the actress/model Uzma Khan and her sister Huma Khan, have escaped the country. And the opportunity for their escape from the country was provided to them by the delay in the registration of FIR by Punjab Police and later its inaction in the face of growing fear that the two sisters would be attacked again.
On one hand, Punjab police refused to acknowledge the existence of two sisters for five days, while on the other hand provided an opportunity to the attackers to escape the country in a chartered flight. Can anybody now talk about fairness and impartiality of the criminal justice system in this country? What message Pakistani masses or ordinary citizens would have got after this incident? I mean conventional media has blacked out the incident. But still, this incident has become the talk of the town because of reporting on the social media. Does any one from the power elite still has the audacity to come forward and ask the ordinary and poor citizens of Pakistan to follow the law because it is fair and impartial?
The state itself has made a mockery of law — if anybody has any doubts just consider following two examples.
Example one 1: There is now enough evidence that the Nawaz Sharif trial in the wake of Panama judgment was manipulated. But still he was convicted by a court of law and was undergoing jail sentence when he was allowed to proceed abroad on bail on medical ground. The message ordinary citizens of Pakistan received from this affair is simple: Law can be molded and adjusted if the accused is a powerful and rich man. Doesn’t matter if he is out of power, his class origins can get him out of jail and out of the country for whatever legal and political reasons. So in the eyes of the common man, it is proved that this state machinery and its criminal justice system are heavily tilted in favor of dominant classes of the society.
Example no 2: General Musharraf, the military dictator, was awarded death sentence by the highest judicial forum of the country. The military spokesman not only refused to accept the verdict but also shamelessly supported the idea that the court was biased. The institutional and class bias once again compelled Pakistani state machinery to trample upon the law and criminal justice system — a law and criminal justice system, which they are duty bound to protect. What was the message for the masses? Can anybody claim that law is impartial and fair in the wake of all this? Can any of the members of the power elite have the audacity to come forward and tell the people of Pakistan to obey the law because it is fair and impartial?
To say that many applauded the military spokesman rejecting the court verdict in case of Musharraf, and to claim that Pakistani establishment appeased a lot of angry Muslim League supporters by allowing Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad and to say that Uzma Khan was a home wrecker that’s why attacking her was permissible and supported by a lot of conservative housewives, would amount to promoting anti-law sentiments in the society.
This would be a classical example of state machinery advertising the fragmentation of the society into groups, with the most powerful and most vocal groups getting their way in a situation where law and groups supporting rule of law would be treated as orphans and sidelined entities.
At the cost of sounding emotional, I would make a brief assertion here. I have always opposed and written (as the words are all I have) against the Taliban and other armed groups in our society for one potent reason: that they didn’t accept law of the land and the institutions, which represent the law as valid entities. Thus Taliban and other armed groups represented a force, which are pushing Pakistani society towards chaos and anarchy. Now to me, it appears that Pakistani state machinery’s selective and partial implementation of law makes it clear that their behavior is no less of a threat that is pushing Pakistani society towards anarchy.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.