There are almost 1.9 million cases awaiting justice in Pakistan. In Pakistan’s history, the intermittent military intervention in politics and the abrogation of constitution has deeply affected Pakistan’s court room justice.
In democracy too, the long rivalry of political parties has disrupted the justice system in Pakistan. Back in 1993, when courts were leaning to Nawaz, the PPP led government packed the supreme and high courts with their favorite nominees and same was done by Nawaz regime in 1997-9. Apart from this rivalry the political parties have amended constitution ruthlessly for their own benefits.
Laws in Pakistan’s justice system
Pakistan’s justice system works with two laws; (i) The state law (ii) The sharia law. There is third law which is customary law, also known as familial law which is immensely strong when it comes to dealing with people and their matters effectively. The state law and sharia law being in a written form formally, are applied by courts but customary laws which are widely accepted by most of the people are unwritten and informal, people widely accept it because it reflects their culture.
Some of the worst hit areas by illiteracy still practice blood money in the name of compensation
The rural population of Pakistan accepts and follows customary laws. Pakistani rural sites are little republicans governed by customary laws, these codes govern rules of inheritance, punishment of various crimes and reconciliation of the tribes’ conflict. The most famous ethnic code is Pashtunwali followed by the Pathan people of Pakistan. The ordinary people of Pakistan, especially middle class, would not turn to courts when it comes to justice, because courts takes decades for resolving disputes. They would rather go to chieftains to resolve their matters through customary laws.
Honor and prestige are elements the rural population is sensitive about, so they prefer to solve issues in village courts such as a “Panchayat”, a group of five people to make decisions. The police tries to reconcile matters of feuds with customary laws as well because, people are more responsive towards customary laws of their own community rather than state law.
Downside of customary laws
When it comes to reconciliation between two tribes and blood feuds, customary laws have disadvantages too. Average compensation for murder in Pakistan is Rs. 5 million to 20 million but, there is another way of paying compensation that is “vani” or “sawara”. Some of the worst hit areas by illiteracy still practice blood money in the name of compensation, it means giving girls to your enemies instead money.
Files of some old cases are buried in cities’ dust. Some people die awaiting justice, some are still behind bars looking for a ray of hope that guarantees justice, many turned old and have no courage left to go to court
The tribal chiefs say ” people believe in our justice and they come to us because we deliver justice timely and efficiently. We never force anyone to come to us for justice, they themselves believe that we are very good at providing justice.” We should regulate these Jirga and panchayat systems and somehow make customary laws written formally to avoid actions such as swara. More often, notable chiefs seek bribes to deliver justice on one of the tribes.
If we talk about sharia and state laws, these takes decades to be implemented. The Pakistani courts are too slow when it comes to delivering justice to people. The old man who spends almost 5 years of his life and thousands of rupees to get his property transferred, would prefer to inherit it informally through countryside heads but, there would be no recourse to official law if things go wrong.
“The inordinate length of time taken by south Asian legal cases is in part related to corruption, but also to a host of others factors in which local influence and intimidation, lack of staff, a grossly overloaded system, cynical maneuvers by lawyers and sheer laxness, laziness and incompetence on the part of both judiciary and police all play part” -Anatol Lieven.
Pakistani courts do not have enough transportation to bring criminals to the court. Files of some old cases are buried in cities’ dust. Some people die awaiting justice, some are still behind bars looking for a ray of hope that guarantees justice, many turned old and have no courage left to go to court.
The government of Pakistan needs to step up to maintain justice. It should make something formal for customary laws, which people are gladly following, and the elites who are ruling the courts and influencing decisions by power must be restricted.
The author is a blogger and a freelancer, with an interest in cultural, political and historical studies. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.