Justice system: Why and how should Imran Khan reform it?

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Farah Adeed |

Taliban and extremist groups working under religious covers to pursue vested political interests offer something very appealing to the common people. A model of governance which ensures speedy and cheap justice and basic facilities to the citizens at their doorsteps is the hallmark of an imagined-Islamic system propagated by a number of banned outfits in Pakistan.

In a country where mainstream political system has failed to adequately address the grievances of citizens, a people-friendly model of governance (or pro-poor system), no matter what sort of philosophical base it stands on, firmly ingrains in the mind of those advertently or inadvertently targeted by the system.

Three examples need to be presented here to place my argument in a meaningful political context. Firstly, Khadim Hussain Rizvi always grilled Pakistan’s legal and judicial system for its sheer incompetence and inability to punish those who commit blasphemy. He has openly said that these courts are inefficient and their conduct is obtrusive.

Judges are part of the overall social system and courts do not operate out of the same. Therefore, legal facts are always understood, debated and interpreted in the overall socio-political framework.

Secondly, a student, Khateeb Hussain, murdered his professor in Bahawalpur for his ‘anti-Islamic’ views. When asked by a journalist “why did you not approach police or courts?” Khateeb was quick to respond that “laws? They set free those who insult Prophet P.B.H”.

Thirdly, Lahore High Court (LHC) granted protective bail in an unprecedented way to Hamza Shahbaz, Opposition leader in Punjab assembly, on Saturday, and barred the team of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting the accused. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were collectively conveying a simple message; the powerful in Pakistan enjoys all facilities, legal leniencies, and unprecedented treatment. The law and its strict application exist, but only for the poor.

Let’s be fair now. In the first two instances, the state of Pakistan has failed at two fronts; firstly, it did not facilitate those who have become permanent prisoners of their own ignorance. The walls of irrationality are so strong that only the state with constant and comprehensive political policy can replace them with the lens of rationality.

Read more: A quest to provide swift justice in Pakistan

Counsel of Islamic ideology is not what Pakistan needs to reform and modernize religious discourse at the moment. Government, civil society and academia need to collaboratively work on the project and help to free citizens from shackles of self-inflicted unfounded moral beliefs and myopic political ideologies.

Secondly, the state has also failed bring clarity in the blasphemy law. Majority of cases registered under section 295c are politically motivated which raises questions less about the substance of the law and more about the procedures designed to accomplish its successful implementation.

The third piece of evidence reflects long-standing disbelief of citizens in the legal system of Pakistan which remained unshaken even in Naya Pakistan of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Ironically, PM had to tweet and convey a strong message to those not doing ‘justice’.

Prime Minister Imran Khan who has realized the inability of the existing system to provide people with justice and equal treatment must hold an agenda to comprehensively reform education and courts at the earliest.

My argument is that we are part of a society which does not believe that its legal system is efficient, service-oriented, responsive, or even fair in the provision of justice. Disbelief in the formal legal system of Pakistan is dangerous, and it shall be preposterous to lessen its potential threat through political manipulation of facts. In a society where an alternative is there and implicitly desired to a large extent, failure of the existing system implies an ill-thought systemic suicide.

The decision of the LHC may legally be justified on some grounds. But it was politically questionable and needed careful deliberation. Judges are part of the overall social system and courts do not operate out of the same. Therefore, legal facts are always understood, debated and interpreted in the overall socio-political framework. The entitlement of protective bail to the Opposition leader in Punjab assembly did nothing but intensified anti-system feelings which is directly proportionate to the supremacy of alternative legal system.

Read more: Pakistan’s lax justice system and millions of pending cases

Prime Minister Imran Khan who has realized the inability of the existing system to provide people with justice and equal treatment must hold an agenda to comprehensively reform education and courts at the earliest. If the state of Pakistan does not take statements of Khadim Rizvi and Khateeb Hussain who are revered by a considerable chunk of our population it shall face more opposition in reforming social and cultural discourses with the passage of time. Similarly, if the courts continue to give special treatment to the powerful the threat of replacement of the existing system with ‘people-friendly model of governance’ will become more prominent and dangerous.

Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy. 

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