Where white collar crime is involved, the much-revered common law seems helpless. Onus of proof is on the accuser while the accused has several remedies including bail. Conviction can take decades as multiple remedies of appeal are available. Over the years, delay mechanisms have been developed to perfection. During the martial law years, the superior judiciary provided relief to genuine political activists and dissidents, but now the thugs and ruffians are taking advantage of this latitude.
My late father, the worker of the Pakistan Movement and a soldier of Quaid, was a habitual litigant as he believed in a black and white world where there was no room for grey areas. Compromise on principles was unknown to him. The first item on his list of do-nots was, “no compromises, do not fear confrontation”. He always fought back with his muscles, pen or law.
For a straight-edged man in a crooked environment, life was tough for him but he did not give up till his last breath. Finally, his heart stopped beating in September 1991. I had to take over from where he left off. There were about twenty court cases that I inherited, which ranged from property matters to bureaucratic abuses. In every case, there were requests for early hearing; he sought expeditious justice that was denied to him. It was evident that only the guilty seek delays as they cannot come clean, only the righteous desire quick decisions.
For the first time, the corrupt, affluent and rich who have enjoyed power for the last three to four decades are now facing the courts. Delay is their only defense as they cannot come clean. The astronomical rise in their assets and overflowing bank accounts are indefensible. The courts continue to follow due process while the situation on ground demands extraordinary efforts to curtail delays.
Pakistan needs a major course correction for its future which has to be pursued with vigour, commitment and courage, business as usual will not produce results
While some believe that, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, in the land of the pure, the accused who are not righteous follow a different rule; ‘justice rushed is justice crushed’. Their only weapon of defense being delays which is exercised through a team of well-connected, expensive lawyers. When the process is sped up for the purpose of expeditious resolution, they call it foul play. Getting bails and pretending to be innocent is part of their delaying tactics.
The resources of the country have been robbed with impunity. Civilian institutions have become non-functional; as such their capacity to investigate and prosecute has been weakened. Criminals take advantage of this ineffective institutional grip. Courts cannot operate in vacuum in enforcing law. My friend, Justice Asif Khosa had to formulate laws to contain false witnesses and paid touts.
There should be a code of conduct for elected public representatives who have been accused of corruption. They should be given an opportunity to come clean before their cases are litigated. In case they cannot come clean, then they should be required to keep quiet till their cases are decided. They should be barred from media appearances as well. Delays have to be effectively dealt with which is unfortunately not being done.
Ill gotten money does not have a trail as the tracks are meticulously erased. Instead of being open to investigation and presenting their defence, most of the accused challenge investigative mechanisms. There was a time in the land of the pure where political leadership used to go home before being called in a court of law. There was a minister from the eastern wing who decided to resign when he found out that his office had paid for his personal calls.
In the seventies, the legendary Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who got elected from Lahore, was appointed the provincial education minister. He continued to live in his own rented house on the Canal and used his personal transport. He kept his office hours and strictly followed merit. Till 1985, most political leadership was both able and honest who had entered politics to serve, not to earn. After the end of their term, they gracefully left their offices with no charges of corruption or impropriety.
The genie of corruption has to be put back into the bottle to contain it. Unfortunately, its voices are being heard and transmitted, which is resulting in confusion. Doubt creates delays. Despite the best efforts of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other investigating agencies, convictions have not taken place. The rot continues unabated.
Read more: Pakistan’s bureaucracy needs overhaul
Delays in conviction cannot be treated as vindication as is being projected by the opposition parties. Interestingly, in the famous high-profile drug trafficking case against the former Law Minister of Punjab, two adjournments have been requested by the defence. Seeking extensions in hearing dates indicates mischief on the part of the accused.
My father, the upright litigant, always demanded expeditious resolution of his cases. He talked and defended himself in the court of law, not in the media. Delaying tactics of the unscrupulous have to be dealt with for the land of the pure to regain its purity. The judiciary has a pivotal role to play in this crusade. Pakistan needs a major course correction for its future which has to be pursued with vigour, commitment and courage, business as usual will not produce results.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). An expert on mining and energy, currently working on developing clean Coal Technologies for Thar Deposit. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.