PURE in name and known for its abstinence, Pakistan must nevertheless attract attention for the variety of cocktails it offers. But this one has the potency to send the whole bar into a spin. The instance where an honourable judge seeks to spike the legal with the moral makes for a mixture too heady even for these times of most ingenious experiments. The honourable chief justice of the Peshawar High Court on Monday granted bail to a woman accused of running a brothel. A new benchmark in the treatment of the accused was set when the respected judge referred her to a certain imam sahib of a certain mosque in Hayatabad — in recognition of the respected cleric’s ability to correct the wayward. The accused was asked to attend daily reformative classes at the mosque for a month, and no less a moral keeper than the local SHO was directed to make sure the accused successfully completed the course.

This is reformative justice and this is progress —true Pakistan style, may we add. An example has been set against the old retributive model and for using the clerics effectively beyond their traditional role. But, leave alone what sentence a judge can pronounce, is this woman a convict already? The news reports say it was a bail plea the honourable judge was hearing. The prosecution was yet to begin. The accused did get bail but the accompanying order that put her in the care of a cleric could lead to the impression of her being guilty before the trial itself was held. Only if she had been found guilty could she have been asked to go through a reformative process. It would appear that amid so many ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ surrounding the case the imam sahib’s entry was a tad premature if not simply unwarranted.

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