JUSTICE underpins fundamental rights; they flow from the idea that each individual is equal to the other and therefore equally deserving of all that citizens can legally expect the state to provide. A global report launched on Monday at the World Justice Forum in The Hague, however, shows that humanity is woefully short of this critical pillar of a civilised society. According to its findings, a whopping 5.1bn people — two-thirds of the world’s population — lack meaningful access to justice. That means despite the existence of justice systems in many countries, huge segments of the population are prevented by litigation costs, complicated procedures etc from being able to actually get their problems resolved. These problems span the gamut from the most serious to the comparatively minor. As always, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most.
In Pakistan, recent history is a stark reminder of how the absence of properly functioning justice mechanisms can provide ingress to extremism: one of the major factors that helped the Pakistani Taliban take over Swat was the lack of such a system. In this situation, tribal jirgas, that perpetrate hidebound, patriarchal social attitudes, also acquire ‘legitimacy’ in the court of popular opinion because they offer cheap, speedy ‘justice’. A viable criminal justice system has multiple components, all of which need to, by and large, be working in sync. While the two-year-long movement for the restoration of the judiciary did establish the independence of the institution to some extent, it remained dysfunctional —especially at the lower court level. Pakistan’s top judge, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Monday approved the release of funds to the Islamabad High Court and judicial academies in capacity building and infrastructural development of the country’s lower judiciary. Along with initiatives to dispose of long-pending cases in model courts whose proceedings are monitored by Justice Khosa himself or a member of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee, perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2019