APROPOS the plane crash in Karachi on May 22. This isn’t the first time a preventable tragedy has taken place. Incidents where people are killed in situations, directly or indirectly, by a lapse of responsibilities of large corporations have become normal to the point of apathy.

They number in plenty, reported or unreported; innocent lives lost, families bereaved, glacial emergency response and the corporation in question never being truly reprimanded.

Precedence is set that soon enough high-ranking officials or politicians will step in and announce a compensation for the affected — and all will be forgiven (the public rage will be quelled). Another day will dawn.

Justice and accountability are therefore replaced by the ‘magnanimity’ and ‘compassion’ of our overlords who have shown mercy for the victims — a mercy which is replenished at the expense of the taxpayers’ money.

It would not be right to state that the law of torts doesn’t exist in Pakistan. Instead let’s agree it is stunted, nonsensical and lethargic at best — a result of which it is gross and criminal injustice. An injustice extremely well-articulated in the phrase ‘corporate manslaughter’.

Corporate manslaughter is an act of homicide committed by a corporation/organisation when the cause of death can be directly attributed to the actions/negligence of that body. If proven, the ‘bearers of responsibility’ are subject to jail time, life sentences and limitless fines. There is no such thing as corporate manslaughter in the Pakistan penal code.

Instead it provides for the payment of Diyat, which is the Islamic term for compensation for life and/or limb. The jury is still out on victims who have been reduced to skidmarks on the side of the road or are mere splatters on walls. The corporation however, as per Diyat legislation, goes scot free, because ‘negligence’ is not even inferred, let alone articulated.

Shahzad Abdullah


Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020