Elusive justice

Published July 4, 2024

IN Pakistan, justice of any form is, more often than not, difficult to come by. Recently, judges and prosecutors from across the country found themselves in agreement at a seminar in Karachi on the need to urgently reform the colonial-era Code of Criminal Procedure, which, it seemed from the discussion, was the biggest hurdle they faced in ensuring justice.

Several other proposals also came forth, among which were some to improve the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity through improved coordination and communication between investigators and prosecutors, with a view to preventing the collapse of cases due to insufficient or defective evidence.

Other recommendations included the introduction of deterrent measures to prevent frivolous and false litigation, a pervasive issue plaguing the legal system. Yet more changes were sought from the legislative branch, including depoliticisation of the police and proactive legislation on legal reforms from the political leadership.

One need only conduct a brief survey of those who have come into contact with the legal system to realise that it is fundamentally broken. From antediluvian laws to a corrupt enforcement apparatus, from a perennially understaffed judicial system to inept prosecution and perverse penal systems — none work towards ensuring justice, one of the most basic duties of any state towards its citizens.

These days, it is just as common for the accused to walk free in instances where it seems obvious that a crime has been committed as it is for a seemingly innocent citizen to be punished for an obviously fabricated crime for which there is no compelling evidence on the record. It is no wonder, then, that victims often run from the justice system, instead of turning to it: they would rather resign themselves to living with injustice than dare to hope for reparations from the state.

A similar sentiment was expressed by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on the same day the Pakistan Prosecution Forum was discussing reforms. Perhaps exasperated by an accountability case which has, by Mr Abbasi’s account, “been pending for five years without progress”, the politician said the country “will not progress till NAB exists”. NAB, the state’s tool of choice for putting out-of-favour politicians out of commission, has provided some of the most prominent examples of how perverted our legal system can be.

However, as discussed earlier, the actual problem is much deeper. Till the Pakistani justice system institutionalises the fundamental principles of justice — fairness, equality and entitlement — it cannot fulfil its responsibilities. It also seems that the tools it is equipped with — ie, various laws and procedures — are insufficient for this purpose. Therefore, the legislature needs to step up and address the existing deficiencies in the legal system. This is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Afghan challenge
Updated 15 Jul, 2024

Afghan challenge

Foreign states must emphasise to the Afghan Taliban diplomatic recognition and trade relations all depend on greater counterterrorism efforts.
‘Complete’ justice
15 Jul, 2024

‘Complete’ justice

NOW that the matter of PTI’s reserved seats stands resolved, there are several equally pressing issues pertaining...
Drug fog
15 Jul, 2024

Drug fog

THE country has an old drug problem. While the menace has raged across divides of class and gender, successive ...
Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...