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Forlorn accountability court

November 25, 2012

RECENTLY I was summoned to an accountability court in Karachi to depose in an irregularity that allegedly occurred in a state enterprise some 30 years ago when I was chairman of its holding corporation.

The court summons warned me to be there at 9 o’clock but knowing the ways of the courts (myself having been the presiding officer of one some decades ago), I went at 10 only to find that neither the prosecutor nor the defence counsel had turned up. The judge was said to be waiting in her chamber for the parties to assemble.

The court room lay empty as was another situated opposite. The atmosphere was so languid and the junior officials lazing or sauntering around looked so unconcerned that I decided to leave after waiting for 35 minutes.

The environment brought back to my mind the city courts of Karachi of the 1970s when a stern and honest Ms Surayia Pai was the city magistrate. She supervised some 20 other magistrates holding courts on the same campus.

The first case on her cause list used to be called five minutes past the opening hour. The prosecutors or defence counsel had a reason to regret if absent when called. Pai made me feel redundant as district magistrate of the time as far as the court work was concerned. Presiding over the monthly meetings of magistrates was the only ritual that I could not escape.

Karachi’s forlorn accountability court compound, a slum on the clean Clifton coast, made me think how right and justified Parvez Musharraf was in closing the old, decaying and unproductive accountability process.

Then there is an irony to it. We are grappling with the wrongs of the past while those indulging in bigger wrongs today do not at all feel accountable nor have any worry ever would be. And they are right.

KUNWAR IDRIS      Karachi