Judiciary, Vigilantism and Intolerance – Story of a Nation

*This piece was written before July 6, 2018. Hence, there is no mention of Panama Case Verdict*

The judicial discrimination among socio-economic classes has led the lower classes to believe that justice is never free.

Shahzeb murder case, Mashal Khan lynching, Hamid Mir attack case, mob attack on an Ahmedi worship place in Sialkot, traffic warden murder case and hundreds of cases of similar nature are all examples of our failed and fragile judicial system.

Looking at the history, we find a reason to believe that justice has always been served to the people with better access to resources.

“A female law student at a private college, brutally stabbed by her classmate last year, is due to sit an exam in the coming week alongside her attacker.”

(May 18, 2017 Tribune)

The accused in the case of Khadija Siddiqui, Shah Hussain is son an Advocate Tanvir Hashmi. Even after the judicial magistrate sentenced Hussain to a collective seven-year imprisonment under section 324 (attempted murder) of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), section 337A (ii), section 337F (i), 337F (ii) and 337F (IV), the decision was appealed in Lahore High Court and on June 4th, Hussain was acquitted of all the charges.

This judgment raised a lot of eyebrows as Hussain was already proven guilty of the attempted murder. Since he is the son of a prominent Lahore based lawyer, Advocate Tanvir Hashmi, he got away with it.

Considering the murder case of Shahzeb Khan, even the son of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) could not get justice in the prevailing judicial system of Pakistan. Shahrukh Jatoi, the murderer and son of an influential feudal Sikandar Jatoi from the Talpur Clan.

What the Shahzeb Khan Murder case has made clear is that we still live in an arena controlled by feudal lords who can control the course of events, influence police working and do everything possible to subvert justice. The main tactic used by the police in the Shahzeb case was to delay matters, allowing the young man’s powerful killers to escape. Even immediately after the murder, just after 1.00 am on December 25, the police did not respond to calls from the family.

Another reason why our judicial system fails to prevail in the current scenario is the suo moto. There are more than a million pending cases in our judicial system but only few mainstreams are picked up by the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) which are highlighted on social media. The biggest flaw is that the Supreme Court has not been able to define its own set of priorities, rather follows the few opinion leaders who use the knowledge-gap hypothesis to persuade a neglected audience.

Pakistan ranks at 106 among 113 countries in the category of civil justice system, according to a World Justice Project survey whose findings were released on Aug 25th, 2017 (Tribune, 2017).

This corruption has led to the creation of a frustrated mob which is in favor of vigilante justice which is responsible for the deaths and lynching of many innocents. All these examples are enough to conclude that the vigilante justice system in Pakistan is rising because of the improper judicial system. Most cases of vigilantism have been recorded in the areas where people from middle and lower socio-economic class reside.

This clarifies the point that if people do not get justice, they take the matter in their own hands which mostly results in a disastrous situation. For example, the assassination of Salman Taseer was an example of religious extremism and judicial negligence. On December 23rd, 2010, while giving an interview with Newsline, Taseer spoke about the blasphemy law.

“Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law…”

“If you want my personal opi­nion, I don’t like this law at all.”

  • Salman Taseer

In an interview with CNN, Taseer said that the blasphemy law is not a God-made law. It’s a man-made law. If the court has taken the matter into its own hand in time, probability of the assassination could have been ruled out.

The universal declaration of human rights, article 11 states that everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty...” This does not seem to function in the intolerant atmosphere of Pakistan as we have seen and experienced a lot of mobs attacks and lynching.

On December 2nd, 2017, a young man accused of stealing a mobile phone was beaten and then set ablaze in Lahore’s Nawab Town by residents. In August 2010, two brothers belonging to the city of Sialkot were accused of robbery and subsequently lynched by a mob. Mughees and Muneeb were brutally beaten while 9 police officials stood by watching the whole incident and doing nothing to stop it.

From the formation of military courts to the questionable police encounters in Karachi and other terror struck cities of Pakistan, our nation has started to believe in the quick fixes which lead to a false justification of a misplaced argument.

This is a representation of a flawed justice system which is controlled by the Chief Justice of Pakistan whose tenure is generally of two years. Current CJP[1] has an expected tenure of two years and 18 days (The News, 2016).

In the given time frame, the current CJP has tried to curtail the issues within our judiciary but can one man change the whole system? Sadly, the answer is no. There is a strong system of feudalism and elitism deeply rooted in social and professional atmosphere of Pakistan. Resources are used to bail out the criminals and institution of police has political affiliations. When it comes to judiciary, poor cannot even hire a lawyer whereas a son of a renowned lawyer escapes prison even after publically stabbing a girl 23 times. Because of the uneven access of justice and investigations, people try to become the “Robin Hood” of their sphere and end committing extreme acts of vengeance and revenge.

It should be considered that judicial system is not just about the Supreme Court, CJP and suo-moto but also about the high court, session courts and even the police stations where everything starts from a First Information Report (FIR).

There have been cases of bribery in our judicial system. Recently a judge has been sent home for taking a bribe of Rs.5 million to acquit the CEO of Axact in the fake degrees case.

In Sana Cheema murder case, a computer operator of Punjab Forensic Agency and ASI Maqsood attempted to change the forensic report after taking a bribe of Rs.600,000 in cash.

The history is full of cases where the gatekeepers became thieves. Moles like these hinder the progress of those who are trying to fulfill their duties and responsibilities. Whole judicial system is not bad but there are few people who have defamed it to an extent that people have lost their faith.

Being part of an intolerant society, I personally believe that if the situation remains the same and justice is not properly served, vigilantism and “social terrorism”[2] will increase to an extent where the institutions will not be able to contain it. More cases like Mahwish Arshad and Shahid Sarwar will keep becoming the daily headlines because criminals at the moment think that they are not living in a country which abides by the laws but a “Slab City[3]

Most of our judicial system can be explained in one line:

“Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?”

 

 

[2] It is my personal terminology for the extreme cases of societal intolerance.

[3] State in California with no laws