Odious comparisons

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Wednesday morning, I switched on the BBC and was engrossed watching the live saga of the rescue of 33 men trapped since August 5 when San Jose mine collapsed in Chiles Atacama Desert. Such are the moments that lift the spirit and strengthen your faith in human resolve and determination. From the depths of darkness to the light of day, it is one edifying odyssey reflecting the coming together of a nation in a bid to rescue the trapped miners alive. From the president of the country who personally supervised the entire operation to the engineers and technicians who worked on custom-developing the rescue system to ordinary people who joined in with their prayers, every one played a constructive role stamping human ascendancy over opposing elements.

Switching to a local channel, I was greeted by the gory sight of a human body being dragged and then set alight. According to reports, the incident took place in D. G. Khan about six months ago where one Ibrahim shot dead another person and surrendered voluntarily to the authorities. Some people chased him to the police station, entered the premises forcibly and came out, ostensibly, with the dead body of the assassin. The corpse was tied to a motorcycle and dragged for miles before it was set on fire. All this happened in full view of dozens if not hundreds of onlookers, including police officials, who were content to being spectators to the enactment of this inhuman, degrading and barbaric act. Thereafter, one police official was lifted on shoulders as spectators rhapsodised into a dance celebrating their demonic victory.

The comparison is odious. While the rest of the world is busy scaling new heights in human endeavour and achievement, we are plunging further into the depths of degeneration and despair. When the rest of the world is busy undertaking initiatives to further improve the quality of their people, we are gruesomely stuck with increasing the numbers. While lack of education, equitable opportunities, absence of basic facilities to sustain a decent level of existence and a general state of deprivation are some of the reasons that have contributed to this downward slide, there are other factors, too, that have provoked these humiliating symptoms.

Primarily, it is the collapse of the writ of the state and the inability of the legal system to provide justice at the grassroots level that has encouraged people to take the law in their own hands. From the outer reaches of the FATA wasteland to the core of the national heartland and the warm beaches of the South, the vast vistas are pockmarked with fiefdoms that are controlled by traditional vested interests, deeply dug-in criminal mafias and ethnic and sectarian warlords. Encouraged by the refusal of the ruling elite to submit before the dictates of law, these gangs of thugs are busy acquiring whatever they set their sights on. In pursuit of this acquisition, they are partners with agents of the state machinery who either collaborate to make their own lustful millions, or look the other way out of sheer fear. This is how governance has come to a grinding halt and the mafias are roaming the streets with impunity proudly bearing the degenerative symptoms that have effectively encompassed society.

The criminal collaboration of the personnel of the government with those who have wrongfully sipped from the largesse of the incumbent incubation is another major factor that has rendered the system ineffectual. The appointment of unqualified and incompetent people to critical positions simply on the basis of their affiliation with the ruling party or its managers is a blotch on the name of justice and administration. Worse still, when chased, the perpetrators hide behind the security conveniently provided by the ruling elite to shield their own complicity.

While the Supreme Court is engaged in a classic struggle to establish the rule of law with a perpetually errant administration, it is the absence of justice at the lower echelons of judiciary where relief to the common appellant is provided that is cause for increasing concern. If justice remains a feature of the Supreme Court and the High Courts only, its purpose will not be served and people will continue to vent their anger through displays of brutality. Because of criminal neglect on the part of the previous governments, grossly perpetuated by the incumbent conglomerate that never tires of tampering with the independence of the judiciary, we have been guilty of ruthlessly curbing human access to vehicles of justice for redressing their grievances.

While remedies may be prescribed in accordance with the symptoms of the disease, the most critical role is to be played by people who are assigned the responsibility for their provision and administration. The best the Supreme Court may do will actually come to nought if it remains unimplemented, in both letter and spirit. This is the dilemma and as long as it is not untangled, it will continue to provide fodder to the criminal mafias to run wild with their loot.

The writer is Islamabad-based policial analyst