- Out of the shadows of an unworthy past, muted sounds hearken for a step into the future
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”
It was a couple of weeks ago that I had penned a piece on a judiciary delivering little justice. This was against a background of high expectations which had been raised that the institution, after a belittling phase of espousing the doctrine of necessity, would free itself of its poisonous tentacles and walk away from its devilish shadows.
That was not to be. On the contrary, what appears to be happening with unprecedented alacrity and efficiency is a sequence of protective, pre-arrest and interim bails granted to all who are either serving, or are likely to serve long terms for grievous crimes committed. Virtually all of them boast of loaded pockets filled with illicit billions. It looks like justice has lost its way on the trail, leaving behind a skeleton of an institution partaking of its own remnant shreds. One is aptly reminded of a couplet from one of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s classics “Nisar main teri galyonn pe…”:
New statutes, new edicts afflict the heart-stricken
For stones and bricks are contained, and dogs free
The pain is not as much concerning the manner the judiciary is delivering its judgements. It is more about the dashed hopes which had been pinned on a possible resurgence of an institution which had been plagued in a spate of controversies entirely of its own making– the crass acts of legitimising the most brutal of dictatorships, perpetrating judicial murders and delivering orders which were out of sync with either the enshrining principles of jurisprudence, or the authentic and veritable facts presented before it. It always appeared to be acting out of premeditated delusions that it suffered from.
Over decades, it has been a losing battle to make this key institution of the state act according to the charter at its command and an ethical code that it needed to live by. It did neither of the two. Instead, it immersed itself deep in becoming an instrument in the hands of a coterie of either the power-wielders or the money-hoarders, thereby dealing a telling blow to the concept of justice which is now tottering on the brink, virtually on the cusp of collapse.
But, maybe the institution is actually finding it difficult to crawl away from the shadows of a past– of how it allowed itself to be used and manipulated by the power houses and how it has, subsequently, torn to shreds the very essence of justice. That was done knowing full well that no state, no society can move forward on the road to emancipation, empowerment and progress without having a sound, living and sustainable foundation of justice as its base. In the absence of that, the state is but a hanging aberration which could collapse on the slightest nudge it may be administered.
Not that the judiciary has been the only institution responsible for a shell of a country that Pakistan has been reduced to becoming. Other institutions have also done their bit– the political and military elite, bureaucracy, police, a lopsided system that works to the advantage of the rich and the powerful, and just about everyone else who has been involved in the affairs of the state, one way or the other. But, probably, it is the people of the country who are most to blame for the mess that they are in at this juncture with little hope of pulling themselves out of a deepening quagmire. That is so because they have opted to remain silent when their freedom, their honour and their self-respect were being trampled upon by gangs of criminals masquerading as leaders and deliverers.
But, their silence has a reason, too. They are a captive lot always at the mercy of a few who have usurped the means and the wherewithal not only to enjoy the best of life, but also force a vast majority of others to remain subservient to their whims and fancies. The poor and the helpless acquiesce because they, too, have to survive as, otherwise, the barbaric system that has been so cunningly tailored is threatened to be unleashed to their detriment. No one would be safe from its clutches, be it their elderly, their children or their womenfolk. They are all paraded under the sharp tips of spears and a threat of dishonour that is administered often to a horribly brutal effect.
The state is now caged in the grip of a variety of mafias who lord over its fate, that of its institutions and its people. It is a stranglehold which is tightening by the day, more so after the spate of recent judgements by the courts allowing convicts to walk away free and unrepentant. They’ll come back with a vengeance and encapsulate the system further to cater exclusively to advance their sordid interests. That appears to be the fate of the state and that is the path we are likely to be treading.
Pakistan and its people are being systematically and treacherously robbed of justice by the very institution which is constitutionally beholden to providing it– the judiciary. It seems to be doing so with unmitigated zeal and gusto. The narrative that it is building along the way is that of its omniscient powers and their use at its sole and discriminatory discretion. This is at the cost of the interests of the impoverished and captive people who have always been at the receiving end of such-like draconian adjudications.
Institutions are a key constituent of the state and the manner of their functioning determines which way the country would be headed. Unfortunately, because of a habit of meddling in the affairs of the institutions and keeping them subservient to the fancies of the rulers, both of the military and civilian dispensation, they have assumed a character that neither relates to the needs of the state, nor the welfare of its people, most particularly provision of justice. The institutions have not only to get out of the stranglehold locked in by the ruling elite for furtherance of their exclusive interests, they also have to begin chartering a course that would be in keeping with the provisions of the constitution, the law and the needs of the people, particularly the ones who are forever struggling for two measly morsels a day.
I don’t say this by way of rabid criticism. I say this because this is often coming forth as a patent and belittling shortcoming of the judicial process and dispensation and it must be remedied without any loss of time. In this context, if the judiciary believes that certain provisions of the law need to be modified, or new laws enacted, it must act in coordination with the government and help it do so. This would be to the advantage of the cause of justice across the spectrum and judiciary would be the principal beneficiary of this transition.
Such a change is not always a smooth phenomenon. There are pitfalls, a lot of them, and of various kinds. All must be faced and overcome.
It is a reality that, because of its recent adjudications, the judiciary is under the scanner and on trial. What it does in the coming days, weeks and months will not only determine its own fate, but also the course the country is to take– to salvation or damnation.
In a re-enactment of Nero and his fiddle, while the country burned, justice was caught enjoying a leisurely stroll. Yet, out of the shadows of an unworthy past, muted sounds hearken for a step into the future. May these be heeded!