Judiciary and justice

Pakistan Today

Protecting corruption to hide its own
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglas
In the labyrinth of moves and countermoves by various stakeholders, there are a couple of realities which have emerged with absolute clarity: that we are living in a system which is not just abominably non-transparent and inefficient, but rotten and corrupt to the core. The other fact is just as daunting: that it may no longer be possible to reform the existing fabrication, and a new system which may be more geared to the demands of contemporary times and the needs of the impoverished, disenfranchised and marginalised communities may have to be crafted without any further loss of time.
It is a sad reality, but we can no longer deny that the existent system has failed to deliver to the deserving people of this country who should have been its principal beneficiaries. Instead, they continue to languish under its indescribable cruelty and the increasing burden of depletion of opportunities for bare survival. A clear and horrific prospect of extinction at the hands of hunger and disease is only growing with time.
Yet, the beneficiary elite of the system continue to enjoy its lucrative largesse which they are constantly manipulating to fall into their lap. Notwithstanding the bitter political divisions, when it comes to scavenging the illicit dividends of the system, they all converge together to reap a bounteous harvest.
It is not just the political elite that benefits from the system. There are countless mafias in the country which monopolise all echelons and avenues of financial gratification. They live off the system to their exclusive advantage and they use their vantage positions to ensure that none of it ever changes.
In this context, the judiciary has emerged as the mainstream beneficiary institution, exploiting the caveats in the system to its lopsided advantage. In doing so, it has violated its own charter by giving judgments which cannot stand the test of even the basic rudiments of jurisprudence.
The history of the institution’s complicity with dictators is rather old. Not only has it legitimised military take-overs on countless occasions, carte blanche powers have also been granted to the perpetrators to amend the constitution as may suit their fancies. Some individuals stand out as representatives of the deep-rooted corruption prevalent in the institution.
Lest we forget, it is the same institution where judges ask the government to give guarantee of the life of a criminal for a certain period of time, and where another judge allows a convict to travel abroad for treatment on the strength of a simple paper signed by his brother, who is also an alleged criminal. What banana land are we living in?
The rot works both ways. The corrupt people can infect an institution which, in the instant case, they have. But, when an institution becomes rotten, no honest and decent person can survive in it. This is the case with a bulk of institutions in the country, most notably the judiciary which is amply demonstrated by the contentious adjudications which its various benches have been dispensing of late.
The movement for an independent judiciary was the biggest fraud perpetrated on this hapless country. We are reaping its dividends which were bequeathed upon us in the shape of Mr Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry– the one who was not only incorrigibly corrupt himself, but recruited a crop of a similar kind to rule the roost. They are all over the place now, nibbling away unashamedly at the remnants of this country and its institutions.
The malaise is deeply dug in. The nexus between corruption of politicians and judges was never more visible than now. Since the advent of the Mr Justice Qazi Faez Isa case, the feeble remnants of ambiguity have also disappeared. It is no longer a case of this or that judge. The entire judiciary appears to be protecting corruption to hide its own.
More recently, the judiciary has also taken to encroaching upon the executive domain by taking suo motu notices which, by no stretch of law, fall within its realm. So, it is not just corrupt, it is also taking steps to strangulate the system for insulating itself from any corrective action which may be contemplated at some stage. The prospect grows more gruesome as, in the absence of effective parliamentary oversight, the judiciary is virtually a government within the government and can continue to indulge its whims without a care. As a pillar of the state, it has to operate within the constitutional bounds, must be accountable and all its appointments must first be scrutinised in Parliament to ensure that only the best get elevated to the judicial echelons.
Martin Luther King, Jr once said that “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere”. Nothing could be truer about, and more relevant to, the state that prevails in Pakistan: the beneficiary elite who stand out by their remorseless corruption get ‘more’ justice than even ordained in the statute book, while the poor and the disempowered languish in jails for crimes they never committed. That is why there is no faith in this justice system and people prefer to invest in buying their judgments rather than waiting for the system to deliver, which it never does.
In Pakistan, judiciary and justice are two separate things with neither flowing from the other. Here, neither the judiciary is geared to delivering justice, nor anyone expects justice to flow from it. The two have virtually become the antithesis of each other. This can only wreak destruction upon all pillars of the state, and eventually the state itself. This phenomenon must be scuttled.
Prime Minister Imran Khan fought a battle for more than 20 years principally for ensuring provision of justice to the people of the country. He even named his party after this motto. Unfortunately, that is not the direction it seems headed in at this juncture. Consequently, his commitment to ensure justice for all citizens would remain a pipedream if he does not first address the rotten judicial system which is creating further division and disaffection in the country. The judicial tentacles have to be clipped before they have poisoned the entire national paradigm. Given their current inclinations, they look determined to eliminate the prospect of justice altogether from the national polity.
Postscript: In spite of my rights as a citizen of the state which are guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan, if I can still be held accountable for contempt of court, why can’t the judiciary be held for contempt of its own charter as contained in the same Constitution: provision of justice to all people, without any discrimination with regard to their faith, status, colour or creed?
Take the case of Mr Justice Qayyum from the olden times. He was caught on phone taking dictation from the sitting ruler to adjudicate in a certain manner, or the more recent case of Judge Malik who was caught on camera in the company of close relations of the principal accused while discussing matters pertaining to his pending adjudication. Judgments like stopping the JIT from probing the Model Town massacre or closing the Hudabiya Paper Mills case with remarks that it cannot be reopened are vile travesties of justice.

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