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Dysfunctional justice

The case of Khadija Siddiqui is a stark reminder of Pakistan’s dysfunctional justice system that seeks to disempower the ordinary citizen, while failing to secure fundamental rights. A young woman was stabbed 23 times in broad daylight by a classmate yet was unable to prove her case, despite the attack being video recorded.

After two months of imprisonment a sessions court granted the attacker — the son of an influential lawyer — post-arrest bail. The criminal justice system was subverted once again as the lawyers’ community unfortunately refused to stand by the rule of law, and protected one of their own. This is a clear sign of how in this country society’s stronger sections can literally get away with (attempted) murder, and the weaker party has to desperately knock doors and is still denied justice. Despite grandiose statements issued by honourable judges of the superior courts, flashed as media headlines, this is the reality in today’s Pakistan. The citizenry continues to suffer inexcusable delays as well as the absence of justice itself. In fact, there has been many an instance where the accused were exonerated posthumously. The superior courts and the executive must focus on improving the justice system if it is not to collapse entirely.

The silver lining in the horrific case of Khadija Siddiqui has been the crucial role of the media in taking up her cause and publicising it. Without consistent media reporting and noise — this brave young woman would not have been able to share her ordeal and her resolve not to surrender her quest for justice may have faltered. The Lahore High Court and the Punjab government took notices of legal delays. However, taking notice is not enough in a system where judicial and executive officials fail to act swiftly under the law. Needless to say, our justice system needs a total overhaul and it remains criminal that Pakistanis have to suffer at the hands of an antiquated, essentially colonial legal system in the 21st century. Our elected governments need to be reminded time and again to deliver on this front. In fact, what Pakistan needs is a broad-based social movement for reform of institutions of justice not populist shenanigans and opportunistic politics in the name of Insaf and fighting corruption.

Reporter. Dysfunctional justice. Daily Times, May 26, 2017.

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