08172017Headline:

Justice by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

I have substantial interest in justice for two reasons. First I believe it will be impossible for me to be a Muslim without being just in my daily life. It is because the message of Islam has two mutually inclusive components that is spirituality which is individual’s relation with God expressed through faith and prayer and the other to be just to our fellow human beings. A Muslim cannot attain spiritual enlightenment if he is unjust with his family, friends, service providers and co-workers. The second reason for my interest in justice is because as a politician I believe a society can survive without being religious but cannot survive without justice. I am not suggesting that religion does not have a role to play in politics but that a society can be deeply religious but still unjust. Pakistan is a case in point where citizens are deeply connected to the religion and practice it in their daily lives but the society as a whole is unjust. It is the absence of justice that is causing extremism, terrorism, economic decline and social unrest. On the other hand a Scandinavian country is collectively less religious but is just in its treatment of citizens that results in a stable social order. It is because of this interest in justice I make an effort to learn how other countries are organizing it.

The custodian of constitution is the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This means once a law or bill is promulgated and ratified by the legislative assembly it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to ensure its application. It is for this reason judiciary is considered one of the three pillars of state along with legislature and executive. But Supreme Court of Pakistan has failed miserably to uphold the constitution and in some instances become a facilitator for violation of constitution using doctrine of necessity as an argument. This doctrine means that Supreme Court can set aside what an article of a constitution means if in its view it can ascertain that an act was important for the greater good of the society. In other words Supreme Court acts as a legislator rather than an interpreter of the law. This doctrine of necessity is not just used to legitimize military usurpers. It is also applied to democratic governments when superior court does not take any action to stop them from violations of basic rights of the citizen guaranteed by the state. It is always a debate whether a court should wait for a citizen to file a petition before it acts or should it use its suo moto powers to summon government. Prohibitive legal costs and lengthy process are twin barriers that discourage citizens to come forward and file constitutional petitions against the sitting governments resulting in continued inefficiency.

Another way to look at this break down of constitutionalism is the composition of the Supreme Court and how justices are appointed to it. In United States for instance, a judge is nominated by the President but confirmed by the voting in the Senate. Selection of a judge is not just based on their experience but also ideological leaning of their past judgements. This ideological balance, between conservative and liberal sides, is important to encourage debate on constitutional petitions to ensure a middle of the way decision in most cases. In Pakistan the judges are recommended by a judicial commission, approved by a parliamentary committee and finally appointed by the President. But there is hardly any debate on their past judgements or ideological orientation in key concepts like religion and state; supremacy of parliament and track record of upholding basic rights of citizens. The appointment to lower courts is even worst where political connections works more than credibility, honesty and reputation. Districts and sessions courts lack compassion for rule of law and lack empathy for misery of the citizens. Even small claims hearings drag for years and property disputes are hardly resolved in one generation. This injustice at the hands of judiciary is one of the main causes for rise of fundamentalism and extremism in the country as well as promote vigilantism among the citizens. This vigilantism has already cost many innocent lives.

But justice is not just the responsibility of judiciary. In our daily lives we commit many small injustices that goes unnoticed but does contribute towards rising chaos. Breaking a line to pay bills, violating a traffic light and throwing garbage on the street can hardly be punished by any court of law but they do add to the break down. Treating maids, cooks or drivers unjustly or not paying them their fair compensation is another injustice that remain unnoticed in many cases. In other words, we are a society of injustice so if Islam’s key message is justice then we are basically a unislamic society and it seems not to bother us.

A just society can only be built when all of us are cognizant of not only our rights but also the rights of others. Prophet Issa (AS) advised us Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. Quran in many verses also advised us that God may forgive His rights on us but will not forgive others rights that are violated by us. Justice is a frame of mind which we currently lack in Pakistan and is resulting in social, economic and political chaos. We may reform our judicial system but that alone will not be enough as it has to be coupled with an education system that develops just citizens and builds moral courage in us to stand up for it not only for our rights but also for the right of others.

The debate about NAB and Ehtisab is frivolous because the elites of the country are not interested in justice. They are seeking legal protection for their corruption by building loop holes in the drafting of the laws and regulations. Fixing politics is the first step in embarking on the journey of building a just society.

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