As I write these lines, large crowds in Kasur, a historic city near Lahore, in the Pakistani province of Punjab are battling police and several men have been shot – as being reported by TV channels. What makes it all the more cruel is that citizens are protesting rapes and murders of young school age girls. Latest tragedy surfaced when a 7 year old girl, Zainab, was found dead on a dump of garbage. Her family reported her abduction, five days ago through a FIR with Police.
Crowds are on roads, because this is not the first such grisly incident. 12 young girls, have been raped and murdered in the last one year. Most cases have remained unresolved, and public points out that even when culprits are arrested police and judiciary are unable to convincingly punish them. Failure of Pakistan’s “Criminal Justice System” lies at the root of this public anger.
Many in the politics, judiciary, civil society and media have taken up arms against Army’s position – and ultimately weakened its resolve. Little Zainabs of Kasur – and thousands of dolls like her.
Yet Pakistani governments, policy makers, media, judiciary, think tanks and civil society are unable to come up with any coherent practical solution; they are not even able to connect that failure of criminal justice system is part of the failure of Pakistani politics. All public debates that start after every tragedy end up, like corpses, in the convoluted structure of police and judiciary.
While such crimes against children, like all crime, are multidimensional and policing is not the only answer. Yet, the abysmal failure of Pakistan’s criminal justice system is an important, perhaps the most important factor responsible for burgeoning crimes against the citizens – including small children. No system of law can prevent all crime. Police, however efficient it may be, cannot nab all criminals and best systems of surveillance will fail to record or detect all acts of crime. But “Systems of Law” are engineered to provide a “deterrent”.
In other words limitations of policing, investigations, prosecution and process of conviction and sentencing are all understood world wide and these “structural deficits” have to be kept in mind and adjusted by policy makers and state institutions so that the “Criminal Justice System” is designed and implemented in a way that allows it to act as “deterrent” – it is this area in which Pakistan miserably fails.
A modern institution, meticulously researched and concluded that widespread terrorism and ordinary crime are connected with each other and without defeating criminal gangs and entrenched mafias terrorism can not be eradicated.
Pakistan has death penalty for almost 27 crimes on statute book – which is unprecedented. In 1947, when British colonists maintained much better “deterrence” against crime, only 2 acts – Murder & Treason against state – were punishable by death. Pakistani intellectuals, thinkers and policy makers ought to question: what went wrong?
One thing stands out: politicization of police across Pakistan. Today almost 300,000 men and women serve in Punjab police; force is ferociously armed, logistically equipped and its budget rivals Pakistan Army (not all Defense, just Army), yet its performance and results – from a citizen’s point of view – are getting poorer than before. In real terms no one is aware as to what bench mark it’s performance is judged against.
Perhaps the reason is that Punjab police has become only a tool for political control and management – as was effectively displayed in Model Town tragedy in June 2014, and then throughout the following years against other political parties. In October 2016, Punjab police had effectively beaten PTI crowds into submission across Punjab and those who were trying to enter Punjab from KP. After the 1977 political unrest, Gen. Zia government, a direct beneficiary of those PNA protests, ended up strengthening crowd management ability of police forces. This is where their core strength lies.
Irony is that many who are tweeting hyper-emotional messages are in reality responsible for supporting acts that continue to weaken the “Criminal Justice System” – the only state structure that stood up, in real sense.
Police in recent years – responding to Islamist terrorism – has beefed up its capacities for surveillance, forensic investigations, and prosecution but still its skill sets to investigate and prosecute ordinary crime remains woefully inadequate. Problem does not end there; police keeps prosecution weak for reasons of incompetence, corruption and political interventions but the rest of damage is done inside court room.
Lower judiciary, prosecution and defense lawyers act in concert to get maximum relief for the accused – who is usually the most determined “paymaster” of the system. The whole system is built around the “paymaster”. Later high courts, further dilute whatever punishment was awarded to a criminal on “technical grounds”. System is thus built around “technicalities” and not “Justice” to such an extent that most lawyers and media in Pakistan sincerely understand law as “technicalities”.
Over time most criminals get away without any real sustainable conviction. Legal community, civil society activists, starry eyed academics, foreign funded NGO’s all play a role in further weakening the criminal justice system. Country’s Urdu media -especially its digital TV media – has a strong position against crime and policing failures but has insufficient understanding of issues to play a constructive role.
After the 1977 political unrest, Gen. Zia government, a direct beneficiary of those PNA protests, ended up strengthening crowd management ability of police forces. This is where their core strength lies.
Irony is that many who are tweeting hyper-emotional messages are in reality responsible for supporting acts that continue to weaken the “Criminal Justice System” – the only state structure that stood up, in real sense, against crime, over the last few year has been Pakistan Army; for it, being a modern institution, meticulously researched and concluded that widespread terrorism and ordinary crime are connected with each other and without defeating criminal gangs and entrenched mafias terrorism can not be eradicated.
Many in the politics, judiciary, civil society and media have taken up arms against Army’s position – and ultimately weakened its resolve. Little Zainabs of Kasur – and thousands of dolls like her – will continue to be at grave risk till members of Police, Judiciary, legal community, media and politicians fail to realize their hypocrisy.