By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Two attacks a day after the other brought sharply in focus the lawlessness of Pakistani society. The first was of the suicide blast at the daira of Colonel Shuja Khanzada who did not survive. Many others died with him. The other was attack on Rashid Godil in Karachi.
Has Pakistan turned into a lawless country? Merriam-Webster defines lawlessness as a) not regulated by or based on law and b) not restrained or controlled by law : unruly
A lawless society, generally speaking is steeped in corruption, bribery and increased degrees of acts that may only be deemed as criminal. The government apparatus fail to ensure peaceful atmosphere for individual and communal growth. There is intense disregard for law as it may be seen to be used against some and accountability fails to implement itself across the board, “Law is the ass,” as expressed by Mr Bumbles of Dickens fame. Authority may be seen as being oppressive as in a lawless society; any lawless society it is seen as being either self-serving or serving a selected elite.
Richard W. Rahn a senior fellow of the Cato Institute and the Chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth, writes thus, “The basic function of government is the protection of person and property…..Economic freedom and civil society depend upon a high degree of protection of person and property.” (Washington Times, November 3, 2014)
“When States Fail” by Robert I. Rotberg is an excellent piece of work. He writes, “There is no failed state (broadly, a state in anarchy) without disharmonies between communities. Yet, the simple fact that many weak nation-states include haves and have-nots, and that some of the newer states contain a heterogeneous array of ethnic, religious, and linguistic interests, is more a contributor to, than a root cause of, nation-state failure. State failure cannot be ascribed primarily to the inability to build nations from a congeries of groups of diverse backgrounds. Nor should it be ascribed baldly to the oppression of minorities by a majority, although such brutalities are often a major ingredient of the impulse toward failure.”
George Orwell, in his book Animal Farm, the greatest political statement for all times writes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Personally, I feel that in spite of its extreme stress situations Pakistan as a nation is an extremely resilient country. It has time and again risen from crises to fight back again. The failure is more on part of its leaders and assorted political parties.
Laws must exist to run well-oiled machinery. There exists no ideal country. All nations with people living in peaceful harmony lay down the benchmark of things to do and things not to do. More important, once the benchmark is laid down, it results in implementation for all.
Laws need to clearly define rights of individuals in a society. If a right is violated, there must be a quick and strongly implemented redress to the individual wronged whether by the police, the courts or other relevant law enforcing agencies. Sultan Knish rightly pens, “A society that lives by law can have laws that mean something, but in a lawless society, a law only matters so long as it serves the purpose of those in power. When it doesn’t, then it’s ignored or tossed aside.” (June 23, 2012) He goes on to write, “Law limits power. It limits the power of individuals, institutions and governments. A lawless society is one where those who manipulate empathy gain power. Where temporary outrage substitutes for policy. A video that stirs anger and goes viral matters more than law. Everyone is a muckraker, and everything is a muck of competing narratives because everyone is a victim and everyone is dirty at the same time.
There is no law and so every case, every incident is political, because law is made on an ad hoc basis. One side projects grief, the other side charges cynicism. The side that manipulates the emotions of the crowd most deftly, wins. Every politician is an actor, every debate is a performance and every victory is a chance to gather more spoils.”
If a law is impartial and seen to be just, is not the inconvenience to bear it something good and for greater benefit? Any law-abiding society needs strong laws. This is a choice we must make. Being pro-law is not being anti-individual freedom. The concept of freedom of expression and freedom of speech acknowledges the overriding right of common good of people vis a vis individual good. The authority to develop and implement laws must not come from popular support as we in Pakistan mistakenly think. It comes from right of the people and members of society to a right to justice. A law having popular support of political parties is not anybetter for having the support and a law deriving its strength from justice does not become a bad law for not being approved by all stakeholders. This must be the decision of the government based on a strong sense of need for a just society. More laws created are no guarantee for a lawful society. However, no society can operate without justice. At least not indefinitely.
The growing concern regarding lawlessness in our country has led to a sharp decline in economic growth and investors wary of investing in Pakistan. Pakistan has become a playground of proxy wars in garb of sectarian violence so on and so forth. A lot has been done by the Army but a lot more needs to be done. Production fall has created an environment that has led the government to balance its books by imposing greater taxes on those already paying taxes. One thing leads to the other. This leads to a situation that can be summed up in one word: Mess.
Our leaders need to come to their senses. A lawless society can only go that far. Laws for select few cannot hold indefinitely. Brushing issues under carpet will not hold. All this needed address decades ago lest we become a society where, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (George Orwell)
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is email@example.com at @yasmeen_9
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