According to the latest judicial statistics, published by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, more than 1.2 million cases are pending in courts around the country.
This is due to chronic flaws in the judicial process. One such flaw is the existence of touts, which has led to serious corruption in the lower courts.
A meeting with Abdul Razaq, who works in a district court, was an eye-opener in this regard. “We can manage all sorts of bails, witness provision and legal advice – whatever the accusation is,” he says, and adds that he is an assistant to a senior advocate of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
He wishes to keep his boss’s name secret for the interview, but hands out a business card which states the LHC lawyer’s details, on whose behalf he hunts clients every day in the district court.
Razaq, who sits in his single room office at the courts, boasts that he helps many people everyday who need the law on their side. “All I need is an FIR and the ID card of the accused, and we can manage a witness to speak on his behalf, and even procure property to pay off the bond for bail, if any”.
According to Razaq, be it kidnapping for ransom, or a murder-related case, one just needs to spend money to bring the court on one’s side, after which the police cannot touch the client.
“The accused doesn’t even have to present himself in front of the judge. We can manage everything including the bail within 24 hours,” he adds.
Razaq says that, after going over the nature and gravity of each case, he issues the client with a price list for services. “For just pre-arrest bail, we charge six thousand rupees but if you need a fake witness and an asset for the bond, another four thousand rupees can do the trick,” he clarifies as he dials his cell phone to talk to his boss,
telling him about a client sitting with him who is looking for a witness to state on oath that his cousin, who has been accused of a kidnapping, has nothing to do with it.
Touts like Razaq are not alone in the money-making business which goes on in the corridors of the lower courts and traces up all the way to the higher courts.
Ali Bajwa, a young lawyer at the lower court who fights civil suits, criminal cases and provides legal assistance to his father at the Supreme Court, agrees that fake witnesses and false documents with properties that do not exist is a routine practice.
“There is no computerised database to cross-check witness backgrounds, property papers, and so on. To conduct it manually takes too long, therefore the registrar overlooks many details, resulting in such corruption,” Bajwa adds, again pointing to the heavy backlog of cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.