Pakistan is at yet another crossroads. The brutal murder of Salmaan Taseer has divided the nation. Only two types of people are debating the blasphemy law: the extremists and the moderates. There are no grey areas or mixed views on the topic. We, the people, must choose which side we are on, especially since the justice system is taking its time and the state is in a panic.
The media and civil society have been left, yet again, to fight for justice, even as our lawmakers and keepers remain silent. This has happened many a time before with the Sialkot killings, extremism in Swat, women in Balochistan being buried alive and so on.
Injustice is rampant in Pakistan today and delays in provision of justice from our judicial system, even on crimes committed in broad daylight and with ample evidence, further encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
In a country such as ours, where the illiteracy rate is extremely high — even among the so-called educated class there is chaos in their drawing room chatter — we need swift justice. This is important because it will help set the tone on important issues.
Over the last few months, I have witnessed several debates all over the country where people seemed to have been confused on what the law of the land is. Is the Constitution of Pakistan not what we are meant to follow? According to our Constitution, all injustices should be easy to check and those perpetrating them should be punished since the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of the government and the state are clearly defined. If one believes that it is not a perfect document, then the people in the assemblies must amend it according to the environment so that it is made stronger.
Of course, the other problem justice faces in Pakistan today is the politicisation of a large number of lawyers. Given this, even if one were to understand his or her legal rights, from whom is one to seek legal help? Lawyers are supposed to remain impartial and apolitical but when they start garlanding a murderer, who is going to fight against injustice and provide justice to the family of the man killed? What’s even worse is that when lawyers behave in such an improper manner, the justice system does not do anything to correct such behaviour.
I absolutely refuse to further enable the cause of injustice by staying silent against any crime committed, regardless of who may have done it, who is protecting the criminal or how weak our justice system may be. It is for us to keep pushing the system to improve, for it is the citizens of Pakistan who will set the tone for justice by speaking out, if lawmakers and keepers continue to fail us.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2011.