Rule of law is believed to be one of the core tenets of a civilised society. It does not solely pertain to those with the power and means to obtain justice for themselves but also to the marginalised who are pushed to the brink of society, ignored and unheard. When it comes to judging the quality of life in a country, it is quite obvious that reliance on law enforcement for protection and on courts for a fair hearing of grievances must be considered. It is based on this understanding that the World Justice Project issues its yearly Rule of Law index which is based on the survey responses of citizens in countries all around the world and their ratings of their country on various indicators. The index broadly measures 113 countries on such aspects as the absence of corruption, civil and criminal justice and access to fundamental rights. In its report released this year, the index has revealed data that while not surprising, should be a cause for concern and a call to action.
Pakistan has been ranked as the 8th most lawless country in the world in this index which has placed a statistical value on the untold human misery that has resulted for decades due to rampant corruption, sluggish court procedures, lack of legislation and improper use of force by law enforcement. For the less privileged, a category which includes the poor, the physically or mentally handicapped, religious and ethnic minorities, women and children this lawlessness has dire consequences. It is only recently that enough awareness has been built up for bills against sexual harassment and child marriages to be passed. There are many who languish in jails waiting for their day in court and an untold number who have decided to not to strive for justice because the procedure is often more arduous than the crime itself. While landmark pieces of legislation are an important step, they are not enough to overturn the culture of denying justice though for the present little more seems to be on the cards to improve this situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2016.