LAHORE: Though courts have passed some commendable decisions during the past week, there is little to celebrate over dispensation of justice, particularly when it comes to marginalised segments in society versus the influential.
An anti-terrorism court during last week awarded a 16.5-year jail term to a man for attacking and vandalising a vigil held to pay tribute to the slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer on his death anniversary two years ago.
Already the court had awarded similar jail terms to five of his co-accused. On July 27, 2015, the ATC had awarded 16.5 years in jail for each of the accused named Adeel, Furqan, Iftikhar, Wazeer Ali and Kashif Munir. The convicts were charged with attacking and injuring civil society members at Liberty Roundabout in January 2015.
Also last week, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah came to the rescue of rights organisations that approached the court for justice after the government forced them to shut shop.
The CJ suspended government orders which had directed South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) and Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) to close their offices. Later, the government informed the LHC that it has withdrawn its orders against the NGOs and they were free to function.
The courts should be commended for these orders, which ensure equality before the law and room for rights organisations to function for a civilised society by ensuring awareness and having a counter check on government bodies.
Another order passed by an anti-terrorism court caused insult, to some extent, to the lacunas in our judicial system. The court passed orders of acquittal for all the accused of burning Christian houses in Joseph Colony.
More than 150 houses including three churches were burnt to ashes in the presence of heavy contingents of police and Rangers in Lahore. As many as 115 people, including 85 nominated, were tried by the court but not even a single accused was punished. All of them were declared innocent by court.
Why? Because the court did not have enough evidence to associate them with the attack.
A charged mob had burnt this locality after accusing a Christian man of blasphemy. The suspect was arrested, tried and was given capital punishment on March 28, 2014, one year after the incident.
All the accused involved in torching houses in the Christian locality, however, remained on bail from day one. Now after acquittal of all these accused from charges of setting the houses on fire, there is no one to be blamed for the incident. This is because of the faulty justice and prosecution system which tries and investigates the accused nominated by the complainant party instead of investigating the crime.
There are several murder cases in which not even a single accused has been punished and resultantly the crimes go untraceable and unpunished. Such attitude of the state institutions cannot bring back the confidence of citizens instead it alienates them.
There is a need to bring revolutionary changes in the judicial and prosecution system without fully depending upon elements who know how to play with law and justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2017.
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