“The justice in this country is only reserved for the powerful and not for people like us who are treated as insects.” These words of a distraught father of eight-year-old Zainab, who was raped before being brutally murdered, aptly summed up the prevailing injustice in our society. It is an established fact that a society can survive and even prosper with all its ills if it continues to ensure justice and equality. On the contrary, a society with so many positives is not guaranteed to stay long if it does not conform to the fundamentals of justice and equality.
With the absence of a system that ensures justice for all, Pakistan, unfortunately, is staring down the barrel no matter how many positives we may have otherwise. There are dozens of examples showing that in our land of pure the powerful and influential can easily buy justice and even flout it at will. Remember Shahrukh Jatoi, who had allegedly murdered Shahzeb Khan on the streets of Karachi, made a victory sign when he was first presented before the anti-terrorism court. Despite the alleged cold blooded murder, he had the audacity to smile because he already knew that sooner or later he would manipulate the flawed system of justice. Unsurprisingly, he is a free man today. A Balochistan MPA, who ran his car over a poor constable, also got away without any punishment because the long arm of the law becomes small when it comes to the powerful and rich. Rumours have it that the Rangers personnel, who gunned down a poor guy in Karachi, may also get a presidential pardon. Pakistan is a country where murderers can escape punishment but poor people have to struggle even for the registration of a First Information Report (FIR). In developed countries, the police have the primary job to protect people and their properties but in Pakistan they are subservient to the privileged class. Had Zainab been the daughter of some powerful and influential person, she probably would not have met the same fate. At least the police would have acted swiftly when her abduction was reported to them.
The Punjab government has been facing the wrath of the public and opposition parties alike for its inaction to stop the kidnapping and killing of young girls in Kasur. Certainly, the government of the day is answerable. But the situation would have remained the same had any other party been ruling the country. Our police system is designed in a way that is meant to serve the elite and powerful. Political parties may have differences on a number of issues but there is unwritten understanding among all not to allow the police to become an independent entity free from any outside influence. Successive governments both the civilian and military have used the corrupt police system to their advantage. Even today, whenever people have a minor or major problem to deal with, they always go to a local MNA or MPA instead of the area police station. The reason is obvious, the common man knows that the police will only act if an MNA or MPA asks them to do so. Therefore, none of the parties would want police reforms because that would take away the unbridled powers they exercise at the grassroots level.
Yet, despite these harsh realities, we all are reacting to the barbarity suffered by the innocent Zainab with shock and awe, although the incident should not have come as a surprise given our rotten justice system. Social and mainstream media was flooded with condemnation and show of support for the victim’s family. The hashtag #JusticeforZainab became a top trend. Statements are pouring in from a cross section of society. The prime minister, opposition leaders, the army chief and the chief justice all swung into action, promising exemplary punishment for the culprit. Agree or not, our reaction is hollow. Soon, we will forget Zainab.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2018.
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