Darkness at noon

Fahd Husain May 27, 2010

Some stories actually do have happy endings. Like this one: five cops in Chiniot lay down some people in the thana garden and beat the living daylights out of them with chittars. Before the start of the sadistic show, they announce on loudspeakers that a “funfair” is about to begin, and invite the locals to come and witness the “show”. A crowd gathers. One onlooker records a video clip on his cell phone and hands to it Express News. Soon the Pakistani airwaves are filled with this inhuman display of naked power.

The plot thickens. Pakistanis are outraged. The government and the judiciary try and say the right things – or at least want to be seen that way. “Even the jungle has a law”, thunders a judge. “We’ll give these cops exemplary punishment,” bellows the chief minister. Torture is sick, sick, sick,” cry sanctimonious pundits. The inspector general is dispatched to the area and to assuage public opinion and he orders the registration of a case under the anti-terror laws against these brutes in uniform. That happened in March. This week the five cops were honourably acquitted by a local judge. They’re back, and they’re mocking the chief justice, the chief minister and the sanctimonious pundits. Chittar rocks.

And how did all this happen? Well, it so happens that the people who cried and begged for mercy that sunny morning in March, as the cops brutalised them, suddenly had a loss of memory. They told the judge that actually they had not been beaten. Ain’t that a surprise! And by the way, the prosecution conveniently failed to produce one piece of evidence in the court: the darn video!

Talk to politicians or police officers and they will give you a million justifications of why this miscarriage of justice took place. But they all miss a key point: the cops tortured the people and we saw it on video. Then they’re acquitted because the system, the prosecution and the judiciary failed. And it failed because the system is rotten to the core. It protects the power-wielders and persecutes the weak. The state knows it, and the state does nothing about it, because the state wants to uphold the rotten status quo which is masochistic, hedonistic and oppressive.

This is how it has been since… well, since always I guess. It was the same in Europe a few centuries ago, perhaps even worse. But the societies there reformed themselves. They evolved as their intellectual thought evolved and centred on the realisation that the rights of citizens were paramount. They were fundamental rights which the state was bound to protect if the society had to progress and modernise. The Age of Reason, Enlightenment etc produced a sea change in thought and sparked off the Reformation. Legislation followed logic, reason and new emerging social values. The governance structure was reconstructed on the concept of checks and balances so the abuse of power by an individual, an institution, or the state was curtailed. A few hundred years later, one lesson which has been learnt is that societies cannot buy modernity; they have to evolve towards it.

But not us. In Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif has doubled the salaries of the police, given them equipment and perks. To what end? The cops are still torturing, raping and abusing everything and everyone who crosses them. We can scream and cry and wail, but to no effect because we too are missing the point.

These cops, their officers and their political bosses, all these people don’t think in their hearts of hearts there’s any other option but to torture, rape and abuse Pakistanis. How else will they stop crime, they ask? Rights? What rights?

The sickness is not in the hand that wields the whip, but in the mind that guides the hand.

And the mind is very diseased.

Published in the Express Tribune 28th,  2010.

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