KARACHI: The people of Pakistan are the least protected in the world against terrorism and armed conflict, according to a recently released report on the rule of law over the globe by World Justice Project.
The revelation is part of Rule of Law Index for 2017-2018 in which the US organisation ranked Pakistan at the bottom of the order and security performance indicator in their annual evaluation.
The country was listed 105 out of 113 nations worldwide in the overall classification and managed to score only 0.39/1, with 1 indicating the strongest adherence to the rule of law.
According to the non-profit group, the released assessment was aimed at providing a portrait of the rule of law in many countries by measuring eight indicators based on the experience of the general public and the opinion of subject experts.
The eight indicators were constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.
While the country fared poorly in almost all indicators which aspire to quantify adherence to the rule of law, according to the American group, the performance of Pakistan in relation to order and security was especially noteworthy, where it scored only 0.32.
However, the report based on the index also claimed that Pakistan was among a handful of lower-middle-income countries in which the rule of law was improving. This was largely due to the fact that Pakistan had improved its score of the previous year by 0.01, and as a result, moved up one place in the rankings.
Scandinavian countries almost exclusively dominated the top portion of the index, with Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden occupying the first four positions. European countries like Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom and Austria also featured in the top ten.
At the bottom of the index were countries like Venezuela, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Egypt. African nations Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia were also ranked low, along with other nations like Bolivia and Pakistan.
The report has not only tried to rank countries based on the perceived law and order situation but also categorised them according to their region and the mean income of the population. The former is meant to put the domestic troubles of a nation into the wider regional context, while the latter aims to understand the correlation between development and conflict.
Region-specific analysis of the index indicated that European and North American countries were way ahead of the rest of the world in terms of implementing the rule of law in their region, with countries in these areas scoring an average of 0.74 on the listing. East Asian and Pacific nations were second most orderly, and scored an average of 0.60, while Sub-Saharan African countries and South Asian nations were ranked bottom here as well, with average scores of 0.47 and 0.45 respectively.
If we analyse Rule of Law Index 2017-2018 in light of the average income of countries, the results provided an interesting correlation between prosperity and law and order. For example, World Justice Project revealed that low-income countries from Africa and South Asia scored 0.45 on the annual evaluation and featured at the bottom part of the index. High-income countries from Europe, North America and East Asia scored an average of 0.74, and were ranked in the upper half of the index.
The report has also provided country-specific profiles of the listing and tabulated the individual contributing factors which were responsible for the low score of Pakistan on the index. Here is a brief look at those numbers.
Constraints on government powers
The constraints on the powers of the government were measured using six sub-indicators. These included scores for whether government powers were effectively limited by the legislature, judiciary, and independent auditing and review. In addition to these, three other factors were also included, measuring whether government officials were sanctioned for misconduct, whether the government was subject to non-government checks and whether the transition of power in the country was subject to the rule of law.
Pakistan scored 0.53 on this performance indicator overall. In the South Asia region, this score earned Pakistan fourth position out of six countries, while globally, in terms of this indicator alone, Pakistan was ranked 66 out of 113 nations. According to World Justice Project, the country performed most poorly in two sub-indicators. One was sanctioning government officials for misconduct, where Pakistan scored only 0.38. The other was the lawful transition of power, where the country scored 0.54.
These scores highlighted how officials in the executive, legislature, judiciary, and the police in Pakistan were not investigated, prosecuted, and punished for official misconduct and other violations while they were in office. The report further underlined that smooth transitions of power in Pakistan had been problematic and a source of instability for the country. The results raised credible concerns about the integrity of the electoral process, including access to the ballot, the absence of intimidation, and public scrutiny of election results.
Absence of corruption
Four sub-indicators were used to measure the absence of corruption in Pakistani society. The group used tested methods to calculate whether government officials in the executive, judiciary, military, police and the legislature used public office for private gain in the country.
Pakistan scored very low in this performance indicator and only managed to get 0.33/1. This put the country at fifth place in South Asia, and 99/113 in the world, based on this measure alone. A closer look at the average score of the country on this measure of corruption revealed that the law-enforcement (0.30) and legislative (0.27) branches of Pakistan were the most corrupt, while the judiciary (0.38) was the least corrupt pillar of the state.
The results have put the spotlight on problems in the Pakistani society which include the prevalence of bribery, informal payments, and other inducements in the delivery of public services and the enforcement of regulations. It also indirectly accused law enforcement of soliciting and accepting bribes to perform duties or expedite processes.
The transparency of the government was measured by using four sub-indicators. These include methods to calculate right to access public laws, data and information, as well as civic participation and complaint mechanisms against the government.
Pakistan scored 0.45 overall, which put the country fifth in the region and 80th worldwide. The worst score for the nation in this measure of Rule of Law was the publication of government laws and data, in which Pakistan scored just 0.26. Although civic participation (0.58) was high, rights to information (0.49) and complaint mechanisms (0.47) continued to be areas of concern.
The report has indirectly indicated that ordinary Pakistanis had trouble accessing basic laws and information on legal rights, which were not readily available, presented in plain language, or made public in all languages for the citizens. Although the non-profit group maintained that people could still voice concern about government officers, requests for information held by a government agency were not granted easily, and people were by-large not able to bring official complaints about government officers to relevant authorities.
Although it is difficult to put a number on the position of fundamental rights of citizens in a nation, the World Justice Project divided it into eight sub-categories. These included formulas to calculate equal treatment and absence of discrimination, right to life and security of the persons, due process of the law and rights for the accused, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of belief and religion, freedom from arbitrary interference, freedom of assembly and association, and guarantee of fundamental labour rights.
The overall score of Pakistan on this indicator was 0.40, which put the country fourth in South Asia and 100/113 in the world based on the position of fundamental rights in the nation. According to the American non-profit, labour rights remained an area of considerable concern for the Pakistanis, where the country scored just 0.25/1. Other sub-indicators, like rights to life and security (0.29), due process of law (0.34), and rights to privacy (o.27) also did not bode well for the overall performance.
Once again, these scores, upon further introspection, point out that the enforcement of fundamental labour rights in the country remained unsatisfactory at best, police and government officials regularly intercepted communications, and conducted physical searches, without a warrant, as the basic rights of criminal suspects were not respected.
Order and security
World Justice Project quantified order and security by measuring three sub-indicators, which were whether crime is effectively controlled, whether civil conflict if effectively limited, and whether people do not resort to violence to redress personal grievances.
The overall score of Pakistan in this category was just 0.32, and put the country at the bottom of both the regional and world lists for this performance indicator. This score was due largely to the poor measuring of the country in terms of absence of civil conflict (0.06) and absence of violent redress (0.32). The absence of crime scoring was low as well, at 0.52 only.
According to the non-profit group, the absence of civil conflict was defined as whether people in the country were effectively protected against terrorism and armed conflict. Pakistan scored 0.06 on this measure, which highlighted how terror and armed conflict played a central role in the lives of the citizens of the country, and how the people actually felt powerless against terror and armed groups. The low score of the nation on violent redress translated into people regularly resorting to intimidation or violence to resolve civil disputes amongst themselves.
Regulatory enforcement was measured by measuring the effective enforcement of government regulations, whether these regulations were free of improper influence, whether administrative proceedings at national and local levels were conducted without delays and due procedure, and whether government expropriated without compensation.
The country averaged 0.35/1 on this indicator and was ranked fifth in South Asia and 105th in the world in terms of regulatory enforcement. The most alarming statistic out of this category was that Pakistan scored just 0.16 on the respect of due process in administrative proceedings. Delays in administrative process (0.35) and effective regulatory enforcement (0.36) were also contributing factors to this low score.
The numbers given by World Justice Project corroborated reports from Pakistan that government regulations, such as labour, environmental, public health, commercial, and consumer protection regulations, are not effectively enforced. It also underlined how due process of law is not altogether respected in administrative proceedings conducted by national and local authorities in the country.
Seven indicators were used to measure civil justice in Pakistan, which included formulas to calculate whether people had access to civil justice, whether civil justice was free of discrimination, corruption, improper government influence. The American group also quantified the effective enforcement of civil justice and delays in it, as well as access of public to alternative dispute mechanisms.
Pakistan did not fare much better on this indicator as compared to the right others, and scored 0.35 overall, coming in the bottom in South Asia and 107/113 in the world on civil justice. The biggest contributing factors to these figures were discrimination (0.30) and corruption (0.28) in the dispensation of civil justice to citizens. Unreasonable delays (0.34) effective enforcement (0.37) were also problematic.
People in Pakistan have long complained about the difficulties in civil courts of the country and improper influences often play an important role in court decisions. In addition to these issues, the report has highlighted how court decisions are not effectively enforced and how access and affordability of the justice system in Pakistan was a complex and multi-layered problem persisting across different institutions.
Criminal justice is also an important measure of the rule of law in any country, and the American non-profit organisation measured it in Pakistan using seven sub-indicators. These were effectiveness and timeliness of the criminal justice system, whether it was effective at reducing criminal behaviour and impartial in its decisions. The group also tabulated values for corrupt and improper influences in the system, and due process of law and rights for the accused.
Pakistan scored 0.38 in this category, and World Justice Project ranked the country fourth in South Asia and 81st in the world on this basis. Like civil justice, discrimination in the dispensation of civil justice (0.24) remained an area of concern. Corruption (0.38), effective investigations (0.26), and effective correctional systems (0.37) were also potential red flags for the criminal justice system of Pakistan.
Problems in the criminal justice system were widespread in the country, and the police and others were accused of discrimination, bribery and improper influences in the delivery of their duties, according to figures of the report. The issues within correctional facilities, especially with regards to rights of prisoners, were also highlighted in the assessment.