A law-abiding nation

'The breaking of law became a fashion and a status symbol'

Mustansar Hussain Tasir October 08, 2018
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and researcher and contributes to various national media organisations. He can be reached @must_tasir

It probably is our real dilemma that we as a nation take pride in violating the law and contrary to the civilised world, unfortunately, see it as a sign of superiority. The thinking has been permeated among the masses by practices and examples set by the country’s ruling elite, feudal lords, business tycoons, and upper-class bureaucracy, who would proudly keep the land’s law in their pockets. Even the greatest crimes of this class would repeatedly fail to deter them from corruption, injustices and alleged treasons against the country, its constitution and the common people. This environment has been prevailing for decades. While the common man, on the other hand, when caught with some ignoble act, the whole law-enforcement machinery would put in its best to see the culprit being ‘duly’ punished.

Then the electronic and social media entered the fray. It started showing and exposing the cruel faces of the rulers. This made the people more aware of the situation while rulers remained aloof and stubborn. Now, when the people became more cognisant of how their rulers have looted ‘their’ wealth, the corruption and crime rate in the lower-class abruptly soared. Many justified their felonious acts because everyone was doing. The breaking of law became a fashion and a status symbol. It must be noted that as change in any nation is always a trickle- down phenomenon and so does the wickedness. It was quite natural because if a ruler digests a stolen chicken, his subjects would consider stealing of eggs as their birthright.

When Imran Khan promised change and austerity during his election campaign, people won’t believe him. Many would have listened people saying “Nothing is going to change here and when this person (Imran Khan) will come to power he will break all the previous records of loot and plunder.” This was actually a depiction of the deception they have been going through years after years at the hands of the political elite.

After the change of government following election-18, the majority among the masses saw the indicators of change as a threat to whatever they are left with. Particularly, the social media campaigns by the media cells of opposition parties played their role in confusing their political followers as well as the common man. People are, consequently, resisting the reforms and change. Instead of following the laws and rules, their old belief system, that laws are only for the poor, instigate them for revolt and rebellion. So, as we see many incidents when the people are reacting to the increased fines on traffic rules violations and some other incidents it must be seen in its actual context. The rulers, through their own practical examples, first need to teach the nation that law is superior to all, and its compliance is a sign of superiority rather than inferiority.

Also, without going through major reforms in the civil sector, only increase in punishments and fines won’t really work. At policy level a paradigm shift is inevitable. For example, stealing is a crime according to our law, but isn’t it the duty of the state to formulate people-friendly policies to eliminate the socio-economic conditions due to which many would resort to this crime? The policy steps in the mini-budget, in this regard, were not impressive. Yes, it obviously takes time but direction must be right. Furthermore, the building of trust among the common man that the state is their well-wisher and really intends their betterment is of paramount significance. This realisation alone would resolve many of our issues and only then will we become a truly law-abiding nation.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2018.

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Abid Khattak | 3 years ago | Reply Nice article sir, basically, we are accustomed to showing defiance to the state laws due to impunity and free hands from Political bigwig strong influence in state's functionries i.e Police etc. According to the Global survey: Pakistan ranks 106th in world for justice system which show unsatisfactory(low; less than 10%) conviction rate in Pakistan. In US and UK, conviction rate is 80+% , and china 99%. Sir, your suggestion regarding people- friendly -policy will decrease the commission of offense if it is applied with letter and spirit.
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