Governance failure: Anarchy or speedy justice?

Faisal Naseem Chaudhry has contributed this excellent piece for PTH. Apparently, the Supreme Court has taken notice of this incident. But this incident itself is reflective of the growing frustration among Pakistanis with respect to governance and in particualr the failures of the criminal justice system. As Faisal says people have lost faith in the judicial system, no matter whosoever heads the institution! Whilst Pakistan gears its creaky state machinery to face the monumental challenges ahead, this incident is a parable of our times. The pending reform agenda of improving the police, the courts and administration cannot be further delayed lest we want to promote anarchy and mayhem in the country. Raza Rumi

A horrifying incident took place in Mauza Buttar District Sialkot on 15 August when two alleged dacoits were not only stoned and beaten to death rather their dead bodies were hanged upside down for four hours in the presence of District Police Officer (DPO Sialkot), and later put on a tractor-trolley for public exhibition. According to the printed news appearing in Daily Express, Daily Khabrein, and Daily Pakistan;

1. A total of 4 dacoits were robbing people of their belongings at 6 AM on 15 August.

2. One namely Bilal was killed by the dacoits. A few others were injured.

3. Those injured were strong enough to get hold of two dacoits whereas remaining 2 managed to flee successfully.

4. The captured one were beaten and stoned to death, dead-bodies hanged with a pole.

5. After ‘negotiations’ the bodies were handed over to Police.

6. A case has been registered against the deceased ‘dacoits’ and their buddies who managed to flee the scene.

7. The grand-father of the deceased dacoits stated that one of them was a Hafiz-e-Quran; both were brothers and were going on a motorcycle to play cricket in the morning after SEHRI. When they were passing by the place of incident, they were apprehended by the village men (perhaps because they were riding a motorcycle and dacoits do it) and mercilessly killed.

The above incident reminds us of an incident dated February 2010 when two dacoits were burnt alive in Karachi.

While sitting in Central Punjab, we believed it was the alien violent culture of Karachi, not our problem. But the problem is knocking at our door and wouldn’t be a surprise if any one of us commuting on a road is stopped by a mob and burnt alive without formal charge supported by impeccable evidence.

Much has been debated in media about Courts acquitting culprits. The Courts on the other hand maintain that in the absence of proper prosecution supported by tangible evidence, they can not convict a person. The requirement of evidence is not only a hallmark of Western Criminal Law but a keystone of Islamic Law as well i.e. ‘it is better to err by acquitting a criminal rather than convicting an innocent’. This is why the standard of proof and evidence required in Criminal Trial has to be unimpeachable before a person can be convicted. An erroneous acquittal does not finish the matter certainly; then it is left between the offender and Allah.

The Sialkot Incident certainly leads to different conclusions.

Firstly, there is so much of uncertainty, confusion, and frustration in the society;

Secondly, people have lost faith in the judicial system, no matter whosoever heads the institution;

Thirdly, the lawlessness knows no boundaries.

Fourthly, bad governance also knows no boundaries no matter how tall are the claims of Great Administrators.

Fifthly, only a miracle can transform the Punjab Police. It be a Martial Law or a Western Democracy in country, the Police has always proved to be an extremely incompetent department in the administration of justice. This is unbelievable that the DPO was present there during the brutal show.

Lastly, CJ SC has taken notice of it and DPO Sialkot has been summoned to appear before SC Islamabad today. However, it will be another story that according to GEO the CJ took notice ‘only when’ the story was aired by GEO on 19 August Thursday. The incident took place on August 15, the clippings below are dated 16 Aug, so for 3 days (16 to 19) the suo moto jurisdiction was either sleeping or waiting for GEO.