Violence and Justice

Meera Ghani

Lately I find myself losing hope. It seems as if we all are so caught up in our mundane day to day lives that we’ve stopped caring about what’s going on around us. I much rather believe that it is for this reason that not many decided to come out to condemn the recent illegal use of power and violence by our security forces because the other prospect is much too horrifying. I can’t fathom that our people actually agree with what’s being carried out in the name of justice. I can’t let myself believe that we as a nation endorse state terrorism and do not believe in due process anymore. But that certainly seems to be the case.

The culture of violence especially against women is growing in Pakistan and those who are meant to enforce law and order are doing the very opposite. The recent aggression against the curator at Nairang Art
and the harassment of devotees at Bahauddin Zakariya darbar just show how women are always the first to suffer during difficult times. Our strange notions of “honour” and “decency” make men treat women like possession rather than people. While many artists and civil society organisations are getting together to protest against police brutality this weekend there are many who thought the actions of the police officers were justified because the women weren’t behaving “properly”- like they are expect to. People choose to over look the fact that these women were illegally beaten by a policeman instead they choose to focus on what they wore and whether their dress and behaviour was Islamic or not. And because of that their assault becomes justified even though they had done nothing wrong.

Similarly I was appalled to hear some of my friends justify Sarfaraz Shah’s brutal murder by the Sindh Rangers. They felt no empathy for the young boy who was left to bleed to death in spite of his consistent pleas for mercy and to be taken to the hospital. They thought that the alleged criminal deserved the on-spot punishment that was dispensed in less than 10 seconds. Why, because they felt “criminals” like Sarfaraz Shah were responsible for making their lives in Karachi hell. They were being robbed at gunpoint for items such as cell-phones.

While I can understand why they are fearful for their lives and are frustrated about the rampant lawlessness in the city I don’t think we can let our emotions guide our response. We can’t forgo the basic principles and tools that democracy provides us.  How can we allow the enforcers of law- the so-called guardians and protectors of society to disregard the laws of the land and deny citizens their rights? How can we as a society allow them to do the very opposite of what they pledge under their oath? How can we be okay with violence and extra-judicial killings that too in the most inhumane and gruesome of forms?

Similar apathy is responsible for many of our citizens considering drones to be the only viable option for dealing with the militants based in the FATA region. Sadly, the citizens of FATA have been condemned to become “collateral damage” in order to ensure safety and security for the rest of Pakistan.  Neither do many care about what the citizens in Balochistan have been subjected to for years in the name of “national unity”. Their calls for freedom and right to self-determination are constantly ignored. There is a massacre taking
place under our very noses but we can’t seem to find to time to speak up. Their rights are not important because some are considered more equal than others. What concerns me is that life itself seems to have no value anymore.

How can we expect justice to be served when we deny others of it??? How about putting oneself in their shoes. What if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if the security forces decided you deserved to be punished? There was no arrest, no trial just death by bullet. Would you not care about due process then? Would your loved ones not want to come out and demand justice be served? Would they not want your fellow citizens to come and protest your unwarranted and unjustified murder?

Sadly, we seem to have landed back in medieval times where brutality and violence seems to be the only laws of the land. We seem to agree with on the spot justice whether it be state endorsed or vigilante. I see
more people around me applauding moral policing and justifying violence than people calling for law and order. Our sense of right and wrong is so intertwined with our skewed sense of the “greater good” and “majority sentiment” that we seem to care very little about the violation of individual rights. We’re so obsessed with piety, religion, morality and other people’s sins that we forget the injustices that may lead to.

If we want to see things change we need to exercise and demand our rights and use democracy to our advantage. We need to hold the establishment responsible. We have to make sure that our voices against these insane injustices are heard by those that are responsible for law and order, those who prosecute and those who ensure justice is served. So please join the citizens who will come out on the streets in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad on the 13th of August to demand an end to police instigated violence through various performances and street art. Let’s stop playing the blame game, the solutions to our problems lie with us.


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