PAKISTAN: As outrageous violations take place, to keep silent on the issue of the rule of law is nothing less than betrayal

In recent weeks the Asian Human Rights Commission commented on two major violations of human rights from Pakistan. One was the severing of a young man’s penis by police officers in Larkana district, Sindh Province. It was a senseless and irrational act done within police station premises with the participation of several officers. Even after the local and international outcry nothing has been done to ensure justice in this case. On the contrary, a minister is reported to have intervened to pressurize the victim and his family to withdraw the complaint. The victim and his family have refused. The legal system was incapable of responding to this situation in any other form.

The second incident is the making of the Chief Justice of Pakistan non-functional and getting someone else to act in his place. This incident caused the biggest public response so far by way of massive protests both by lawyers and members of the public. The response to this event by the government was to make all sorts of excuses such as that the chief justice has only been sent on forced leave and nothing contrary to the constitution has been done and similar messages.

Both these incidents and the responses that have come from the government as well as the institutions of justice reveal the actual transformation that the country has gone through under the military regime of General Musharaff. To all appearance it is a place where no law or any practice respected by civilized nations seems to exist. However, this is a fact that the international community has not yet come to terms with.

In any country in modern times no one would expect that an event like the severing of an arrested man’s penis would take place. Such things may have happened in primitive times but today no one would hesitate to term such an act as the worst type of barbarity. Even if such an act would have happened by accident or due to the unbridled psychopathic behavior of some officer, others would have intervened to prevent such an act. That the act was done collectively excludes the possibility of it being done out of pure lunacy. Under such circumstances any state that respects the law, and also its own dignity, as a state would have acted with great speed to ensure justice and to demonstrate to the public both locally and internationally its remorse and to express regret. Nothing of this sort has happened regarding this incident.

A chief justice is the most respected and honoured individual within the system of an independent judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is universally agreed to be a component that no rule of law system can function without. A chief justice is not just an individual but the topmost component in upholding basic norms of the rule of law. If such a person is to be removed at all there are norms and standards to follow, not only to pay him due respect but also to assure the public of the seriousness with which a particular action is being undertaken. However, to casually call a chief justice to an army camp and make him non-functional is to turn the entire system of justice into a fiction. What is worse is that even after there were unprecedented protests from the lawyers and the general public the government was unable to act with any seriousness to respond except by way of making trivial comments and using the police and forces to attack the protesting public. This included the attack on the media that was commenting on this issue. In the case of the chief justice the law minister has come forward to defend the government action by saying that the chief justice had been sent on leave and that nothing worse had happened. This statement of the present law minister was rightly condemned by the former law minister who has blamed the utmost negligence on the part of the authors of the action against the chief justice. The present law minister is reported to have told the protesting lawyers “not to create a law and order situation and try to wait patiently for the verdict without creating hindrance.” The question may be asked as to who has created a law and order situation in both of these instances. Is it not the police officers who have engaged in a most uncivilized act against one of their citizens and the government which has acted against all the universally accepted norms and standards in the event of the removal of a chief justice? What ‘law and order’ is the law minister and the government talking about?

The government has also talked about the constitution. What kind of a constitution would allow a chief justice of the country to be dealt with in this manner?

All this points to a situation where words like ‘the constitution’ and ‘the law’ have lost all meaning within the context of Pakistan. All that people have are those who use their muscle to rule and use all sorts of nonsensical excuses in an effort to soothe the angry public. This is the nightmare that the people of Pakistan are facing. The people who go to police stations have reason to fear a similar incident as what happened at Larkana Police Station and all the judges and anyone concerned with justice have reason to expect to be treated in the same manner as Chief Justice Choudry. In fact this is what has been happening in the field of law in Pakistan in the recent years. It is no surprise that the lawyers have finally begun to protest.

In the enthusiasm to fight anti terrorism the civilized world has supported the military coup and what went on after that in Pakistan. Even now there is no sign that the world outside is waking up in order to support the lawyers and the public who are making a last ditch effort to save the system. What happened to the man at the Larkana Police station and chief justice Choudry seems to be of no concern to anyone.

The Asian Human Rights Commission calls upon everyone to wake up to something that has gone radically wrong in Pakistan where the protection and promotion of international standards have become a complete illusion. To keep silent anymore on the issue of the rule of law in Pakistan .

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-056-2007
Countries : Pakistan,