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FIGHTING PERJURY IN PAKISTAN (II)

The style of the new Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa may be different from his predecessor, the objective remains the same, bringing the rule of law back into the system. Without this governance is a sham and “democracy” of the Nawaz Sharif-Zardari kind a hypocrisy. Justice Khosa has taken up the eradication of perjury as one of the cornerstones of criminal justice reform and of his personal contribution to mend the judicial system in Pakistan. Shortly before taking up the mantle of chief justice, he had emphatically declared his intention to build a “dam against fake witnesses and false testimonies”. More recently he observed in court “God willing, the era of quickly dismissing false statements will return”. He promised that the law providing punishment for perjury from now onwards would be implemented in letter and spirit. He said that a liar would not to be able to stand witness in any case in future and if a part of statement is based on perjury, the whole statement would be dismissed. Before becoming CJP Justice Khosa had repeatedly said that all judges who handed out sentences on false verdicts would be held accountable If implemented this would surely be a step in the right direction. It will be a difficult task to put this through especially in the lower courts in the country and one will need some prominent show cases to teach witnesses that lying in court is not advisable. Fake witnesses would soon be behind bars and the entire system will be back on the right track as soon as some purposes are sent to life to prison.
CJ Khosa reportedly said something else important as well. He said that “the people lie as a habit.” This is an extremely true and important observation made by the CJ. Lying in court is only the tip of the iceberg. Lying over the years has become something like a sport or a habit everywhere in daily life starting from childhood. Students miss classes and tell lies about their grandmothers and aunties that expired in the village. They cheat in exams which is a formidable lie and it is prevalent already in children. The consequence is the flood of fake degrees that we are faced with, fake news in the media, fake bank accounts and so on. Lies have intruded into the institutions and are undermining them. They are damaging the character of our people starting from childhood. Ethical behaviour that should be taught in schools and families is compromised. Truth and truthfulness, justice, equity and fairness have become the victims not only in court but in all spheres of society.
To build a just society is one of the central purposes if not the central purpose of a state. Because truth and justice are closely connected and interdependent Islam has established truthfulness as a central characteristic of a Muslim. But today this seems to be forgotten. The discussion around Articles 62 and 63 of our Constitution and the demands that we heard to delete them from this fundamental law of our country are a clear sign that being truthful is not regarded as a central value any more.
There is need for more change than only in the courts of law. The first step would be to apply the laws that are already in place and apply them rigorously at all levels of the judiciary. A much better system of law enforcers that can expose fake or manipulated documents has to be put in place. But at the end of the day laws can only bring justice if the people accept those laws as just.
The main change, therefore, has to be made in the minds of the people. The connection between lies and injustice is a major fact that has to be considered and taken up in addition to the courts in our educational system and the media. Laws alone do not change the mind set of people. What is needed is a society in which liars are facing social boycott instead of appreciation for their cleverness. Imagine that a liar exposed would really face contempt at home, in social circles and at work. The lesson would be no doubt impressive not only for the person alone, but his example would impact others around him. To achieve such a change in society will surely take time but the process has to be started now especially in the interest of the younger generation that has to understand the evil consequences of lies.



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