Reforming the justice system


Is it a mere coincidence that our approach to the crisis of the economy is same as our approach to the crisis of the national security? In both these cases, we resort to short-term quick-fixes instead of long-term durable reforms in the underlying economic, political and social structures that cause these crises in the first place. We know very well that our economy won’t be fixed unless we are able to meet the expenditures necessary to meet our present and future needs from own pockets. And this requires structural reforms that will undercut the privileges enjoyed by the elites: agrarian land reforms, progressive taxation regime, regulation of speculative activity in real estate and other markets crucial to provide key public goods are some of the reforms that will enable us to truly put our house in order.
The authorities in Islamabad don’t even consider these since many in their own ranks will stand to lose out on their privileges as a result. Instead, these authorities continue to opt for one lender or the other to inject foreign exchange lent by others into the economy to keep it afloat. The approach to the question of terrorism and national security is the same. A flawed amendment was passed to the Constitution in the wake of the attack at the Army Public School which instituted military courts to try civilians charged with terrorism. The rationale given back then was that we were facing an exceptional situation, and therefore, exceptional measures were needed to deal with it. Four years down the lane, plans are afoot to extend the tenure of these courts for another two-year term without a sound assessment of the gains made so far and the need for such an exceptional measure anymore. The civilian and military authorities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi need to realise that the presence of these courts puts a big question mark on the criminal justice system of this country. These courts are in conflict with several fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and cannot be allowed to proceed on an ad hoc basis. It is a pity that neither the apex judiciary nor the successive governments in these past years took any serious measures to reform the justice system so that those charged with terrorism could be tried and punished in accordance with the due process of law.