Blank Checks and Secret Proceedings: Pakistan’s Injustice System

Adiala prison

Two incidents this week indicate that justice in Pakistan continues to be elusive. First was the promulgation of Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (Amended) which quietly dismissed all missing persons cases and gave agencies a blank check to maintain secret prisons for anyone who they decide has done as little as ‘issued threats’.

The ordinance denotes that the persons under detention of security forces will be considered detained from the day of promulgation of the ordinance. Those facing charges will be tried in courts and the security forces will have ‘indemnity’ on their detention.

The second incident involved the controversial case against a mentally ill British man accused of blasphemy. On Thursday, he was convicted and sentenced to death. Sentencing a mentally ill man to death for blasphemy is questionable enough, but the case became even more disturbing when the court proceeded to carry out proceedings in secret and without the accused man’s attorney present.

His lawyer told the BBC’s Saba Eitizaz that she was forcibly removed from the case by the judge and that proceedings were carried out behind closed doors.

Justice cannot be carried out with blank checks and secret proceedings. There is no doubt that agencies are facing a difficult mission to protect the nation from terrorists, but use of secret prisons and lack of oversight for agencies gives fuel to the terrorists anti-state narrative. Similarly, supporters of blasphemy laws like Tahir Ashrafi always say that the problem is not with the law but with the application. Convicting and sentencing to death a mentally ill man without allowing his lawyer to be present is a casebook miscarriage of justice in any case, but in the case of blasphemy laws it only provides more evidence that fair application of these laws is only a fantasy.

 

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