In Pakistan, justice is often thought of as something elusive. Anyone who has experienced the labyrinthine, often unpredictable Kafka-esque process knows this all to well. Cases drag on, seemingly for eternity. For politicians, the process can literally be eternal. Cases registered, hearings held, then postponed – only to pop back up again years, sometimes decades later. However, justice is not always delayed, sometimes it is simply denied. And in these cases, the system can move fairly quickly.
This farce has been on full display since NAB submitted its list of mega cases before the Supreme Court. PM Nawaz is included on a complaint that was registered in 1999. Former President Asif Zardari is also included, even though “NAB has no details regarding to the dates of filing complaint, enquiry and investigation in the case”. Even Husain Haqqani finds himself included for a complaint in which charges haven’t been framed in 20 years! Still, these stories are reported as if they are convictions and they continue to do so on and on for years and decades more. The result is a gradual weakening of faith in the democratic leaders as everyone is considered a suspect who never has a chance for acquittal. All of this takes place even though authorities even admit that in many cases they don’t even know basic facts, much less have any evidence. Justice for these accused is delayed and delayed for eternity.
Compare this to another set of cases. China has long complained that Pakistan can’t keep terrorists behind bars. In Punjab, most terror suspects were set free. Malik Ishaq is a perfect example of the well known terrorist who is repeatedly set free due to ‘lack of evidence‘. It is this same ‘lack of evidence’ that is why we can’t convict alleged terrorists like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, or proscribe groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa even though they openly support armed jihad in other countries. And these are cases in which there is admittedly at least some evidence, even if it is not considered enough. In other terrorism cases, authorities simply give up even trying. Police quickly gave up trying to identify and capture the terrorists responsible fore suicide attacks against Imambargah Qasr-i-Sakina and Imambargah Asna Ashri.
If there is no such thing as too little evidence against politicians, there is no such thing as enough against terrorists. Just as this weakens our faith in democratic politicians, is weakens our resolve against terrorists. Even if some politician has never been convicted, you will hear otherwise intelligent people declare that “everybody knows he’s a crook!” Those same people when faced with questions about Hafiz Saeed or some other militant leader will suddenly tilt their heads and shrug, “but where is the proofs?” They say. Justice for the victims of terrorism continue to be denied.
It is bad enough that our authorities make a mockery of the justice system, treating different groups differently. But what is worst is the effect that this has on our relationship to the state. As our faith in our institutions erodes, anti-Pakistan extremists quickly move to fill the void.