The Tayyaba case is a disturbing mirror turned on the face of our society. In it we are forced to face the realities of child labour, child abuse, and abuse of power by state authorities. Privately, we know that this is not the first case of its type. But maybe it could move us away from this reality. Because it has received global attention through social media, there may be a possibility to turn the tide toward reforming one part of our broken justice system.
The most shocking part of the Tayyaba case is, sadly, not the child abuse which is known as a rampant problem in our society. It is the fact that the torture and abuse was allegedly done by Sessions Judge, Islamabad, Raja Khurram Ali Khan, who sought to escape justice himself by getting ‘forgiveness‘ from the father of the victim. This brought outrage among the public who saw a clear abuse of power and attempt to escape justice by the judge. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has declared that it is taking suo moto notice of the case, which gave some hope for justice. Then, almost predictably, a new twist was introduced when young Tayyaba disappeared.
Last month, we learned that no less than former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was openly defying the Court and refusing to return a taxpayer owned bulletproof car that had been loaned to him while he was serving his country. Now we are witnessing a case where a Sessions Judge is trying to escape justice by turning to legal loopholes and other tricks.
The Supreme Court should take a lesson from former COAS Gen Raheel who dismissed 6 officers over corruption. By holding his own men to account, he strengthened the integrity of his institution in the eyes of the people. If the Court is unable to hold its own people to account, faith in the justice system will continue to erode, which is a disaster we cannot afford.
Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami condemn the execution of Bangladesh’s the party’s chief Motiur Motiur Rahman Nizami, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The head of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party was executed early Wednesday for his role in acts of genocide and war crimes during the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971, a senior government official said. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
Foreign Office released a curious statement in response to hanging of Motiur Nizami in Bangladesh. According to the government, the Jamaat leader’s ‘only sin was upholding the constitution and laws of Pakistan’. The government has carefully worded its furious response as a condemnation of the ‘flawed process’ that convicted Nizami, a point that has been made by international human rights groups. However these same human rights groups have also given the same judgment of our own legal process and said that hanging those convicted by military courts is ‘not justice‘.
This point of criticising legal process is for PR purposes only. In reality, Pakistani state does not care one iota about international norms of ‘due process’ and strongly defends our sovereignty as we know best what is required for our national security and how to best handle those who are working against the national interest. Therefore, our sympathy for Nizami is not out of concern for due process and international legal norms, it is out of nationalistic pride.
There is no concern for the ‘due process’ of those killed by Pakistani forces in extra-judicial killings, neither there is concern for those hanged following secret trials by military courts that have been condemned by international legal groups. These too are Pakistani citizens, but where is our outrage and concern for their rights?
Nizami is considered a hero for his actions, so we do not want to see him punished for them. Even though he stopped being a Pakistani in 1971, his actions supporting Pakistan military gave him status of Super Pakistani and therefore he is given more rights than actual Pakistanis. This is justice?
Three years ago, Anti-Terrorism Court formally charged Gen Musharraf with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. One year later, the ex-dictator listened as another judge read out a new set of charges including high treason for subverting the Constitution when he illegally seized power in 2007. Today, he sits smiling as he sips his favourite Scotch whiskey in Dubai. His dreams of returning to power were dashed by reality, but neither did his nightmare of facing justice come to pass. Instead, Gen Musharraf joins a long history of military dictators who ran way rather than facing justice. Pakistan’s Gen Musharraf name will be included in history books next to Chile’s Gen Pinochet and Uganda’s Gen Idi Amin.
The meaning of this is so clear that it is hardly worth even noting. Dawn has called it, ‘Musharraf’s latest coup‘, and says ‘Increasingly, it appears that the prime minister has accepted the de facto normalisation of military control’. Once again we are reminded that justice in this country is arbitrary, and the best legal defense is still the brass on one’s shoulders, not the truth on one’s side.
However, Gen Musharraf’s retreat is a stark reminder that it is not only mercy that is reserved for the military elite. The excuse given for letting go a suspect charged with murder and treason is that he requires medical treatment. By allowing this, the Court has officially admitted that we are a country soon to have world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, but we can’t even provide proper medical care for our citizens. If Gen Musharraf, who somehow became a billionaire, can not get proper medical treatment in this country, what is the hope of the common man who does not have the connections or the billions to spend?
Gen Musharraf may have run away from Pakistan, but the rest of us are here to stay. This episode feels familiar because it is, but we can let it drag us down into cynicism or we can take it as a wake up call to take our country back from the powers that are holding it back.
In the past two posts, I have already looked at how the justice system allows cases to hang over the heads of politicians for decades without ever coming to any resolution while speedily dispatching cases against extremist elements (usually in the form of acquittal). I have also discussed the way that evidence is handled, namely that there can never be too little against politicians and never enough against militants. Today, I want to take a look at another piece of the puzzle which is the selective way that justice is meted in the first place.
Yesterday I mentioned the curious fact that NAB has submitted a report to the Supreme Court including cases for which the agency admits it has “no details regarding to the dates of filing complaint, enquiry and investigation”. These are corruption cases for which complaints have been allowed to continue over the accused for decades with no resolution despite the fact that even agencies admit a lack of hard evidence.
Now I would like to compare to another case that we are told lacks evidence: Allegations against Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Sartaj Aziz has once again asked for more evidence to against Lakhvi in order to conclude the case. This is important because government is not saying there is no evidence. Actually, the fact is that Lakhvi has been arrested and detained multiple times on orders of the Court. This alone suggests that there was sufficient evidence to frame specific charges arrest him.