Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the justice can only be dispensed when the courts are free but the independence of the judiciary has failed to deliver the desired results. The PTI leader was part of the 2007 lawyer’s movement against a military dictator undermining the supremacy of the judiciary but subsequent events did not go as expected.
The rule of law and provision of justice is imperative for the development of a nation as it uplifts the common man and ensures that investment flows into the country. The nation’s decline is being partially attributed to the absence of rule of law and having dual standards of justice for the poor and the elite. We have also seen how vested interests misused the law to escape justice while the weaker segments continue to be exploited.
Even during the much-heralded accountability drive by the government, we have not seen any high-profile individual being sentenced. This gives them an excuse to raise allegations of political victimisation and criticise state institutions. It also cannot be denied that amnesty given in the past and impunity to the elite has emboldened them to escape accountability.
The failure for the absence of rule of law is due to the government’s inability to initiate judicial reforms. In a recent meeting with SCBA members, the prime minister said the government was committed to reforming civil and criminal laws to reduce caseload, but even the legal fraternity is not satisfied with the reforms agenda. The appointment of judges in violation of seniority has also raised serious concerns.
The laws and procedures in Pakistan are weak, archaic and ineffective, amended in a piecemeal manner. There has been some progress but the fundamental problem lies in the delay in the dispensation of justice. The judicial system is mired in complicated procedures, rampant corruption and lack of legal aid. This has weakened governance and the prosperity of the nation.
The PTI had come to power after vowing to launch a judicial reforms programme to provide speedy and quality justice. It has completed three years of its term but the reforms process remains a herculean task. Nevertheless, it is crucial that the government should seek input from all stakeholders to ensure the process remains meaningful.