Pakistan: Tolerating Corruption

VIEW: Tolerating corruption —Dr Mubashir Hasan
Daily Times, September 13, 2007

According to a press report, the National Judicial Policy Making Committee, presided over by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, called for ‘zero tolerance’ towards corruption in the lower courts.

The decision will be hugely welcomed by the people of Pakistan. The higher judiciary supervises and administrates the system of justice in Pakistan. On paper nothing stands between it and a radical overhauling of the working of the system of justice in districts, talukas/tehsils and towns. The recent pro-active trend in the judiciary may also help in implementing a policy that ensures social cleansing operations to go alongside house cleansing operations.

Unfortunately, the probability that the higher judiciary will succeed in its endeavour to eradicate corruption in any significant manner in the lower level of our judiciary is quite low. Indeed, should it try, it may possibly open yet another window of what is already taking place. It has so happened in the past; well meaning and sincere efforts made by quite a few presidents, prime, ministers and chief ministers were not successful not withstanding the elaborate anti-corruption apparatuses they set up. They seemed to lack the power to end corruption.

Corruption in the judiciary as in other places is nothing more than a levy collected for personal use by the man who occupies some position in a court of law. He receives the money and puts it in his pocket. At that moment of time, he acts as the state.

The judicial system in force in Pakistan, as in the rest of the sub-continent, was designed by the British for a colonial state that was to keep the people of the colony totally subjugated. No transference of any bit of sovereign authority to the subjects was permitted. It was quite different from the judicial system in Britain or its Anglo-Saxon colonies of America and Canada, where common people were involved in the process of dispensing justice. In the former colonies like Pakistan and India, justice was and remains justice for the elites, by the elites. The people are not involved; they are kept under control through the use of police, magistrates, jails, tax collectors, all in the name of justice as administered by the elites.

Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, while hearing the case of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, rightly invoked an interpretation of Magna Carta that the case of a judge should be decided by judges, meaning peers of the judge. In the same way, the cases of civil and military officers in Pakistan are investigated and adjudicated by civil authorities and court-martials respectively. However, the cases against the overwhelming majority of the citizens are judged by elite classes who have political and economic vested interests in maintaining the non-elites as non-elites, subservient and oppressed. This is no justice. This is justice by the few over the many — a travesty.

If the people were to be made a part of the process of dispensation of justice by the juries selected with the approval of the accused as well as the prosecutor, the chances of corruption will be immensely reduced.

Dr Mubashir Hasan is a former finance minister and author of the book: The Mirage of Power: An inquiry into the Bhutto years, 1971-1975

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