Guest Blog by Naeem Sadiq
Published in Dawn, Sunday, 22 Mar, 2009
Containers were originally used for the transportation of goods. Today they still carry goods but only when not being utilised in the service of the state. In the absence of a more rational argument, the weight, size and shape of a container provides an ideal piece of equipment to impose one’s political agenda.
Placed at the two ends of a road, containers provide weighty assurance that the life and liberty of one’s opponents are confined within these two extremes.
The credit must go to the MQM for inventing a usage that the original designers had not quite envisaged. The May 12, 2007 prototype launched in Karachi was successfully replicated on March 15, 2009 when some 2,000 containers were used to cordon off large swathes of area. It was a shameful, illegal act and it brought the government immense misery and losses to individuals.
The recent ‘containerisation’ of Pakistan raises many questions that need serious consideration. How come the police can move with such speed and efficiency in commandeering containers and blockading hundreds of roads, a task which is ridiculous, repressive and illegal? How come it got away with brutally arresting a large number of citizens who simply wanted to travel to Islamabad?
On the other hand, what makes the state unavailable when it comes to helping an ordinary citizen in distress? How come it does not stop the powerful legislators who roam around with armed guards in their unregistered Land Cruisers? How come it is helpless in ensuring that dozens of cars and hundreds of cell phones are not snatched from ordinary citizens everyday? How come it allowed a 25-minute gun battle at the Liberty Market and did not come to capture, kill or even blockade the militants? So there is something seriously wrong with our state machinery. It seems to exist solely for the purpose of meeting the unending illegal desires of the rulers.
The restoration of the chief justice is a great moral victory for the people of Pakistan. It has given a new sense of hope, optimism and participation to ordinary people. It is a positive thought that we shall see the chief justice go back to the Supreme Court Room No.1 in the coming days.
However, would the people of this country also start receiving justice as soon as he is back? Or will the state continue to suppress its citizens by the strategic positioning of containers? Will Pakistan’s ordinary citizens continue to spend their lives going up and down the courts, paying lawyers and perhaps buying judges? Will the courts continue to contain dispensers of justice capable of acting like containers and obstructing justice for many years to come? We hope not. But if all this is to continue, then although we may have succeeded in bringing back the chief justice we may yet be far from justice itself.
A number of ordinary citizens participated in the struggle for the restoration of the chief justice as they linked it to the struggle for the rule of law and the constitution. Our people are fed up of NROs for some and containers for others. They now have high expectations from the restored judicial leadership. They expect easy, accessible, cheap and speedy justice at all levels. They expect cases to be decided in a matter of weeks, not years.
The chief justice could ask every court to make itself transparent by displaying the details of all cases on a website. A citizen should be able to see the progress made and the time taken on every case heard by every judge in Pakistan. A team could be set up to monitor whether the decisions taken by judges are actually implemented by the government or simply add to the volume of judicial papers.
The deposed judges will resume their duties soon, perhaps by attending to the pending NRO case. It should be clear to all that true justice means that no one is above the law. Once done with the NRO, if the matter is indeed taken up, the judges may like to order a seven-year-old file to be searched in the archives of the Supreme Court and deliver a judgment on the case. Pakistan’s bravest woman, Mukhtaran Mai, has been waiting for it for seven long years.