‘Insaf’ not on priority list of Tehreek-i-Insaf

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:32 PM, 18 Jul, 2020
‘Insaf’ not on priority list of Tehreek-i-Insaf

The name of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in English means Movement for Justice. Hence, the dispensation of justice is supposed to be its top priority, although other commitments made in the election manifesto should also be honoured at the earliest.

But now that the PTI government has served out more than a quarter of its mandated five-year term, it appears to have done little on this front because of its involvement in unnecessary political disputes with opposition parties. Sucking the ruling party in frivolities is a common gimmick used by opposition parties to divert its attention from its real agenda. And the same has been used as an effective tool against the PTI.

The situation on the justice front is very deplorable and still more regrettable is the fact that the government has neither taken any steps to set it right nor necessary measures are on the anvil. This, apparently, means that no improvement in this area can be expected in the foreseeable future.

What is going on in this field was well reflected by what Shehzad Akbar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability, said at a news conference on Friday.

He said the government was trying to get vacated stay orders mainly obtained by “sugar barons during the past 11 years”.

He said a fine of over Rs20 billion had been imposed by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) on sugar mills after the 2007-09 sugar crisis, but the mills and the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association had not paid the amount even after 10 years.

“Over 100 stay orders regarding sugar mills were still pending before different courts for the last 11 years. I am a lawyer and I can say that stay orders cannot continue for such a long period if the lawyers of other side do their job properly as it is not a fault of courts,” he said.

Mr Akbar said a reference had been sent to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate misappropriation of subsidies given to the sugar mills. While the CCP has been tasked with probing the cases of cartelisation by the sugar mills over the past 10 years, the State Bank would investigate sugar mills’ wilful loan defaults. The FIA will probe the alleged fake export of sugar to Afghanistan.

These facts show the state’s writ has been challenged by sugar mill owners. It also reflects the government’s helplessness. The sugar mills are not afraid of the government or the court verdicts. They are doing what they think serves their financial interests better – no matter what the consequences.

On the other hand, cases pending with courts are going up and up with the passage of time and the government remains unmoved. It’s the Supreme Court that ordered recently the establishment of 120 accountability courts, a step for which the PTI leadership can’t claim the credit.  

According to a report published some six months ago, cases pending with the Supreme Court have hit the highest level for the first time in the country’s history.

As many as 42,927 cases were pending in the apex court until January 15. Significantly, pending civil cases are increasing by the day as 23,793 petitions and 9,332 appeals are still lying undecided.

The judicial performance of the top court in the last seven years – from 2013 to 2020 – shows that pendency of cases has doubled. In 2013, a total of 20,480 cases were pending but the figure has increased to 42,927 cases, showing a rise of more than 100 percent.

It has also been observed that no Shariah bench has been constituted for the last two years. A senior lawyer says that a large number of convicts are behind bars and waiting for the decision on Shariah appeals/petitions.

According to another report there are about 1.9 million cases, pending in over 250 lower, special and superior courts.

Of these, at least 40,871 are pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In 2013, the backlog was 18,000, which then grew to 38, 539 in 2018.

The pendency in the districts of Punjab is 1,095,542, in Sindh 101,095, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 209,984, Balochistan 13,969 and Islamabad 38,291.

There are only 4,100 judges who are to decide these cases.

The failure of the PTI leadership to take urgent measures to decide these cases shows that dispensation of justice is not their priority.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.