People have lost confidence in entire system, not just judiciary

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 01:19 PM, 30 May, 2020
People have lost confidence in entire system, not just judiciary

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been quoted as saying at an important official meeting on Friday that people’s confidence in the country’s judicial system has almost been shaken.

He has constituted two committees to suggest constitutional reforms and look into the plight of women prisoners and recommend remedial steps for the purpose.

Three cheers for the PM.

His party – PTI - has been in the field for more than a quarter of a century, and has been in power for the last two years. This is the first time that he has spoken about the judicial system.

Keeping in mind the working of the official committee it can be said with certainty that it will take long to examine the problem and draft the constitutional reforms required to address the ills of the system.

The ground reality is that the PTI has only hair-thin majority in the legislature – that too because of the support of the coalition partners. It will not be in a position to bring in any constitutional amendment which needs a two-thirds majority to get through.

Ostensibly, the ruling party will not be able to get any amendment passed unless the opposition parties extend support.

Given the present state of relations between the two sides, it is not even thinkable that the opposition parties (whose leaders are facing various cases) would join hands with the government.

Already two years into power, the PTI is not expected to complete the task in the remaining three years – which it has at its disposal assuming that it is allowed to complete its five-year term.

By the time some kind of package of judicial reforms is worked out by the official body the country will be close to the next elections. And the situation will stay unaddressed.

As for the PTI government’s performance in other areas, without doubt it is quite disappointing. It can’t claim credit for setting right a single sector.

Things are going on as before – and the situation will remain unchanged till the PTI’s last day in power.

This has been our practice from the very beginning and will go on in future.

Then will come a day when Imran Khan will be replaced by somebody else as chief executive and he (she) will be making the kind of statements/promises being made by the PTI boss now or the previous rulers made during their respective tenures.

Meetings of A, B, C, D committees will go on and on with a fake impression that those in power are doing so much for the country that they don’t have time even for their families. But nothing will change.

The kind of problem that Imran Khan says he inherited from his predecessors he will be leaving for his successors.

Had Imran Khan cobbled together a team of dedicated leaders at the beginning of his term, he would have done a lot for the country by now. But he has not been able to bring about any worthwhile change in the country.

As for the judicial system he wants to reform now, everybody knows the factors responsible for its failure and reforms needed to set the situation right. It’s common knowledge that judges, lawyers, lower judiciary and aides to judges are responsible for the failure of the judicial system to deliver justice and come up to the expectations of the common man.

Judges have been interpreting the Constitution to suit the requirements of various rulers. They gave decisions in important cases under pressure from certain quarters or to get benefits for themselves. Their post-retirement confessions about pressures can’t absolve them of responsibility.

The role of lawyers in devastating the judicial system is also unforgivable.

A senior lawyer (now enjoying a retiree’s life) charged huge fee after telling a court during Gen Zia’s period that under the Constitution the military ruler was required only to initiate the electoral process in 90 days and was free to take any amount of time – even years – to complete it.

This ‘fantastic’ interpretation was made at a time when everybody else was saying elections must be held within 90 days.

Needless to point out that lawyers use all their skills to delay justice. The conducts of the lawyers representing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Zardari in various cases would illustrate the point.

In lower judiciary, clerks of courts are minting money by adjourning cases on the request of lawyers. They ‘milk’ both the parties – complainant as well as respondents.

How corrupt these clerks are can be assessed by probing their assets. Their assets and living standard have no match with the salaries they draw. They have turned their offices into shops.

Then, in the Islamic republic you can find countless unconscientious people roaming around courts willing to make false statements on oath.

Their services are available to anyone who can pay them.

These statements change the very nature of the case – and thus the court decisions.

In short, the situation in judiciary is so bad that five years is a short term to set it right. No hope can be attached to the committee set up by the prime minister to come up with steps needed to reform it.