Action not words needed to implement laws
29 March, 2006
By Jawaid Mehmood
Six years ago, an American youth was jailed for vandalism in Singapore,probably for damaging a couple of cars in his neighborhood. He was jailed, fined, made to do civil work and awarded a punishment of six lashes.
The news made quite a headline world over, more due to the fact that the then American President, Bill Clinton, personally appealed to the Singaporean government for his clemency. However, the Singaporean president rejected it and the offender was lashed six times and promptly deported to the US.
This incident leaves a deep imprint on one's mind about the solemn and prompt execution of justice.
In Singapore, rules and regulations are implemented strictly. Smoking is banned at public places and not even a small piece of paper can be littered. Plain-clothes police officers emerge from nowhere and simply take the offender to jail, where he can face a fine of up to S$1,000.
Even chewing gum was banned after it jammed the doors of an underground tram, blocking a minister. The product disappeared from the entire Singaporean market overnight!
In utter contrast, there are also countries where law and justice are freely and frequently trampled. Life is a perpetual menace for the innocent and hapless citizens, who are forced to live in miserable and fearful circumstances. One such notable instance is that of Pakistan, whose very own citizens ridicule its law and justice situation while sitting in small groups in the legal comfort of American environs.
The reason is that no matter how faulty the American foreign policy remains, its internal dispensation of justice is remarkable. Traffic laws, for instance, are so strict that entire lanes of vehicles are sometimes forced to move on the whims of a cyclist, lawfully pedaling on his lane.
Pakistan ranks among the topmost countries when it comes to holding conferences and seminars on law and justice. One hears many hair-raising tales and narrations of violations of human rights committed by law-enforcement agencies and public departments.
Many tall claims and procedures for dealing "strictly" with these elements are "propounded officially", but of course they are not practically meant to be executed.
American media is full of news about sectarian violence, "honour killings" and arrest of "terrorists" in Pakistan. People are being kidnapped by their own countrymen for ransom, many of them being killed even though the kidnappers receive the ransom money. It often becomes difficult to explain these things to the Americans.
The worst part of it all is that agents of foreign elements and powers, mostly working in the guise of NGOs have been able to manipulate and cash in on the plight of innocent women like Mukhtaran Mai and Dr Shazia.
One can easily and carelessly overlook such incidents in our country, but these events affect those living on a foreign soil. Especially in America where media exploits such news and highlights it just like a colossal neon sign planted right in the middle of an interchange.
One such example is a latest report published by a 'human rights' group in Pakistan, whose details and contents despite being "half-baked" have still pained the heart and souls of every Pakistani who cares for his/her country.
Imagine more than 10 million Pakistani children, who are an asset for the nation, forced into labour at such a fragile age. It is difficult to comprehend that the Pakistani government finds it hard to allocate a part of its budget for their education and welfare.
To top it all, about 200,000 children die annually as a result of the absence of clean drinkable water. The report elucidates that about 70,000 homeless children, who have either been abandoned or runaway from homes, are forced to lead shelterless lives, which is simply unthinkable in any civilized society. These hapless children, therefore, indulge in various crimes and anti-social activities.
According to a close estimate, 70 per cent of mothers and pregnant women suffer from blood-related as well as other kinds of diseases. Medicines along with hygienically nutritious food are some of the unthinkable luxuries they rarely have access to.
Some other outrageous and horrific crimes, unthinkable of a couple of years ago, have emerged in the society including the deplorable instances of molestation and murder of minor girls, and gang rapes.
Thousands of women are murdered by their own relatives in the name of honour. Whereas cases of people selling organs and blood because of poverty are also rampant. And, this is just a mere speck of sand from the entire desert of crimes in Pakistan.
The police, as is evident to everyone, remain unmoved, unconcerned and are corrupt. The police have failed to check the rising number of cases involving mobile and vehicle thefts at gunpoint. They even refrain from registering FIRs so that the crime that has taken place in their jurisdiction is not brought on record.
The most notable case that was a matter of embarrassment for the country was the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. The government was so hard pressed by the US government to locate the missing journalist that the police had literally started digging graves to find him.
The search operation finally ended after the kidnappers announced on media that they had murdered the journalist. Whereas in America, even if a dog dies, the police officials would leave no stone unturned to locate the perpetuator if any.
During President Gen Pervez Musharraf's visit to the US a few days after the gang-rape of Mukhtaran Mai, an American journalist asked him a question about the case. This infuriated the president, who unfortunately gave some very imprudent and caustic remarks. His contention was that Mukhtaran Mai "might as well have washed her dirty laundry at home, rather than taking her case to America just for publicity".
He could easily have been more prudent, patient and reassuring about the issue, choosing his words carefully in front of the American press.
The bitter truth is that all such victims had endlessly tried to seek justice from the official quarters, but to no avail. Ultimately they had to seek the help of foreign-funded NGOs and organizations who raised the issue in foreign media and forums, in total disregard of the country's reputation.
America respects and cares for its citizens, in whatever part of the world they suffer. We have the case of 52 American hostages held by Iran in 1979, who were released after the then American president, Ronald Reagan, agreed to all the Iranian terms.
If President Musharraf wants such victims "to wash their dirty laundry" at home, he should set the affairs in the country straight so that these women do not fall into the clutches of NGOs and foreign agents.
Consider the case of one Masood Ahmad Janjua, missing for quite some time, and has yet to be recovered. When the NGOs and official circles were contacted, they simply offered words of sympathy and did not talk about any conducive step being taken to locate him.
Masood Ahmad Janjua is related to the tourism industry and is well known among the foreign circles.
The State Department of America is constantly issuing warnings to its citizens to avoid travelling to Pakistan because of the presence of extremist elements, especially along the Afghan border.
An imprudent official statement like this should definitely not be so publicly uttered, but then American government is also quite aware of the fragile and totally inefficient security apparatus of Pakistan, which can hardly take care and provide protection to its own citizens.
Consider the case of the arrest of Pakistani expatriates, Zain and Kashan Afzal, who according to NGOs were arrested by security personnel on the night of August 13, 2005.
They were arrested without any warrant or prior official approval, and tortured and told to admit that they belonged to a particular terrorist outfit. Otherwise they would simply be sent to Guantanamo prison.
The duo was quite disturbed, because one of the arrested brothers was severely ill and needed immediate medical attention.
Such kinds of cases multiplied after 2001, so much so, it seemed that law of the jungle pervaded the country.
Despite the fact that more than 700 Pakistani citizens have been handed over to the American government, its appetite for "wanted terrorists" has yet not been satisfied.
There are other numerous cases like that of the tailor, Ali Asghar, who was kidnapped from Quetta on October 18, 2001, and two brothers Badar and Ibrahim arrested from Karachi in September 2002. Dr Aafia Siddiqui, driving with three of her children on March 30, 2003, disappeared and has still not been traced.
One Jadish Lal, studying in Peshawar University, was kidnapped on his way home on May 23, 2003, and a famous tycoon of Karachi, Saifullah Piracha, who supposedly departed for Bangkok from Karachi on July 5, 2003, has never returned. Mazhar Bhatti was arrested from Tando Muhammad Khan and imprisoned there, but the police later revealed that he was actually arrested on February 23, 2004 from Karachi.
Sharjeel, a Dutch national, was arrested by intelligence agency personnel in 2004. Similarly two girls Arifa and Saba Baloch, who were arrested on the suspicion of being suicide bombers, have since mysteriously gone missing.
There are thousands of other similar stories that give a negative impact about the law and order situation in the country. This is invariably discouraging investors whom the government is trying so hard to win over. Such a trust can only be enhanced if the government succeeds in "recovering" albeit "releasing from unlawful" custody these numerous "abducted, kidnapped, and arrested" persons.
Something has to be done about these frightening instances of excesses being committed by security and intelligence apparatus of the country. Otherwise the mounting insecurity could be harmful for the government as well as the country.