August 26, 2010

Vigilante Justice Served, Once Again

We as a nation have never been able to overcome that stumbling block known as the judicial discrepancy that has plagued our nation for a long, long time. Of course it would imprudent of me to expect the masses to believe in a judicial system that is slow on the uptake, is full of holes, and is marred with utter corruption. The other option of course, one which was thrust upon us as a nightmare recently in the form of the brutal murder of Mughees and Muneeb Butt, is to set things straight yourself. Vigilante Justice.

The purveyors of this vigilante justice will tell you mind boggling tales of horror that befell them, and that which forced them to take up the axe and start chopping. It has happened in the past, when mobs doused looters and robbers with kerosene and set them on fire; it has happened to women, who were stripped naked and paraded in the streets because their brother, or uncle, or cousin, or someone related to them was involved in a dispute with the aggrieved party. It happened in Sialkot recently when two brothers were lynched. And you know the scary part? It will happen again, because the system that churns our vigilante justice has not been corrected.

Only today in the news, police have arrested a teenage girl who chopped off the nose of a man in Sargodha. She was mad at him because he used to call her and text her day in and day out. Eventually her family found out which, instead of supporting her in this case of plain harassment, made her an object of ridicule and vileness. She lost the little bit of sanity left in her, grabbed a knife and asked the man to come out of his house, which he did, only to have his nose chopped off.

If you were to think about, you will probably say ‘great, the man got what he deserved!’ or perhaps ‘hats off to the girl for being brave enough to fight for her rights’ and what not. If you are one of the people who thinks that (me included), then you are quite plainly a hypocrite. On the one hand you cried your eyes out at the brutality meted out to the two Butt brothers, and you vowed never to condone any form of on-the-spot vigilante justice ever again, but you just broke your promise by condoning the act of the girl.

Of course the police only sprang into action after the milk had been spilled, or in this gory incident, a nose had been lost. But the fact is that the police have ended up detaining the girl’s entire family even though she has pleaded guilty to the crime and has stated she had no accomplices. What can you take away from this incident?

Lots of things. For starters, you can think about how hard it is to show restraint when a righteous act, committed against the law, is so hard to condemn. The simple reason for that is because we have never really trusted ourselves, or ever been let by the state institutions, to trust the judicial system prevalent in our country. We are all fond of mob justice or vigilante justice, if it gets the right persons; but taking a principled stand against mob justice means condemning the act even when some real crook, criminal, or downright belligerent harasser comes in our grip. We all agreed in principle after the Butt brothers’ murder to not ever support vigilante justice again. Let’s keep that promise.

On the other hand, the police have once again proved that they are the most corrupt and problematic institution currently operative within Pakistan. They arrested innocent members of the perpetrator’s family. Honestly, dismantling the police inside Pakistan would help substantially improve the law and order situation of our country. And it would improve the economy too, as the massive finance that goes in as black money will be channeled back into legitimate areas of the economy.

This incident was a flashback of the promises that we committed to in the aftermath of the Butt brothers’ deaths. Let us stick to that promise. We demand justice for all. We repose faith in the judicial system of Pakistan, because we really don’t have any other option. We call for a bottoms-up reform of the judicial system because that is the only way forward. And we appeal to the human in you, to take cognizance of your unwitting thoughts that bemoan our great nation.