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December 24, 2019

December blues

Opinion

December 24, 2019

The month of December in Pakistan has often been associated with collective grief. In 1971, this month saw Pakistan’s its breakup.

The first woman prime minister from a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in December 2007 and was widely mourned even by her political opponents. Later, in December 2014 the gruesome deaths of innocent children in the Army Public School Peshawar wrought about by terrorists remains an unforgettable blow.

And this December the Lahore lawyers’ assault on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology may have avenged a personal insult but brought shared shame to the country. Quite a chilling December quartet then.

The threshold for violence in our dear land continues to get lower, highlighting the decay in the functioning of state institutions without exception. This decay may still not reach the terminal point if only those responsible for the ship of the state steer it conscientiously and dutifully in accordance with their oath of office. They need to read their oaths every day before deciding the business of the state.

Rulers also need to spend more time understanding our most pressing requirements, and less on empty rhetoric castigating those with a different plumage. Adherence to the letter and spirit of the law perhaps lies at the top of all our priorities.

For those with a conscience, there are deep lessons to be learnt for these ugly events. Sadly, it would appear many amongst those who matter in the realm are devoid of this gift; that is why we keep repeating them.

Soon after the separation of East Pakistan, the rulers of the day started a vicious campaign against their opponents by stoking antagonism in Balochistan, resulting in four years of death and destruction; they duly followed it up with manipulating the elections.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto did not soften the harsh tone of our adversarial politics. Similarly, after the APS mayhem in Peshawar, though the writ of the state was largely extended to the tribal areas yet the crucial recommendations of the National Action Plan and the criminal justice system have not moved forward.

So do not expect any improvement in our official response to the malfunctioning of the law-enforcement system after Lahore in December 2019. The attacking lawyers were guilty of serious crimes but the government in the form of the police was even more guilty for criminal neglect. Their naïve excuses would have been laughed at were it not for the death of some patients because of the attack. The state appears comatose.

The chief justice of Pakistan said recently that introspection was required to address the malaise. True, introspection is needed but only after the lawyers and those responsible are punished for their evil deeds. Any default of those responsible for providing security should not be brushed aside. One effective doze of punishment deters ten potential mischiefs but when an assault goes unpunished one is only asking for more trouble. Hopefully what happened on Jail Road the other day will lead the perpetrators to jail.

Anger and angst, vengeance and violence remain central traits in historically intolerant societies like ours until rule of law develops deeper foundations. We will have to wait a long time for that day to arrive. Till then, all delinquent and criminal behaviour can only be tamed by a stringent and impartial application of the law. No discretion is permissible to relax the law.

What the government and the courts must avoid is compounding such painful offences. This is not the time to seek or grant forgiveness for the criminals. For once, please spare us the abhorrent sight of stuffing ‘laddoos’ down the throats of those you pummelled just a few days back.

Crime and punishment, Dostoevsky told us, must be inseparable and it does not behove the provincial government to separate them. We await your visionary decision, Mr Chief Minister.

The writer works as executivedirector of the Society for thePromotion of Engineering Sciences and Technology.

Email: [email protected]