When it comes to promises of successive Pakistani governments to reform our hugely inefficient criminal justice system, action will speak louder than words. All regimes and leaders have at one point or another pledged to ensure that ordinary citizens have easy access to legal avenues. Their possessions have come and gone, but justice – if one could call it that – remains available only to the privileged few.
Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan once again stressed that reforming the criminal justice system was his administration’s top priority. “That’s the most important sector, that’s why we want to carry out reforms,” he said. “We want to dispel the impression that crime is paid for by ensuring justice for all, especially the poor and underprivileged.”
At face value, the sentiment is definitely glorious. But so tired are we as a society today that until such talk is translated into concrete action, mere words remain meaningless. The cynical mind, above all, couldn’t help but wonder if such routine scripts were traced to fend off flaws elsewhere. Whereas on the topic of justice and reform, if the government really wants to get rid of such skepticism, then the government must also be accountable to itself in an exemplary way, especially when a party with the word ‘justice’ in its name is leading. And while that may not deter the opposition from criticism, it will undoubtedly weaken their argument of ‘political victimization’.
Returning to the problem at hand, we hope that Prime Minister Imran and his government will seriously follow up in implementing the reforms that have been long needed. One also hopes that they actually translate into a justice system that is accessible to ordinary citizens and easier for them to navigate. After all, all of our leaders – government and opposition – need to realize that empty rhetoric will no longer stop it. Outside the justice system, there are many areas where we continue to fall behind if we don’t have to. Actual action will go a long way toward restoring confidence that Pakistanis are lost and continue to be lost to our leadership.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2021.