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Justice and Accountability in Pakistan

The Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) held a protest today against the brutal extrajudicial murder of Pakistani citizen Sarfaraz Shah by troops of the Sindh Rangers. This gruesome act was caught on videotape by a brave journalist who is now in hiding alongwith his family, and it became the center of national attention for two reasons: one, that when Sarfaraz was shot by security forces, he was unarmed and begging for his life, and two, that the security forces let a citizen of their own country die painfully while they watched him bleed.

‘It is a good kind of civic activity. People should know what is going on, not hide behind lies like our politicians do. We need to get our voices heard’, said a participant. Others agreed that there needs to be more support from the rest of society regarding any initiative for justice and the rule of law. It is a good sign that the Chief Justice of Pakistan is concerned about negligence in the case, but aren’t Pakistanis concerned with wanton murder of their fellow citizens out on the streets?

We are Pakistan, and this is our country.

We demand that there be across-the-board accountability, in all institutions whether public or private, and in all activities where there are loopholes to be exploited (and in the case of Pakistan, that means almost everywhere). Accountability must take place at the top of the pyramid – the so-called ‘corridors of power’ who have lost their democratic and representative legitimacy – as well as at the lowest rungs of state apparatus – who are the functionaries interacting with general citizenry. No department will be functioning in public interest if its senior management is corrupt, and no kind of accountability can be truly robust if there is still inefficiency at the lowest levels. Everyone should know – and be made to know – that nobody is above the law. Otherwise you or I could be next.

All we are asking for is justice. We need to emphasize not only the importance of our justice system, but also the importance of its timely functioning. How long can we live in a state where justice delayed has ceased to become justice denied, and has instead become justice destroyed? Does the media and the government really think a rumpus in the budget speech can make us forget Sarfaraz Shah, or for that matter Saleem Shahzad, or Babar Wali Khan, or the poor foreigners murdered in Kharotabad, or Moghees and his brother Moneeb, or Shahbaz Bhatti, or even Salmaan Taseer? Thanks to the justice system, Salmaan Taseer’s assassination case has been deferred yet again, without any proceedings, for the fifth time now. And he was the sitting Governor of the largest and most powerful province in Pakistan.

If he can’t get justice, why would we?

Just because we haven’t done anything in the past 63 years, doesn’t mean we continue to point out flaws and do nothing about it. As far as I can see it, protests and civic engagement is a very very important social activity, not only because it brings people together, but because it also shows that in this country, there still are people who think that their ideas are more powerful than the violence that may be committed on them. All we want is justice: peace, stability and prosperity will follow automatically. All we want is for accountability to become a part of our national identity and social fabric.

And in that light, all we can really do is vote responsibly in the next election, which is going to occur in late 2012 or early 2013 – if all goes well and nobody gets killed this time. If we exercise our constitutional right to choose our representatives, hold them responsible for their legislative records, and recognize the importance of both rights and responsibilities, then we will have become more capable of charting out a better future for Pakistan.

Because we are Pakistanis, and Pakistan is our country.

A friend of mine once said: from concerned citizens, we need to become responsible citizens.

Don’t you think its about time…?

Murtaza Khwaja is President of Zimmedar Shehri

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About shemrez

I choose to live and to Lie, kill and give and to Die/ learn and love, and to Do what it takes to Step Through...

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