How things have gone wrong in Pakistan can be gleaned from the following episode at the end of last month. The chief justice of the Baluchistan High Court, Justice Amir-ul Mulk Mengal, was travelling to Nushki/Kharan when his car was stopped at the Chagai checkpost by the Frontier Constabulary (FC) on November 26. On orders of the checkpost in-charge, a captain Butt, the FC personnel requested that the vehicles be searched.
The chief justice and his entourage took offence at this ‘affront’. A fight might have erupted between the militia and the justice’s armed escort but for the timely intervention and good sense of the justice himself. He allowed the FC personnel to search the vehicles before being allowed to proceed.
It is important to understand the circumstances in which the search was carried out. Chagai is a high security area. This is where Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests on May 28 and 30. There are orders not to allow anyone to enter the area without proper inspection. The Frontier Constabulary to which captain Butt belongs, is charged with this responsibility.
A storm of protest erupted in the country over the ‘insult’ to the provincial chief justice. The Baluchistan Bar Association filed a writ petition against the captain as well as the commandant of FC. A divisional bench of the Baluchistan high court comprising Justice Iftekhar Mohammad Chaudhary and Justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai issued contempt of court notices to the commandant Chagai Militia and captain Butt and ordered them to appear before the court.
The attorney general of Pakistan Chaudhary Mohammad Farooq apologised to the chief justice on behalf of the government while the advocate general of Baluchistan, Malik Sikandar Khan, condemned the incident. As if this were not enough, the inspector general of FC, major general Rafiullah Khan Niazi and deputy inspector general FC, brigadier Mohammad Siddique Khan both rushed to Kharan to offer their personal apologies to the chief justice.
Even the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif took serious notice of the incident. He ordered the immediate transfer of captain Butt and the commandant of Chagai Militia. The president, Rafiq Tarar, who happened to be in Quetta, also weighed in with his own admonition, demanding proper punishment for the ‘offending’ captain and his personnel.
What did the poor captain do to deserve being dragged over the fire? His mistake was to take his job seriously. Had someone in the chief justice’s entourage been carrying contraband items or explosives - not such a remote possibility - the captain would have had to answer for this. He was damned for doing his duty and would have been damned for not doing it.
The episode reflects the serious problem Pakistan faces. There is one law for the rich and powerful, another for the poor. The elite culture that pervades every aspect of society is creating the kind of problems Karachi faces today. The gangsters and mass murderers get away with their crimes because they have links with people in positions of authority. Even when they are apprehended, somebody, somewhere connected high up, is able to wriggle them out of the clutches of law.
Had there been justice and fairness in Pakistan, the Baluchistan chief justice would have congratulated the young captain for taking his job seriously. It is a disgrace that the country’s president and prime minister demanded reprimand of the young captain and his personnel for doing their job.
This is not an isolated incident. In 1989, when Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab, a similar incident occurred in Lahore involving members of the provincial assembly (MPA). Their car violated a red light; when the traffic police stopped them demanding to see their papers, the MPAs took offence. Upon reaching the assembly, they created a ruckus demanding punishment for the ‘insolent’ police officials.
Nawaz Sharif was then in Murree, a hill station about 60 kms north of Islamabad. He immediately had the inspector general of police, the concerned police constable as well as his immediate superiors transferred from there for doing their job! In the ‘Islamic’ Republic of Pakistan, officials are punished for implementing the law.
During the time of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, Fatima bint Qais from the tribe of Tamim, was caught stealing. The Prophet ordered that her hand be amputated. Some companions, fearing that her tribe, an important one, might take offence which would prove detrimental to Islam if she were punished, asked for suspension of the punishment.
The Prophet’s reply is instructive, especially for those in Pakistan. ‘I swear by Allah if my own daughter Fatima had committed the crime, I would not have spared her. O People! Communities before you have perished because they had one law for the rich and a different one for the poor.’
Are the rulers and elite not leading Pakistan towards destruction? Neither the chief justice of Baluchistan, nor the president and prime minister of Pakistan have demonstrated enough sense to stand up for the rule of law and its equitable application to all and sundry.
Muslimedia: December 16-31, 1998