The Quetta Inquiry Commission Report; another wake-up call.

Residents light candles for lawyers killed during the Monday blast at Civil Hospital during a candle light vigil in Quetta, Pakistan August 9, 2016. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The 8th of August, 2016 came with a devastating tragedy for the people of Balochistan, especially for the lawyers’ community therein. President of the Balochistan Bar Association, Mr. Bilal Anwar Kasi, was murdered not far from his home in Quetta. The murder, as it turned out, was only the first of two terrorist attacks. Mr. Kasi was killed to lure citizens to the hospital where another tragedy struck. A suicide bomber detonated his vest amidst a congregation of lawyers gathered for their departed friend and colleague. 75 perished, 105 were injured; most of them lawyers. The tragedy that befell Quetta that day did not just claim ordinary lives; it took many of Balochistan’s thinkers, educated elite and fine legal minds. It may suffice to be deemed a tragedy for the people of Balochistan and Pakistan, but for the victims’ families and the legal fraternity, it was nothing short of a calamity of catastrophic proportions.

As after any terrorist attack – that unfortunate Pakistanis are not unfamiliar with – condolences were sent, solidarity was expressed, resolves were made and soon, life went on just the same. But then the Supreme Court of Pakistan took a Suo Moto notice of the August 8th attacks and vide order dated October 6th, 2016, nominated Justice Qazi Faez Isa as a single member commission to inquire and “look into from all the relevant aspects of this mutli dimensional tragedy”. A little over two months later, on December 13th, Honourable Justice Qazi Faez Isa submitted his report; “The Quetta Inquiry Commission Report”, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Some dubbed this report a “charge sheet” against the federal and provincial governments and, particularly, against the Federal Interior Minister. But let’s give political point-scoring and blame game a rest. We have lost enough lives, shed enough blood and seen enough death to merit coming out of our selfish, shortsighted and shallow shells. The report has been attacked and defended at several forums but unfortunately its gravity seems to have gone unnoticed by both who agree and disagree with its findings. It is not a charge-sheet against any government or individual. It is a wake-up call for everyone; all political parties, all law enforcement agencies, every parliamentarian, policy maker, each and every one of Pakistan’s citizens. Sadly, our usual response to such wake-up calls is hitting the “snooze” and going back to sleep.

Justice Isa has done this nation a great service and his report merits serious consideration as opposed to being shelved in some record room only to be used as a reference for someone’s dissertation or in some case twenty years from now. It deserves a status higher than that of a “hot topic” discussed in talk shows for a few days and consequently pushed back by some newer, hotter news. It has to be, needs to be discussed, debated and deliberated upon in the Parliament, as soon as the Parliament gets its own status back. The follies and flaws identified in this report need to be addressed, questions need to be asked, answers so desperately need to be sought. The report calls for governmental and institutional introspection.

Last year the General Elections Inquiry Commission conducted a complex exercise and submitted its report. It was an elaborate commentary on the flaws of our electoral system and recommended solutions and reforms for improvement. The report was met with applause by the relieved and criticism by the disappointed, discussed and analyzed and then discussed some more. Though nothing good has come out of it yet, since the consequent electoral reforms remain in limbo till date.

Justice Isa’s report is equally, if not more, significant. It is an elaborate commentary on all that is wrong with Pakistan’s anti terrorism stand. The report covers several aspects of our strategy to counter this vile affliction. It exposes loop holes that remain even after having been pointed out time and again. Despite having lost more than 60,000 lives and incurring financial losses worth trillions, there are faults and flaws in both the policy and its implementation. Confusion persists at the top level regarding jurisdictions and Federal departments seem unclear on their domain. Punjab seems to be the only province to have established an advanced forensics laboratory. Proscription of organizations that facilitate, promote or endorse terrorists and terrorism is delayed in some cases and rendered ineffective in others. Nepotism seems to be an established norm for appointments to critical posts and positions, which results in criminal incompetence that facilitates law-breaking and, in some cases, terrorism. All these observations, along-with several other vital findings have been made in Justice Isa’s report. The Commission seems to have brilliantly used the 8th August attack as a sample to study and diagnose the ailment as well as prescribe an efficient treatment plan. Illegal appointments, callousness of government functionaries, institutional incompetence, unchecked and flagrant violations of rules and laws, irresponsible handling of terrorism related news by the media, power politics among law enforcement agencies with overlapping spheres, brazen misuse of public funds, absence and mismanagement of resources, maladministration, messed up priorities and politics over the dead and devastated, have all contributed to where we stand today.

There is no institution solely responsible, no political party liable alone; each government, every official and all political parties who have held the reigns of this country or a relevant department since the ongoing spree of terrorism started in 2001/2002, are responsible for the shortcomings that have paved the way for further terrorist attacks. One can only hope that those in positions of power today, policy makers and the officials responsible for its implementation, will rise up to the challenge and do their best to curb this menace that has already taken too many of our own from us.

But first,  have you; our policy makers, legislators and political party leaders, actually read Justice Isa’s report? I have an answer to that question based on my limited understanding of our political, legal and executive system, and I so desperately want to be wrong. It cannot be denied that terrorism in Pakistan has lost ground in recent past owing to some very effective measures at the State level. Loop-holes, however, remain and are capable of enabling the monster to bounce back. If these shortcomings, as pointed out in Justice Isa’s report, are ignored, the responsibility for any re-lapse and consequent damage would rest on all our shoulders more than the terrorists.

May Allah guide us, protect and save us from terrorism and terrorists, and from our ignorance and complacency before that. Amen!

 

 

Raisani’s Plea Bargain; Justice neither DONE, nor SEEN to be done.

raisani

“It is not merely of some importance, but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”

                                                                                                Lord Chief Justice Hewart.

 

Above quoted is a very famous, oft repeated, statement of Lord Chief Justice Hewart made in R vs. Sussex, Ex party McCarthy in 1924. The statement is very frequently repeated by Judges in all jurisdictions of the world. In Pakistan too, it is often repeated in verbatim, yet rarely seen to hold any force.  

On Wednesday, the 21st of December, 2016 however, the fortunate country of Pakistan did see justice being done when a corrupt public official faced the ultimate retribution for his crimes. Mr. Mushtaq Raisani, Ex-Secretary Finance, Government of Balochistan was apprehended by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on  the 6th of May, 2016. A huge stash of cash was recovered from his residence. After keeping him in custody and investigating the case for over 7 months, NAB has managed to make an example out of Mr. Raisani.

Mr. Raisani will face a three tiered penal action;

  1. First, he will have to pay an amount of around 2 Billion rupees which is approximately 5 percent of his estimated wealth accumulated through illegal means (Rs. 40 Billion an estimate given by NAB). Now this poor man will have to live the rest of his life on a scanty wealth of just 38 billion rupees. Probably below (an imaginary) poverty line. His future generation will suffer the consequences of Raisani’s actions. What if he, or his children, wanted to buy a country? Raisani’s dream of spending 40 billion rupees has been shattered, thanks to the exemplary reprimand meted out to him by our legal system.

The soft hearted lot of you must be thinking the above punishment is more than enough. Hold your breath, for there is more. Sometimes you have to be harsh in actions against criminals so as to create a deterrent.

  1. In addition to giving up 5 percent of his wealth, Mr. Raisani will also be -*drum roll*- disqualified from seeking a public office. Yes, his days of being a government servant are over. No official vehicle, no office with Jinnah’s picture on the wall, no salary or free travelling.

And as if this wasn’t enough, there’s more still.

  1. The last tier of this magnificent retribution; Mr. Raisani cannot apply for, or obtain a loan from a bank. You can’t miss the beauty of adding this provision into his “sentence”. In case Raisani planned on realizing his dream of spending 40 billion rupees by obtaining a loan for 2 billion, it ends here. Take that you criminal, vile, corrupt person; no loans for you. Some may think Raisani is in a position to give loans, and not obtain them, but that’s not how NAB sees him. The inability to obtain loans will haunt him for the rest of his life spent in any country of his choosing, in his mansion or villa with toilets made of gold.

Where is the deterrent you wonder? Well the corrupt have been sent a clear message; when being corrupt, go all the way, don’t hold back. Forget thousands and millions, go for billions and we guarantee you a safe journey and exit.

“Justice should not only be not done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be not done”.

The severity of his punishment so justly matches the gravity of his crimes. The money that he embezzled could only have been used to make hospitals in Balochistan. Thousands of lives could have been saved, but weren’t because this guy “needed” money. Millions of children could have been educated. Better equipment and resources could have been obtained for law enforcement agencies. Orphaned children, poor citizens, homeless, unfed could have been looked after with substantial welfare projects, but Mr. Raisani had better use of the money.

Balochistan suffers for a million causes, and Mr. Raisani appears to be a significant one of them. And thus he faced the wrath of justice. Praise be to NAB, praise be to the visionary leaders and legislators who provided for glorious retributions like plea bargain and praise be to all who came after them and agree with their rationale.

”Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze.”

(chapter 4 , verse 10 , Quran )

”And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful]’

( chapter 2 , verse 188 , Quran )   

 

P.S

NAB did not make the NAB ordinance that provides for plea bargain, NAB ordinance governs NAB.

Raisani is by no means an isolated case, there are hundreds, if not thousands like him. Many roaming freely – some in positions of influence – for reasons other than plea bargain. There are then the millions who are Mushtaq Raisani at a much smaller scale, yet equally vile and corrupt; opportunity being the only difference between them and the big fish.

If the law and leaders fail to control corruption, instead seem to encourage it, what recourse does the common man have?