Criminals in our Inbox

Door to door marketing is not that common in Pakistan for a number of reasons. Even in other countries, technological developments in marketing and advertising have rendered door to door marketing redundant and marketing reps are extinct in most fields with only a few exceptions. But imagine it weren’t so. Imagine if door to door marketing was an often used advertising and marketing strategy employed by businesses in Pakistan. Now imagine if there were no rules or regulations in force to govern and regulate the use of door to door marketing strategies. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, any hour of the day any Tom, Dick or Harry – or Tina, Diana or Harriet – could come knocking on your door, or ringing your door bell, to introduce you to his/her company’s product or services.

Whenever there was a knock on the door and you had to walk all the way out, there was no way of knowing if it’s your mother, a friend, an invited visitor or just another uninvited, unsolicited walking talking advertisement to waste your time and energy. At first you may be ok with it; two or three reps visiting your abode to tell you about their interesting, cheap and useful products. But when the frequency reaches 20 to 30 per day, and most or all of the visits relate to products or services that have no utility for you, it can and most certainly will become a nuisance that you will want to stop. You may stop answering the knocks and bells and come up with a way to know when it is someone you were expecting like having them call you instead of knocking. Thankfully, this is just a hypothetical problem, or is it?

When I woke up this morning, I had one hundred and seventy three unread messages on my cell phone. I stopped checking and reading my messages a couple of days ago. I don’t even have the time to go through my messages and delete 20 to 30 useless spam messages every-day. I am a professional lawyer, and sometimes important messages from clients do get buried under the bulk of these unsolicited, useless spam messages. I don’t buy women’s clothing and I don’t wear them either, yet I have a number of messages from boutiques telling me which lawn print is in and which boutique is offering a sale. I don’t yet need tuitions for my children but every day I am told which academy offers what kinds of tuitions. I am happy with my caller tune; the conventional “toon toon”, and I don’t want Naseebo Lal, or Arijit Singh singing to whoever tries to call me, yet I have several messages offering different kinds of songs that my callers can hear while they wait for me to answer.

I am sure I am not the only one aboard this annoying, irritating, absolute nuisance of a ship. Every unfortunate soul who owns a cell-phone gets bombarded with a bulk of spam messages every day. Our numbers are obtained from our service providers by these businesses, or spam message senders hired by these businesses, and then the torture begins. Messages from family, friends, clients and acquaintances go unseen just because we are now used to our message tone beeping every five minutes and are 90 % certain that it’s just another spam message.

Well the good news is, and it may come as a surprise to many, that this is absolutely illegal. Most of us have heard of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016, but for the wrong reasons I am afraid. Section 25 of the Act makes it illegal to send unsolicited marketing or advertising messages to recipients, especially without providing the recipient an option to unsubscribe from such marketing.  Violation of this section entails a fine for the sender which ranges from Rs. 50,000 to One Million. All you need to do is lodge a complaint.

Section 25 is reproduced below, relevant parts, as applicable to above-mentioned subject, have been highlighted for clarity.

“25. Spamming.–{l) A person commits the offence of spamming, who with intent transmits harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited information to any person without permission of the recipient or who causes any information system to show any such information for wrongful gain.

(2) A person including an institution or an organization engaged in direct marketing shall provide the option to the recipient of direct marketing to unsubscribe from such marketing.

(3) Whoever commits the offence of spamming as described in sub section (l) by transmitting harmful, fraudulent, misleading or illegal information, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine of rupees fifty thousand which may extend upto rupees five million or with both.

(4) Whoever commits the offence of spamming as described in sub section (l) by transmitting unsolicited information, or engages in direct marketing in violation sub-section (2), for the. first time, shall be punished with fine not exceeding fifty thousand rupees, and for every subsequent violation shall be punished with fine not less than fifty thousand rupees that may extend up to one million rupees.”

The evil of spamming is relatively recent, prevalent since a few years after the advent of internet and cell phone technology. Even though it has only recently been declared illegal by way of an enactment in Pakistan, same has been illegal in other jurisdictions for years now. In the United States of America, the Can-Spam Act was enacted in 2003. Canada legislated its own anti spamming laws in 2010 and the UK has also declared spamming a criminal wrong. Our neighbor India, however, seems to have no such laws in place, especially since the repeal of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000.

There haven’t been many cases or considerable action for implementation of our own Section 25 for reasons that include apparent non-seriousness of the offence, lack of interest and most importantly; lack of awareness. A wrong that wasn’t even illegal a short while ago, is now a crime. Citizens now have a recourse for redress of their grievance against this nuisance, and a little pro-activity can help rid us of this cyber menace.

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?  

PTI’s Thanksgiving

On the 1st of November, Chairman Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf  (PTI) announced that his party would celebrate thanksgiving on the 2nd of November; a date previously set for locking down the country’s capital in protest against the Prime Minister and his family’s alleged corruption. Unlike several other parts of the world this particular thanksgiving is not for a good harvest, to be honest I am not so sure what PTI and its Chairman is thankful for and to whom exactly.

It seemed, from his short speech, that Khan was thankful to the Supreme Court for taking notice of the Panama Leaks and seeking reply from several respondents including the Prime Minister and his family. If this was the case, PTI could have celebrated thanksgiving on the 21st of October; a day after the Supreme Court had taken notice of the Panama Leaks issue and sent notices to all concerned parties. The Supreme Court, on the 1st of November, only allowed more time for submitting replies that it had actually sought on the 20th of October. So why did Imran Khan wait for his workers to be scared, arrested, harassed, refused entry in to Punjab, get injured, gather in open fields surrounding his residence in Bani Gala and have a cat and mouse play-date with the police, before announcing thanksgiving and calling off the lockdown?

So probably it was not the notices. Maybe Khan was thankful to the Supreme Court for forming a Judicial Commission to probe into the allegations of corruption brought to light by the Panama Leaks. But the thing is no such commission has been formed. Supreme Court, in its order dated 1st November, has only hinted at the possibility of forming said commission. Is PTI going to celebrate thanksgiving for a hint then?

There is one other possibility; that PTI ‘s Chairman and leadership is actually thankful for being given an opportunity to save face; not a very solid and convincing one, but a reason to call of the lock-down. Due to the government’s stern handed policy to deal with probable protestors, PTI’s workers did not turn up in numbers expected and necessary to lock-down the capital. The attempt to come out on the streets of Islamabad, or to leave Bani Gala for that matter, may have been thwarted successfully causing grave embarrassment and phenomenally weakening the party’s assertiveness. If this is the real reason behind the conversion of a lock-down into thanksgiving, then the blame lies partly with lack of political acumen of the leadership and partly with the failure of workers in responding to the leader’s call. The government arrested a few and managed to create a perception  that anyone who leaves for Bani Gala from any part of the country is at risk of being arrested, lathi charged and tear gassed. This perception made the PTI workers – most of whom are not familiar with the actual woes of a political struggle let alone a revolution – abstain from making an attempt to reach Islamabad.

I for one do not believe that locking Islamabad down was a prudent solution to the current predicament, but followers of Imran Khan and PTI did, and yet all it took to back down from their ‘revolutionary’ stance were a few arrests. The reason I do not agree with the politics of lockdown is that if this precedent is set, what would stop a religious party or an alliance of religious parties from locking down the capital – with a much larger number of devoted and violent followers coming not only to please their leaders but also Allah – for demands like the establishment of sharia, or a specific dress code for women? Any other entity, who is able to gather a crowd large enough, would be encouraged to apply similar tactics for any and all demands no matter how unreasonable, illegitimate or devastating. But insafians believed this was the only way, they believed that this is the moment of glory to make everything better in Pakistan, to sacrifice a few hours of freedom for the future generations. Yet, they did not leave the comfort of their homes for their leader, and thus lost a fight, and with it, all right to criticize the Party chairman for taking the alleged “u turn”.

PTI did, for a while at least, give a lot of people a lot of hope. Not just the insafians, but many from other parties or neutrals expected PTI to bring the long awaited “change” (tabdeeli). In days when PTI was gaining momentum and popularity, there was no knowing where it would end and what it could and would achieve. But thanks to clever and expert handling – most of the times inadvertently aided by PTI itself – and inability to learn from past mistakes, the hopes both from outside and inside the party are dieing. Scraping from the edges and working its way to the core, the party and its leadership seem to be ridding themselves of the popularity, fervor, vigor and ambitions they once held and promised.

The Struggle for Rule of Law(yers)

cj-lhc

A few days ago Chief Justice (CJ) of the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended the license of an advocate in accordance with section 54 of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 (LPBCA). Said suspension, and subsequent complaint to the Punjab Bar Council (PBC) was the result of an altercation between an additional sessions judge and an advocate, which was reported to LHC by the Sessions Judge. The lawyers community – a portion thereof – protested against this “illegal” act of the CJ LHC and has now demanded his resignation.

This is truly a defining moment for the lawyers of Pakistan, who were only 9 years ago fighting, struggling and “sacrificing” their all for the independence of judiciary, just as political parties have “struggled” and “sacrificed” for democracy. If we don’t stand up for what is “right”, we will lose the fight, the battle and the war for (against) “rule of law” in Pakistan.

The lawyers – a portion thereof – demanded that the CJ LHC resign, the supervisory committee of the LHC be dissolved and Section 54 of the LPBCA be repealed thereby ridding the Supreme Court and High Courts of their power to suspend an advocate’s license. Why should the superior judiciary have any control over the conduct of lawyers? The Bar councils – composed of elected members who are indebted to the lawyers for their current offices and dependent upon them for any future office they may hope to be elected to – are sufficient to decide upon any matter relating to an advocate’s conduct. The members of a bar council have no reason to be biased or tilted in favor of any advocate regardless of his political weight. Does anyone doubt a bar council’s ability to act against an advocate even if he commands hundreds of votes and can make or break any bar’s election? This would be like doubting Trump’s sanity, Zardari’s integrity and Fazl ur Rehman’s feminism.

The honorable advocate had only innocently snatched a case file from an additional sessions judge to write upon it an order of his choosing. Was this unethical? Yes. Illegal? May be. Necessary? Of course. Who knows the law better than a lawyer? In fact once these demands are met, the next phase should begin; with new demands which should include; amending the Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure Codes to empower advocates to decide their own cases. Once the CPC and CRPC have been duly amended, the lawyers – a portion thereof – should then struggle for the establishment of a lawyers supervisory committee to oversee conduct of the judges and to hear and decide complaints against them.

This is not just a fight for personal interests, vengeance or justice, this is a struggle for the Rule of Law(yers). The fight should go on till the last drop of our blood, the last shred of sanity and laying of the last brick in the tall tower of idiocy. Zinda hain wukla (The lawyers are alive), the law? not so much.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS: The never ending Labryinth?

– This article is written with a focus on Punjab since Punjab is the last province to have functioning local governments and thus the longest timeline of glitches and hitches. The local government elections fiasco is similar in all four provinces since each spent at least 5 years without elected local governments, and it took nothing short of directions from the Supreme Court to fulfill their constitutional obligation. –

Last existing elected local governments were dissolved in December, 2009 at the culmination of their tenure. Today in September, 2016 there still aren’t any elected local governments in Punjab. Above is the short version. The long version, if interested, is as follows.

Almost all political parties seem averse to the idea of an elected local government (LG) for a multitude of reasons. The devolution of an effectively centralized power structure and financial autonomy to elected representatives at the union council level are not ideas welcomed by parties that are accustomed to trends more dictatorial than democratic. It is thus that whenever the idea of holding local body elections came up, feet were dragged and Article 140-A of the constitution was quite conveniently ignored by all the four provinces. This went on for four years until the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry decided to engage the federal and provincial governments and, as one last “heroic” stroke of the pen, ordered strict compliance with the constitutional obligation and holding of LG elections in the country no later than September, 2013. Justice Chaudhry had observed that political parties seemed reluctant in holding the elections – an observation which would repeatedly be made by succeeding Chief Justices and other honourable Justices of the Supreme Court.

Essential as this intervention in the executive’s domain was, it was impracticable. There was a prevailing vacuum in this area; no legislation had been done, there was apparent consensus on doing away with Musharraf’s LG laws (the Local Government Ordinance of 2001) but in the past four years not a minute had been spent on what the new law would be and in the absence of any law; the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had no clue how to prepare for an election even if it intended to. Thus the September 2013 deadline came and went, and so would several other deadlines one after the other.

On Justice (R) Chaudhry’s repeated directions, ECP did announce a schedule for LG elections whereby elections in Punjab were to be held on the 7th of December, 2013. The Punjab Assembly had already passed the Punjab Local Government Act of 2013 (PLGA) in August. On the 7th of November, one month before the scheduled elections, the Lahore High Court ruled against Section 18 of the PLGA and directed that LG elections be held on party basis. On the 11th of November ECP decided to move the Supreme Court for postponement of LG elections on account of lack of preparations, the Supreme Court reluctantly obliged and elections were postponed till 30th of January, 2014.

As per the PLGA, delimitation of constituencies was carried out by the Punjab government, this was challenged in the Supreme Court. Before 30th of January, the Supreme Court invalidated said delimitation, directed the ECP to carry out fresh delimitation, and the Punjab government to make necessary amendments in PLGA. The LG elections were thus postponed indefinitely.

The required amendments couldn’t be made till October and thus the Federal government, by way of an ordinance, empowered ECP to conduct delimitations. Till December, 2014 the ECP had not been able to conduct fresh delimitations and blamed the provincial government for its failure to provide material necessary for the process. Then came 2015.

On the 13th of February, 2015, the then Chief Justice Honourable Justice Nasir ul Mulk remarked; “the way things are moving suggests that the elections are not going to be held this year and not even the next year as suggested by Punjab.” This remark would soon turn out to be an apt prediction. The Supreme Court ordered the ECP to complete delimitation and announce schedule for elections by 28th of July 2015. ECP then approached the Supreme Court for yet another extension on account of recent changes made in the PLGA.

Finally the ECP and Punjab government decided to go ahead with it, or so it seemed, and a phase wise schedule was announced on the 26th of August, 2015 for LG elections in Punjab starting from the 31st of October. The three phases of direct elections were conducted and dates for indirect elections were set for 8th, 11th and 14th of February, 2016. In the meantime some political parties had approached the Lahore High Court for striking down several amendments made in the PLGA (PLGA had been amended on four occasions till December, 2015 with more than fifty five amendments made in the first two years of its promulgation). The petitions were being heard by the honourable Lahore High Court however no stay orders were issued. On the 2nd of February, 2016 ECP suddenly, and on its own motion, postponed the elections on reserved seats citing pendency of petitions as the reason. The ECP was severely criticized for this move by all opposition parties who were already blaming it for aiding unnecessary delay in the LG elections. The decision turned out to be correct though, since the Punjab government decided to withdraw all the controversial amendments in August, 2016 and the petitions were rendered in fructuous.

ECP then announced the schedule for indirect elections on reserved seats which were to be held on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of September, 2016. Again a petition was filed in Lahore High Court challenging the fact that only the candidates who had filed their nomination papers in January 2015 as per the then prevailing PLGA were allowed to contest. The Chief Justice of Lahore High Court accepted the petition and directed ECP to issue a fresh schedule for indirect elections. The schedule was thus cancelled yet again.

The ECP has expressed its intentions of challenging this decision before the Supreme Court once a copy of the final order is made available. This promises to delay the elections to reserve seats for another month or two at least.

Candidates who had started campaigning for elections in October, 2013 finally went into the elections in October to December 2015. Those who won are now office bearers without any offices. They have spent three years with their eyes fixed on the government, the ECP and judiciary, one after the other. You may have heard the proverb: “too many cooks spoil the broth”. The broth has well been spoiled, it doesn’t really look like broth anymore.

Elected local governments that are financially, politically and administratively autonomous, are a constitutional obligation. Articles 32 and 140-A of the constitution of Pakistan are in place to ensure that the country has a functioning democracy, complete only with the third tier; that is elected local governments. However, unlike the Parliament and provincial assemblies, the constitution is silent on the mode and time of elections and the structure of local governments. This silence creates room for other state actors to experiment with the system which results in long periods of absence of elected representatives holding offices of the local government. The ECP and the provincial governments aren’t certain of where one’s domain ends and the other’s begins. Constant intervention by the judiciary is thus unavoidable and a working model of elected representatives appears un-achievable. If it took three years just to get the elections right – and we still seem far from it – how long would it take to sort out provisions relating to the functioning of local governments?

Of Persons and Things

things

Welcome home Ali Gilani. I am sure the entire family bowed down before God in gratitude for your safe return. They should also be thankful that you bear the name “Gilani”, for the fact that your father is an influential person; a V.I.P (Very Important Person).

Many mothers have lost their Ali never to be found or heard of; erased from all nooks of reality except from the hearts of a few loved ones and a dust laden FIR eroding away in some record room. Many wives lost their Shahbaz who did not bear a last name as heavy as “Taseer”, “Bhutto”, “Sharif”, “Gilani” etc.

I am glad that both Shahbaz and Ali returned to their families, I am happy that their ordeal ended and I empathize with them for what they went through.

I also feel for the families whose lost or kidnapped are forgotten. In a population of 200 million, we cannot keep record of each and every child gone missing, we have to select the “important” ones. Law enforcement agencies have piles and piles of kidnapping cases, they have to prioritize. Media has to cover stories that attract the interest of a large portion of viewers. No one wants to read or hear about Ahmed Javed (a 7 year old boy kidnapped from Lahore in 2015 and recovered dead) or the unnamed children kidnapped, raped and killed. They are mere nameless statistics used to show us, and the world, the grim face of our society. There are no special planes, no celebrations, no press conferences or repeated news reports with joyous songs in the back ground for these “ordinary” persons.

Let the Gilanis and Taseers celebrate; they have a reason to dance and rejoice, the ordinary don’t have anything to celebrate.

While the foreign ministry holds a press conference to report the recovery and return of a VIP, not even an SHO was moved to lodge the FIR of an “ordinary” citizen’s rape; who consequently committed suicide by self immolation in front of a police station in Muzzaffargarh for denial of justice. It wasn’t justice that was denied by the way, even the opportunity to get justice was denied to this unfortunate victim. She is not alone, there are several unnamed ordinary citizens who were kidnapped, raped and then denied justice by the state because they did not carry a VIP’s name.

Inequality is a reality, egalitarianism is fiction and we are all in denial. If we cannot bring our practice in line with theory, why not make theory conform with practice? Remove the prefixes “very” and “important”. Let the VIPs be known as “persons” and all others be called “non-persons” or “things”. A person has rights to life, protection, equality before law, equal opportunity and dignity. In the absence of these rights you are more of a thing than a person.

A CIA agent killed two “things” in Lahore and went scot free. Widow of one of the victims committed suicide in Faisalabad for want of justice. They did not carry a last name that mattered.

We have become a herd of pushovers ruled and dictated by a few “persons”. Laws are made for all of us, but enforced for a select few. A “thing” accused of stealing 20 thousand is picked up from his home by the police before an investigation even begins and at times, before a case is registered, but a person cannot be proceeded against until law takes its due and undue course and until a commission is formed to investigate into the allegations.

A person can make a city come to a standstill while he travels to inaugurate a health facility for things, while a thing  dies in the arms of her father who couldn’t get her to that very facility in time.

A person can expect his thing followers to sit in protest for days and months, while he stays at his lavish home and makes short appearances.

A person can drive his BMW while underage and without a license, a thing can only hope for not getting in his way and be killed.

A person  can slap you for following procedure at the airport’s customs counter, a thing has to add being slapped by a person, to his duties.

A person can make an entire airplane, loaded with things, wait for him while he runs late.

Inequality in our society is not as frightening as our complacency towards it. My concern is that we do not have a problem with being things anymore, we only strive for a right to choose the person we belong to.