Of law and order | Pakistan Today

Of law and order

  • The law and order situation is unacceptable for a civilized society

From the ancient time when human societies started to develop into coherent units to this day, it is agreed that no society can progress without peace, tranquility, and a social contract which ensures equality of justice among citizens. Over time, the concept of a ‘social contract’ emerged and eventually morphed into what we know today as written and unwritten constitutions. The history of the evolution of these codes is very interesting.

The origin of laws has been a fascinating conversation among students of jurisprudence. One theory is that laws emerged through an intangible agreement in society based on inborn conscience; another is the origin being in religion practiced by the priest-king; yet another is that all laws were the systems devised by the oligarchy which dominated the area at any given time; Plato promoted the ‘philosopher-king’ as the best law-giver; cultural and history are quoted as yet another source. The jury is out on finding the most logical explanation on how we arrived at legal codes. Each hypothesis is prone to criticism.

The people of Pakistan have fully discharged their societal responsibility. They have agreed on the Constitution which has further created institutions mandated to exercise control in various sectors. The four sectors which are charged with ensuring peace, security, and freedom to the individual are the legislature, the police, the courts, and the prisons. Clearly, one or more of these institutions has failed to deliver

Be that as it may, there are some common threads that are entwined in the system. For example, all laws are based on violence by the state. The four punishments for transgression of law are death, imprisonment, monetary fines, or enforced public service. There is no fifth in this list. How efficiently the state awards these sanctions reflect in peace and tranquility in the public scene. This is also alternately called the ‘writ of the state’.

In general parlance, the term ‘law and order’ is taken in the narrow portion of crime against the person, or property, whereas there are hundreds of local and special laws which are regulatory in nature but nevertheless vital  to smooth living. Take the laws relating to traffic, regulation of quality of medicine, food adulteration, smuggling of stuff subject to customs duties, etc, etc. there are scores of such laws. So murder, hurt, and theft are not the only acts: but in the general imagination law and order is confined to hard core ‘felony’. This is far from the truth. ‘Law and order’ is a much wider concept and embraces all aspects of societal behavior.

A good law and order situation presupposes that all laws, whether major legislation or minor torts, are dealt with strictly according to the letter and spirit of the law. This is important both for the individual citizen’s security as well as the economy of the state. As an example take, the laws relating to hoarding of foodstuffs. The violation of these laws entails fines and forfeiture─ rarely imposed due to weakness in the court system. However, large-scale hoarding of foodstuffs by dealers drives up the price, sometimes to the level where the ordinary Joe is unable to put food on the table for his family. Joe, frustrated and angry, goes on the street and snatches a mobile from some rich female, sells it for half its value to a waiting mobile shop, buys atta for his kitchen, and hopes he goes free. See the connection?

There are hundreds of such examples where weaknesses in the implementation of any one law may result in secondary crime in another area; the resultant effect being a soft, crime-ridden, insecure society like we have today in Pakistan. Additionally, in this country there is a widespread differential application of law among the three broad social classes (the rich, the middle classes, and the poor) and this is an anomaly widely practiced all over the world—  the poor being sanctioned by the state, while the rich are cocooned. In Pakistan, this is how we do all business. This is the cardinal sin.

From all accounts, informed or not informed, there is a general consensus that Pakistan is one of the most insecure countries for the citizen, and specially women and children. The last few years have seen a steep rise in reporting in the occurrence of violent sexual offences, and subsequent murders. Anecdotal evidence reveals that what is reported is just the tip of the iceberg, and that the actual numbers may be a hundredfold more. The state, faced with this awful shame, goes in denial. All kind of weird explanations are easily touted. The media is being bribed by the opposition to create panic; the NGOs are acting as agents of enemies of the state; pornography on the social media is the culprit; the victim was careless or downright stupid; rapists have supporters  in the police and political parties; and so on.

After a lull of a few years, terrorism is on the march again. Attacks on the armed forces and the police have markedly increased. Political and sectarian polarization is on fever pitch. Street crime is so rife that embassies have started to issue advisories to their citizens to exercise prudence in public places. The fear of Covid19 was already pervasive; now one fears going to a public park for a walk for fear of criminals slouching behind each bush.

The present state of law and order is unacceptable in a civilized society; even less so in what our Constitution defines as an ’Islamic state’. So, who is responsible?  In social philosophy, the answer is that it is the entire nation─ all men and women who are legitimate citizens of the state. That philosophy further states that citizens band together through a social contact and create institutions which discharge and ensure the communal desire to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The people of Pakistan have fully discharged their societal responsibility. They have agreed on the Constitution which has further created institutions mandated to exercise control in various sectors. The four sectors which are charged with ensuring peace, security, and freedom to the individual are the legislature, the police, the courts, and the prisons. Clearly, one or more of these institutions has failed to deliver.

Subsequently, we will look at each separately.



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