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Lawmakers, lawkeepers and lawbreakers: a sad story

By Javed Iqbal
In his famous article on day to day strikes, a former Indian justice Pana Chand Jain quoted a French philosopher Charles Fourier who gave the theory of “the right to work.” Fourier had also declared that “politics extol the rights of men and do not guarantee the prime and only useful right, the right to work.” Meanwhile, the Indian apex court had held in Delhi Transport Corp. vs DTC Mazdoor Congress Case that income is the foundation of many fundamental rights; and when work is the source of income, the right to work becomes as much fundamental. Moreover, many other Indian High Courts had passed rulings against even lawyers’ strikes.
The prevailing skirmish between black coats and white coats in Lahore is best reflected in Gunnar Myrdal’s famous 1968 book Asian Drama that says “the softer a state is, the greater the likelihood that there is an unholy nexus between the lawmaker, the law-keeper, and the lawbreaker.” The current situation truly tells what’s happening here. The lawmakers are being probed and punished by the courts on charges of corruption and law-keepers come to rescue them. They have turned into lawbreakers as witnessed in the PIC catastrophe.
No aspect of society seems straightforward nowadays. The day-to-day crisis-like situation has made society quite unsafe for the hapless. Neither the law nor any tradition of respect or equality before the law could flourish and this has inevitably resulted in the law of the jungle. Our society could not be developed as a single societal unit; rather, it’s like a group of many factions that do their best for safeguarding their interests. Some say that the state’s writ has been badly compromised. The institutions are weak; which instead of imposing restrictions on outlaws, support the mafias. The sordid PIC tragedy is not the first event to be mourned. It is one of such sad stories that happen on an everyday basis.
This time, there are two kinds of groups who are face to face, the lawyers and the doctors. They have always won battles against state institutions for their personal gains. Both have ignored the sanctity of professional ethics. Former, by violently violating the law; and the later, by playing strike cards while ignoring even critical patients in hospitals.
The wise say that society can survive oppression but not injustice. Perhaps, it is strange that there is injustice everywhere and society continues to ignore the writing on the wall. The row between black and white coats is under trial in the court. Let the judicial and legal proceedings continue but one thing is clear that no one can sue them.
The judicial system is facing major problems and people’s trust is badly damaged. People prefer to take the law into their hands, instead of seeking long-awaited justice from the courts. They know that it requires the proverbial age of Noah, treasure of Nimrod and patience of Hazrat Ayyub (RA) to get justice. It is also an important question that if the courts are capable of rendering any judgment against powerful groups like lawyers or not?
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), besides suspending a license, issued contempt of court notice to the Secretary IHC Bar Association Umair Baloch for trying to force lawyers to leave courtrooms as a protest on PIC related arrests. Surprisingly, the bar issued strike-call on the suspension of bar secretary Umair Baloch’ license. Lawyers are boycotting courts to show solidarity to those accused who were arrested for their involvement in the PIC rampage.
Even the Pakistan Bar Council issued a notification that states the protest was “against partial and biased conduct of the local police and the administration of Lahore against the lawyers as well as action taken by the Islamabad High Court against the Secretary IHC Bar Association.” It is difficult to concede to the right to boycott by the lawyers on the analogy of other employees. Both, as it seems, don’t bother theirs and others right to work.
There is also an issue of the dignity of the court, delivery of justice, sufferings of people and the writ of the state. On the other side, there is a question of the moral fall of the learned side of society. Now, it seems that there will be mushrooming of conspiracy theories.
Had the higher authorities taken notice of an unpleasant incident at Toba Tek Singh, in which government hospital staff was handcuffed and shamelessly presented before the lawyers at district bar, the PIC tragedy could have been avoided? Above it, they were forced to apologize publicly. The then ranker deputy commissioner and district police officer would have been issued strict explanation letters by Punjab government for showing cowardice, incompetence and lack of courage/leadership in that incident. Nothing happened as lawyers’ mafia and state institutions joined hands against the poor officials whose only crime was to maintain discipline in TT Singh hospital.
If all these incidents are analyzed, it seems that we have not yet come out of the tribal mindset. A tribesman helps its people in any way, even after knowing that they are unjust. Secondly, intolerance is on the rise. Harmony amongst people has much diminished. Trivial matters lead to big fights and even murders. When the moral turmoil prevails in society, the values are devalued.
The government should pass legislation to bar any of the public sector employees to proceed to protest or go on strike come what may. They challenge and obstruct others’ right to work and create hurdles for them. Moreover, the health department should get signed an affidavit that doctors would not leave the patients unattended whatever the circumstances be. The doctors join the public sector to serve on their own will and they may quit it at any time if they find it unfeasible. The trend of lawyers’ boycott should also be curtailed. The government should also ensure that no one interrupts public life as a protest by blocking roads, locking courts and knocking out public offices.
Besides acting against the PIC attackers, the Punjab government should also probe negligence on the part of civil, police or intelligence side.
The poor writ of the state leads to poor social protection which gives birth to the gangster mindset. This is what happened in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of USSR troops and the Taliban filled the gap. It is a prime job of the PTI government to empower state institutions to curb organized mafias and mob justice phenomena. Alas! It has failed in this regard.
If we couldn’t counter mafias, then Swedish economist Myrdal’s thesis in “Asian Drama- An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations,” would prove true. That drama was about overpopulation, poverty and the danger of what we now call “failed states.” But who will bell the cat?


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