O’Brother, Where Art Thou?

Two news bulletins I saw recently perplexed me, because they seemed to indicate two very opposite things.

An anti-terrorism court will formally indict Malik Mumtaz Qadri – the self-confessed killer of late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer – on February 1 after Kohsar police submitted their investigation report to the court…The court expressed surprise over the absence of any prosecution lawyer and directed the investigators to ensure the presence of a prosecution lawyer on the next hearing.

Pakistan People’s Party-backed candidate, Abdul Latif Afridi, was elected the Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman on Monday.

The victory of Mr Afridi is no small feat, not least because the opposing Hamid Khan Group used all the (not so scarce) resources at their disposal. But even while lawyers have thrown weight behind a PP’s favoured candidate, which shows that there are many progressive lawyers who don’t necessarily agree with Qadri loving lawyers. No lawyer yet has shown any backbone to take on the Taseer case.

Is it possible that Lawyers who were so fearless in front of the might of a dictator have been terrorised by supporters of Mr. Qadri? Does beard out terrorise Khaki?  (If so, may be we should have hire eight lac bearded men with strong suicidal tendencies to protect our borders, instead of a highly cost-inefficient Army)

While I don”t want to believe that progressive lawyers have become timid, but what else can be reason for such a reaction? Yes the government assigns prosecution of case, but in case no Government lawyer is willing to take a case, or, more commonly, if the Government feels that someone else would do a better job. An independent lawyer with good standing can be asked to take over. In this case, a willing lawyer can raise his or her hand and say they would be willing to lead prosecution, if given the chance. Thus far we haven’t had that either!

On principle, there can’t be any simpler case. An unstable maniac has gunned down a Governor of the largest province based on heresy, acting, in his mind, as a vigilante. He confesses to it and many witness saw him do it. Though broadly this incident raises many issues about the society, the role of media and our understanding of religion as well as legal procedure. The legal case is specifically about making sure this maniac remains in jail, because he is a danger to others. Its also necessary to ensure that an example should be made, so as to act as a deterrent towards potential future events. Though personally I don’t believe in punishment being an effective part of rehabilitation of criminals. It can and does act as a deterrent for many other people, who aren’t criminals yet but do have similar tendencies.



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