Taliban Are NOT the Core Issue. Effective Policing and Access to Justice Is

Which one is the greater challenge?

That there are Taliban in Swat or that the police and judiciary fall short of minimum standards?

To say that a militia of a few thousand fighters at best, is likely to run over a 600,000 strong Pakistan Army stretches credulity. Even the mighty Rustum feared taking on such odds in his own legends. That Taliban can run over Pakistan is similar to chicken little’s hue and cry about the sky losing altitude. However, absence of consequences for criminals CAN plunge the country into lawlessness.

In fact it already has and that is the clear and present danger.

Defense from external threats has always been on top of national agenda without exceptions. However, it appears that defense from internal threats, or law and order has been relegated to use in slang.

The per capita expenditure on law enforcement in District Rawalpindi, one of most well policed district, is Rs350 per person per year, with one police person for every 800 people. I don’t believe a scholarly effort is required to prove that this department of the state is badly dysfunctional.

The Lahore High Court has 36 judges that adjudicate the disputes of about 90 million people. That is less than one Judge per 2.5 million people. No wonder LHC and its lower courts have 1.3 million cases pending as of April 2009

Peshawar High court has 13 judges that mind the disputes of 21 million people. That is one judge for every 1.6 million people. PHC and lower courts had 200,000 pending cases as of 1 April 2009

We need to fight the battle in NWFP. However, fighting a battle without a strategy for winning the war is another fanciful enterprise. That containing the Taliban will somehow cause the people of Pakistan to be more satisfied with their grievious lot is silly. To expect that if someone’s daughter is raped and there is no justice in court, they will sit tight and not pick up a gun or an axe and go for walk, is rather optimistic.

One in ten registered FIRs make it to court. That coupled with 1.6 million pending cases in the court system of Pakistan, says we are sitting on dynamite, getting dryer by the day, and starting to crackle.

Taliban is not the core issue. The core issue is effective policing and dispensation of justice.

It is not a tall order to appoint another 1,000 judges countrywide. Such a measure may re-motivate people to respect the law. That is a priceless dividend for a cost which is slender in comparison. Yet, the police is far from effective and the judiciary remains crippled.

Such neglect may be deliberate on the part of the government, but it seems there is a lot more that certain organized segments of the society, particularly the media, and civil society can do to motivate the government to focus on this issue. If a thousand militants, in an ex-tourist resort, armed with guns, can literally grip the attention of the world, what can a million organized voices armed with pens do.

By: Kathay Kalame

Originally written for Pakistaniat.com

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