Socio-Cultural Dynamics Of Conflict In Pakistan – OpEd


The criminal justice system is one of the most vital and important components of any society. It outlines the offences, penalties, processes, and methods for punishing individuals who violate laws and other practices. It is the same system that ingrains in people a sense of deterrence and alertness. Any society or state itself cannot last long without an effective criminal justice system. Pakistan’s criminal justice system is made up of three basic institutions: police, prosecution, and the judiciary.

Challenges in Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System

Pakistan’s criminal justice system is not only inefficient & lacking, but it is also outdated. Because the system is so weak and deficient, any powerful and wealthy person can easily have himself/herself acquitted after committing a criminal act or offence.

There are so many loopholes in the system, that any influential perpetrator can easily receive a clean slate and walk away without facing any repercussions. As a result, the system loses the trust of the general public, particularly the lower classes, who seek to resolve their conflicts outside of the court system. Mainly due to a lack of trust in state agencies, coupled with delayed justice, lengthy trials and inadequate results. Every citizen in the country desires a quick and inexpensive court system, but it seems like nothing but a utopian dream.

In Pakistan, delayed justice is one of the main reasons for the occurrence of numerous crimes. As some impatient people approach their local jirgas and panchayats instead of going to the country’s courts/judicial proceedings. These local jirgas, most of the time give unfair or inhumane punishment to the accused despite very little or unreliable evidence. At other times, victims often take the law into their own hands to exact revenge which leads to even more crime, violence and conflict.

The inadequacy & insufficiency of the rigid judicial system also weakens the confidence of law enforcement agencies, as it has been observed numerous times, where personnel from said agencies claim to have arrested terrorists, only to have them released by the courts on technical grounds.

The low conviction rate, which is estimated to be between ten and eleven percent at best, is inevitable in a system where investigators are undertrained and lack access to fundamental data and advanced investigation methods. Prosecutors, who themselves are similarly underqualified, are not fully involved in investigation processes. Corruption, blackmail, intimidation, and external influence in trials jeopardize cases long before they reach the courtroom. Due to the lack of scientific evidence, collecting procedures and legitimate witness protection schemes, cops and prosecutors rely on confessions from the accused which are often inadmissible in court. 

Powerful and corrupt officials are frequently released on bail, or their cases drag on for years while they plan operations from prison or engage in politics while on bail. Terrorist cases produce few convictions as well, and cases are often left hanging for long periods of time.

Educational basis of the issue

The curriculum and procedure for becoming a lawyer is one of the few most serious and fundamental faults in Pakistan’s legal system. In Pakistan it is a common idea that pursuing a degree in law and becoming a lawyer is a relatively easy task. The examination system is so faulty that many law students claim that they can clear the exams with minimal effort and subsequently be considered advocates.

Many incidents depict that the protectors of the justice (lawyers themselves) know little of abiding by the law. Lawyers in the country have been frequently seen engaging in violence and partaking in activities that are inappropriate and unfit for the honour of their profession.

Flaws In The System

In essentially all civilized cultures around the world, the criminal justice system begins with the police or other investigating agencies. In Pakistan it also starts with the Police. But sadly, in the country, police and other such officials are often corrupt and thus very easily bribed.

It has been noticed, and frequently complained about, that police postpone registering crimes when they are reported, and that FIR registration is often delayed. This not only makes people lose trust but flaws the entire system as a whole. The delay in filing a FIR is due to a variety of factors, including police unwillingness to do so since it would reflect negatively on their performance, as well as external influences, corruption, etc. Apprehension or arrest is the second stage. Any person, who the police take into custody is required legally to appear in court within a certain time frame to determine whether the case has merit and credibility. This procedure is however, rarely followed and offenders often flee or, are let go by officials themselves after bribery. 

The recent case of Noor Muqaddam is another example of a court taking an ample amount of time to convict the accused despite the presence of solid & clear evidence. Cases like these demonstrate, the justice system’s ineffectiveness and essential shortcomings.

Pakistan’s criminal justice system, which consists of: the judiciary, police, and law enforcement agencies, is filled with flaws and shortcomings. One of the major issues wreaking havoc on Pakistan’s criminal justice system is the politicization of the police and judiciary. It is becoming widely accepted in the country that going to the Law enforcement agencies and courts to resolve interpersonal issues is a waste of time and money, since the proceedings take too long and most of the time the perpetrators are allowed technical leeway.

The most underlying & common cause for the persistence of callous penalties like Wani/Swara and other such practices by local jirgas in society is the insufficiency of the country’s judicial system. Despite the fact that the Federal Sharia Court deemed these acts as un-Islamic, the courts must recognize that such stigmas can only be alleviated by offering an improved & modified justice system that people can genuinely trust and rely upon. 

Charting the Path Forward: Transformative Reforms for Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System

The transformation of Pakistan’s criminal justice system requires a multifaceted and comprehensive approach. Strengthening police integrity through anti-corruption measures, rigorous training, and a transparent FIR registration process is fundamental. This not only enhances public trust but also lays the foundation for effective law enforcement.

Simultaneously, judicial reforms must address delays and inefficiencies by prioritizing the timely disposal of cases. Investing in advanced investigation methods, scientific evidence collection, and witness protection can elevate conviction rates and discourage reliance on inadmissible confessions. Technological integration, including case management systems and online court proceedings, streamlines processes, contributing to transparency and accountability.

Educational reforms are imperative to raise the standards for becoming a lawyer, ensuring a competent legal profession. Promoting ethical conduct and professionalism within the legal community is essential for upholding the integrity of the justice system. Community engagement, facilitated by community policing initiatives, builds collaboration between citizens and law enforcement, fostering a shared responsibility for safety.

Addressing the issue of politicization in the police and judiciary requires the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism. Public awareness campaigns emphasizing the viability of legal recourse and the effectiveness of the justice system play a crucial role in restoring faith in the system.

Collaboration with international organizations and legal experts provides valuable insights and best practices for reform. Learning from successful models in other countries guides Pakistan in shaping a more resilient and responsive criminal justice system. Additionally, creating specialized courts for specific cases, such as cybercrime or terrorism, can expedite legal proceedings and ensure expertise in handling evolving forms of criminal activity.

Incorporating restorative justice practices alongside punitive measures, promoting mediation, and encouraging reconciliation offer alternative pathways for resolution, especially in non-violent offenses. This holistic strategy aims to make Pakistan’s criminal justice system efficient, fair, and trustworthy, becoming a beacon of justice for its citizens.

Ayesha Rafiq

Ayesha Rafiq is a student of National Defense University (NDU), pursuing a Degree In Peace And Conflict Studies, Islamabad.

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