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     Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 |


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Rot sets in when Impunity Takes Over!

Aly Zaker

Those who know William Shakespeare must also be familiar with his immortal play Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. There is a famous dialogue in this play, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark". This most relevant dialogue, that amply demonstrates the state of a country, having its share of misery, has been the most sought after description since the play came to be known. The original being a description of a royal conspiracy and a tragedy of a young European prince has transcended the boundaries of time and space and come to be used to describe an utterly chaotic society devoid of any semblance of order. I myself have used this phrase a number of times. Come to think of it when living in a society where we are faced with multiple facets of digression, misrule, indiscipline, lack of accountability- such profound utterances come to mind. I shall not hesitate to say that such negligence to norm or law is exclusive to countries like ours. Turn around and you will see it plaguing even the societies in the developed world.

But that is not my issue today. I would venture to bring to light our miseries and the possible remedies thereof. Everyday as we open the daily newspapers or go through the news items in the electronic media, we are plagued with reports of happenings that are not expected out of a literate or semi-literate society. I distinctly remember that when we became an independent country, the entire nation voluntarily became disciplined and, with a sense of integrity, involved themselves in rebuilding of the country dishevelled by the nine months of protracted and bloody war. That spirit soon started withering. In the beginning all of us were equal and had equal share of glory as well as misery. Slowly, at the behest of a design by the rulers, different classes of people emerged and each class had its own share of opportunity to amass ill-gotten wealth, both moveable and immovable. This created a disparity within the society. Those that did not get the crumbs from the prosperity's table, though equally competent and literate, felt cheated. This was the beginning of a society that would verily head towards anomaly and anarchy.

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark". Hamlet's famous words are still very relevant in today's society. Photo: courtesy

As a result, between 1972 and now we have seen total erosion of law and order, social values and justice and all that binds a nation together on a platform of a healthy nation. Add to it the massacres and secret killings that happened, starting with the brutal murder of the Father of the Nation with his entire family and killing of four National Leaders within the confines of a jail to the midnight knocks in the door and subsequent annihilation of people who stood in the way of military dictatorship. Our 40 years of history is replete with so much of blood and tears that it is quite possible our common people have lost the power to 'reason why'. They are cynical and apathetic towards the nation that they themselves had so valiantly fought to free. Therefore we see that laws are broken frequently and at will. Anti-social behaviour as the cases of acid throwing, rape and killing of teenage girls, even mere children, gouging out of eyes in vengeance, school teachers indulging in raping of students, are going ahead merrily within this god-forsaken society. We all know that such uncivilised and despicable deeds need to stop. But how do we ensure that? There are laws in the law-book, there are offices of justice to try such misdemeanour but we also see that even if cases are registered, precious little happens to the malefactors concerned.

I know that extrajudicial measures cannot be an answer in correcting such indiscretion. There would always be the question of human rights that would come into fray. At times I have wondered what happens to the subversion of human rights in case of the victims specially when the villain goes scot-free through the by lanes of law. I haven't, unfortunately, had an answer yet. Perhaps there is no answer. So, such crimes will keep happening, many criminals will be beyond trial and the victims will keep on suffering.

It has become a fashion with every one of us in blaming whichever government is in power for a crime that takes place during that regime. But one must remember that in a democratic form of government, its hands are also tied down to the rule of law, which has been ordained by the legislative system. Permit me to give you an example from what happened frequently in Pakistan during the rule of General Ziaul Haque. The Shariyah law was in full force in Pakistan then. To the best of my knowledge, the same law still persists in Pakistan albeit more moderately. In those days if a woman was raped, it was obligatory for her to produce two male witnesses, who would bare testimony to the occurrence. This, perhaps, is the funniest law I have ever heard of. Over here in our country, our law is not as ridiculous as in Pakistan but the word 'evidence' plays a big role. And in such cases of crime, the offender is invariably better off, better connected and more powerful than the offended. Therefore, in many cases, we see them getting reprieve.

Under such circumstances first the general mass, who still feel that they are an integral part of this society, where they and their posterity would like to live a decent life, should get together in small locality based groups, start identifying the problems and start protesting. This will snowball into a strong societal voice across the country. And the power will then be forced to take notice of this. Media can play an important role but they have to be focused and, therefore, cannot be all pervasive. I will not rule out the role of various political forces in this movement as well. Political parties who are in power or out of it will have to harness public opinion on such issues and help in generating the social movement rather than just vilifying each other on issues affecting only their selfish interests. There is yet another big force that can come into fray in awareness building about such social crimes. It is the religious heads. And now is the best time for them to brace this and make it a part of their sermons during the holy month of Ramadan. All people are God's children. Therefore the welfare of the people should be of foremost consideration to the clergy. True, that the words of God must be told in the sermons but such things that affect our lives negatively or positively must be included in their sermons. I have seldom heard that such matters as corruption, sexual harassment, discord between communities etc. being discussed upon in any such religious congregation. In order to bring semblance of order and decency within our societies, we must act without any loss of time. The culture of impunity must end.




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