Corrupt judicial system losing credibility: experts
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: A two-day conference on justice and accountability concluded on Thursday. The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT) organised the event in which experts compared Pakistan’s judicial system with that of developed countries.
They said lawyers’ ongoing struggle would bring a positive change through the fight for the judiciary’s independence, but it still had a long way to go. Supreme Court Lawyer and former Punjab governor Shahid Hamid said courts and judges were “extremely” overburdened.
According to a research report, 1,000 cases were pending with the lower court judge on average in Punjab and approximately 600 each in Sindh and NWFP. Hamid said Balochistan had a better position where 45 cases were pending with the lower court judge on average as most people relied on local jirgas. He said corruption was prevalent in the judiciary, especially at the lower level.
He said the government spent less than one percent of its budget on the judiciary, adding that the judicial system needed extensive reforms. Barrister Zafarulah Khan said the Frontier Crimes Regulation (CBR) was unjust but people relied on it due to a complex and formal judicial system. He complained about corruption in the judicial system, which was why the poor could not afford it.
Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal said panchayats (informal rural courts) were operating with the blessing of local police, civil administration, feudal lords and politicians. She said the outdated panchayat system was flourishing as only a few had access to formal courts because of the huge backlog of cases in courts. She said the formal legal system was biased against the poor.
Justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui chaired a session titled ‘Dispensing Justice and Establishing Accountability’ while Senator SM Zafar chaired another session titled ‘International Perspective of Justice and Accountability’. Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Hamid Khan said the judiciary had an image that it was putty in the military’s hands, which the court had been legitimising through violation of the constitution.
He said the judiciary had made some good decisions though undemocratic governments had despised it and that action against Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was a retaliation of Musharraf’s regime against judicial activism. Ahmer Bilal Soofi said Pakistan had not yet ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC). He said the Foreign Office (FO) was not presenting the legal scenario in Indian-administered Kashmir correctly. He said the FO highlighted the violation of human rights in Kashmir but the actual issue was a violation of international laws.
Dr Pervez Hassan, Dr Babar Awan and experts from UK, Italy, Belgium and Fiji also participated in the conference.