VIEW: National register of shame and horror —Farhatullah Babar
The names of the people found guilty of high treason shall be mentioned in all state documents, records and text books in academic institutions as “Traitors of Pakistan”. The title of “Traitor” shall invariably be prefixed with their names
Commenting on the proposal to maintain a black book of shame, Malik Muhashir A Majoka (Book of shame, Letters to the editor, Daily Times, March 13, 2005) says that those who compromised principles for the sake of power, or sought foreign interference in the country’s affairs or spoke “against [Pakistan’s] Kashmir policy” in India should be listed in it. He then asked whether I still want to pursue the idea or not.
Yes, I do.
The proposal of a National Register of Shame and Horror is contained in a private member’s bill seeking to amend the Punishment for High Treason Act, 1973. It was submitted to the Senate over a year ago.
The movers have sought to punish those who abrogate, suspend or amend the Constitution in contravention of the procedure laid down under Articles 238 and 239 of the Constitution. Unlike the existing law on the subject, the bill does not lay down the death penalty for treason. It devises a system of perpetual punishment by maintaining a Register of Shame and Horror.
Some features of the bill are:
* Any member of the parliament shall have the right to move the Supreme Court against the abrogation or suspension of the Constitution. Under the existing law only the federal government can lodge a high treason complaint which it has never done.
* The Supreme Court shall not have the power to condone or justify the abrogation or suspension of the Constitution under the ‘doctrine of necessity’, ‘successful revolution’ or for any other reason. It shall only determine the extent of responsibility of people in subverting the Constitution, who would be culpable for high treason. This should take care of those who invite military intervention.
* The existing law lays down a death penalty for treason but this has never been applied. According to the proposed bill, the punishment for high treason shall be imprisonment for life and dispossession from all official titles, honours and awards. If it is not possible to immediately punish the traitor(s) because of his/her/their control over the state’s coercive apparatus, the punishment may be deferred till they no longer have power over the coercive apparatus.
* The names of the people found guilty of high treason by the Supreme Court shall be mentioned in all state documents, records and text books in academic institutions as “Traitors of Pakistan”. The title of “Traitor” shall invariably be prefixed with their names. Death alone will not abate the punishment.
* There shall be a National Register of Shame and Horror in which the names of all those guilty of high treason shall be recorded in black. The Register shall be displayed in the parliament and other important state institutions. On every Independence Day and on March 23 each year when civil and military awards are announced, the names in the Register of Shame shall also be published and called out followed by a special denunciation in citations and in the parliament.
* All the courts, government agencies and state institutions shall assist in the enforcement of the provisions of this Act. Rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act shall be framed by the parliament in a joint sitting.
Punishment for high treason under the 1973 Act could not be pressed into service because it requires that the complainant should have been authorised by the federal government. Members of parliament who are the natural complainants in such matters could not turn to the court under the 1973 Act because the subversion/abrogation of the Constitution robs them of their membership of the parliament. In addition, condoning the subversion of the Constitution under the doctrine of necessity or other such doctrines has stultified the Act.
That is why the subversion of the Constitution has not stopped despite Article 6 in the Constitution and the 1973 Act made in pursuance of this Article.
Mr Majoka has said that “the (crimes) list may go on and on until the Senator is ashamed and horrified”. Such reasoning tends to protect those who subverted the Constitution. The more important point is to ask: what is the most shameful and horrific crime against the state and the society? Clearly it is the subversion of the Constitution and the hijacking of state, society and law at gunpoint.
This most shameful crime has continued to horrify the nation because of the invocation of doctrine of necessity, the inadequacy of the existing law, the absence of punishment in perpetuity and the principle of a crime not abating even after death.
The proposed National Register of Shame and Horror seeks to address these issues. Give it a thought.
The writer is a member of the Senate of Pakistan