Tolerating, Ignoring, and Condoning Criminality
I just returned from a visit abroad of a month’s duration. The period was stress free and the only threat to one’s safety was a drunk driver losing control of his vehicle and hitting you or even your house. If one stayed home after dark especially on a weekend, one was guaranteed physical safety. On the road people were courteous and considerate, and gave way. In a month, there was not one occasion on the road that someone irritated you by obstructing you or pushing you. While one enjoyed the peaceful and orderly functioning system, one felt sorry at the improbability of Pakistani society reaching the same level of development and civilization in our lifetime- or ever!
But at home the story is totally different. The return to your home is looked forward to but the chaos on the road or in the society at large, not so. I departed with the day time temperature of 16 deg C while I landed with the destination scorching at 44 deg. But more than the physical discomfort, it is the stress of insecurity, uncertainty and anxiety that takes the greater toll on you. The news is only about incidents of violence and their consequences. Anyone has license to do pretty much as ‘he’ pleases - usually ‘she’ does not have the same liberty.
The state’s law enforcement system neither acts as a deterrent for a would-be criminal nor punishes the perpetrator. Thus, there is a sense of inevitability that the society is hurtling towards anarchy. It seems that the society has become immune to crime. Nobody takes notice whether somebody cuts a nose, a tongue or sets someone on fire. The state fails to do or uphold justice so everyone takes the law into his own hands to take revenge and satiate his anger. The victims of a crime are driven by revenge or rage but the powerful are provoked simply by the act of being treated like a normal citizen. The latter are loath to wait in a queue, or be patted down for security and are just enraged by a delay or refusal to comply with their whims.
One often wonders at the tolerance shown by the state towards criminals. One hopes that some incident of gross or wanton violence would enrage a government sufficiently to say that enough is enough. But it just does not happen. This acceptance of criminality is even more widespread in case of corruption. Small-time criminals do end up in jail and the falsely accused more often so, but the real, big-time criminals are Teflon-coated. Nothing happens to them. The cases of Ayyan Ali and Dr. Asim Hussain will go on forever, without the accused being sent to jail due to the support and manipulation of their powerful backers. All this while the witnesses to their crimes, would keep getting eliminated, with the state acting as a helpless, or even a disinterested, onlooker.
The general perception is that political power is sought to recover the wealth spent on election campaigns or buying party tickets and then some more. Since wealth cannot be made quickly through legal means, laws and ethics are trampled upon with impunity to make this happen. The powers that be and the law enforcement agencies become complicit in white collar crimes. The police and district administration is equally involved in backing, supporting or ignoring powerful mafias who deprive weak people of their properties, both moveable and immoveable. Since the provinces are being ruled by different political parties, the victims and beneficiaries are different too. The principle is ‘help us and deny or obstruct others’! This environment of anarchy has led to the proliferation of petty crimes like purse or cell phone snatching or even bigger crimes of car snatching or home robberies. These crimes were restricted to Karachi only but since the launching of Rangers’ operation there, the criminals have spread and fled to other areas like Punjab and even the Federal Capital.
Read the metropolitan page of all newspapers and there are two dozen different crimes reported. Cars and motorcycles are stolen; houses are robbed; people are murdered in daylight over minor disputes or disagreements; girls are mutilated, shot or suffer acid burns because they refused the amorous, or wedding proposals of neighbours or cousins; women on routine shopping trips are deprived of their valuables in daylight; others less fortunate ones are abducted and raped or even killed; children of not even well-to-do are kidnapped for petty ransom etc. The list is unending and crimes are recurring but the society shows no signs of offence or revolt but more worryingly, the rulers seem not to be moved by the consequences of criminality. On the rare occasions, that the national or political conscience is jolted, the government gives out only monetary compensation to the victims of crimes and violence. No effort is made to hold the people responsible for safety and security of a citizen, accountable. Again, in the case of an extreme outrage, the police or district management official is made an officer on special duty (OSD), which really is tantamount to parking him till, the people forget the reason he was removed from his position. In some cases, this gentleman becomes a fall guy for the failure of the government. The nexus between politicians and bureaucrats ensures that no cognizance is taken in case of even a crime against the state or public interest. This being so, is there a light at the end of the national tunnel? Or what is the raison d’etre of our governments?
Recently, there was a glimmer of optimism when the main culprits and beneficiaries of the notorious ‘Hajj Scam’, Messrs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, the then minister; Rao Shakeel, the Director General and Aftab Aslam were sentenced to 16, 40 and 16 years respectively. They have all said that they would go into appeal to the superior courts so we still wait the day when they would be behind bars. Also, in the past fortnight, the crimes against women have suddenly escalated. In Abbotabad a girl was locked inside a car and burnt; in Lahore the family members, including the mother, strangled and burnt a girl because she married against the family’s wishes and in Murree, a boy shot a girl because she refused his marriage proposal. All this happens because the National Assembly sits on the Women Protection Bill and allows it to lapse despite the Senate having given it its assent. Fahd Hussain has analyzed the causes of this national tragedy: the PPP doesn’t have the numbers: the PTI doesn’t have the vision; the PML-N doesn’t have the courage and the clerics do not have the humanity to make this happen! How sad!