The task before Justice Chaudhry

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WHAT prompted the government`s change of heart at the eleventh hour that led to the announcement about the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry?

Whatever other factors may have been at play, we also know that America, Britain and the Pakistan Army were active behind the scenes.
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Where have they vanished?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

MANY would remember Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ in the late seventies when thousands of people who challenged the government’s ideology ‘disappeared’ without a trace. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile set a similar record when dissidents were picked up by security forces never to be heard of again.

Is Pakistan following suit? According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), nearly 600 people are reported to have disappeared in the last two years, of which 170 cases have been verified.

This phenomenon started in the wake of 9/11 when Pakistan was deemed to be the breeding ground for terror and was under pressure to catch “terrorists” and “earn bounties totaling millions of dollars” as admitted by President Musharraf. What was initially a carefully planned operation under the law of the land has grown into a no-holds-barred adventure in which the police, the intelligence bodies and the military agencies pick up people on the slightest suspicion without observing the legal processes. It is difficult to imagine the agony it causes the family of the disappeared. They have no idea if the missing person is dead or alive, and if alive, in what condition.
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We can do without the death rows

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

TWO high-profile executions — one in India and the other in Pakistan — were stayed last week. Had they been carried out, both would have created ripples beyond international borders. One was the hanging scheduled for October 20 of a Kashmiri man in India, Mohammad Afzal Guru, who had been convicted for his role in the storming of the parliament house in New Delhi in 2001.

The other case was that of Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British national, accused of murdering a taxi driver 18 years ago in Chakwal. These hangings have not been set aside. They have only been postponed — the first indefinitely and the second until December 31. In the coming weeks human rights lobbies can be expected to mount pressure on the governments in New Delhi and Islamabad to commute the sentences.

Guru’s case has deep implications for India’s politics and foreign policy. It is highly political — the 2001 event brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war and the opposition party, the BJP, is baying for blood. Yet objective opinion believes that Guru’s conviction was flawed. As his mercy petition awaits a decision by the president of India, his lawyers have said they will approach the Supreme Court in an attempt to get the conviction overturned.
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Commission Report too good to be real

By Zubeida Mustafa

The women of Pakistan have received the best gift they could have wished for on the golden jubilee of the country’s independence. A commission headed by the Supreme Court judge, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, has presented a report to the government on the status of women. If its recommendations are accepted and implemented it would be like a dream come true. But will that happen?

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Who is the real criminal?

cplcBy Zubeida Mustafa

In August 1994, my car, an old Suzuki, was snatched at gun point. It was recovered the next day by the police after an encounter they claimed. This experience of my car being taken away by force and then the tedious process of obtaining it back from the custodians of the law was a traumatic one. Had the CPLC and the Deputy Commissioner (South) not intervened I might have remained deprived of my car.

The situation is no better today for the unfortunate ones who fall victim to car robbers. And there are still far too many of them. Athough the statistics released by the CPLC, which has an excellent computerise records system, show wide fluctuations in the incidence of this brand of crime. Continue reading “Who is the real criminal?”

Spirit of Sisterhood

91-03-10-1995-B

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE  FOURTH WORLD Conference on Women held in Beijing in September was like the proverbial elephant and the blind men. The reactions it evoked were conditioned by the perception of each observer. It was billed as the “largest gathering ever for a UN conference on women” by Newsweek and a gathering of women who “suddenly loom as a great force” by Betty Friedan, the author of Feminine Mystique and the founder of the American feminist movement in the sixties. Continue reading “Spirit of Sisterhood”

CPLC: a viable allternative to the police?

 

90-28-07-1995-ABy Zubeida Mustafa

THE TRAUMATISED citizens of Karachi, where violence has killed over 1900 people in 18 months, live with a dilemma. Should they seek the help of the police in an emergency?

The harrowing experiences people recount of the law enforcers’ highhandedness deter victims of crime from seeking redress. Only in serious cases involving murder, kidnapping and car snatching are reports lodged, when one cannot avoid dealing with the custodians of the law.

The failure of the police to curb crime and violence in Karachi in a way vindicates the skepticism of the public. The credibility of the police is low and rampant corruption has robbed them of the confidence of the people. But the situation need not be all that bleak. Crime and violence need not be the curse of Karachi, if only the political will and the necessary systems are created to make the city safe and secure.

This can be done, as has been convincingly proved by Jameel Yusuf, who co-founded with Nazim Haji the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee in 1990 when kidnapping for ransom had become a lucrative occupation in Karachi Since most of the victims were businessmen who were targeted because of their wealth, it was not surprising that two of their most dynamic members should have decided to act. That saw the birth of the CPLC, of course with the government’s blessings. Governor Fakhruddin Ebrahim gave the Committee space in the Governor’s House compound to set up its Central Reporting Cell with all its electronic adgetry and computers. Within five years, the CPLC had proved that the most hopeless of situations can be changed. The incidence of kidnapping for ransom fell from 79 in 1990 to three this year because the Committee’s success in solving a high number of cases has proved to be a deterrent.90-28-07-1995-CMore important than that was the fact that for the first time a new avenue was now available to the harassed citizens to seek prompt redress when they became victims of police excesses. The CPLC has emerged as an arbiter to look into the citizens’ complaints against the police.

Given his excellent track record, Jameel Yusuf’s observations carry a lot of weight. But he knows his limits. He will not try to bend the law and operates within the existing legal framework — though he does feel that many laws need changing and it is time our lawmakers did something about it. He is also very categorical about the nature of the present violence in Karachi: it has political roots and should therefore be resolved at the political level. Hence the dialogue between the government and the MQM is a positive development,
though the good offices of a mediator could have helped reconcile the differences between the two sides
faster. After all, the disagreements are quite basic. The person who is seen as a terrorist by one side is a freedom fighter for the other.

90-28-07-1995-BMoreover, the crisis in Karachi also has a social dimension for which the CPLC chief blames the
government — in fact all governments which have been in power. They have neglected this metropolis wilfully while fleecing it to the maximum. “If you cannot provide people the basic civic amenities which are their due such as water, sanitation and electricity and they are denied their fundamental rights of schooling for their children and jobs for their youth, how can you expect the citizens not to get disgruntled. That is how some elements have been able to exploit the deprivation and discontent of the people of Karachi for their political ends,” Jameel notes philosophically. They train the teenagers to use the gun and promise to give the people what others have failed to provide in 48 years.

But even with the best of political governance, crime cannot be eradicated totally. In fact, it has been growing worldwide with the growth in population and the development of technology. This needs to be combated with the help of an efficient police force. Do we have such a force?

Jameel Yusuf has specific ideas about the role of the police. He has studied and worked with the Karachi police very closely — that is what the CPLC has been doing in the last five years — and has managed to make inroads into some vital areas of crime detection.

He admits that to a great extent the police is corrupt and inept. But for that he blames the government and the administration. No effort has been made to recruit the right people for the job. Every government which comes into office doles out political favours by getting its supporters appointed to the force. With a stroke of the pen, a political leader has hundreds of men with unknown antecedents recruited in the police. The home addresses they supply are fake. Their characters have not been verified and their records are not available. Yet they have been trained and provided arms ostensibly to fight crime.”Now you have the unenviable situation where you are required to fight the terrorism let loose by many of the same people you yourself have trained and armed. The poor civilians who are not responsible for this state of affairs have become innocent victims,” Jameel observes.

What is needed is a major change in the mode of recruitment to the force. Recruitment needs to
be conducted professionally. Why is it that no one questions the discipline in the armed forces? There is
a chain of command there, and there are rigorous procedures and qualifications for recruitment. Besides, no one can jump ranks or outsiders brought in to infiltrate it. Why are policemen appointed without proper testing? Why are many of them inducted in midstream overriding someone who should have been senior? They are not even required to have passed their Intermediate exam and that is why their expertise is so low.
Jameel Yusuf very strongly recommends that an independent commission be set up to recruit the police. Without some set standards on the basis of which the policemen are selected, the force can never act as a truly professional body. Jameel Yusuf is also critical of the fact that every government in power has sought to use the police for its pojitical ends. This has corrupted the police more than anything else and robbed it of its credibility.cplc

Another factor which he thinks is important to promote a closer rapport between the public and the police is to give it a local complexion. “I don’t ask for the police to be constituted on ethnic lines,” the CPLC chief stresses. “What I do want is that the policemen in a thana be taken from the same neighbourhood where they have lived for years and have their roots there.” Thus they will not only have an interest in the community tljey are serving. They will also be known to the people who live in that neighbourhood. That will act as a check on their committing any excesses. It will also facilitate the work of law enforcement. The police could be linked up with voluntary citizens’ organisations of the area. This liaison between the police and the neighbourhood would be more effective in maintaining law and order

Buf that is not all. The whole system has to be revamped and the police has to be trained and equipped as a modern force. That would by itself help root out quite a bit of the corruption in its ranks. At present, the lowly-paid policeman is expected to run a thana in which even the stationery is not provided. On nine litres of petrol, the mobile is expected to patrol the thana round the clock. The thanedar is expected to feed his family on Rs 2000 or so a month. In other words, the government will have to spend more money on this sector if the police are to work more honestly and efficiently.

The system is so corrupt and obsolete that it is unbelievable. Jameel Yusuf gives examples. “The police
comes out with names of people who are wanted for innumerable crimes. They are nominated in FIRs
as was the case with the Liaquatabad supermarket killings. But they cannot be identified because the police has no records, though they are all men wanted for earlier crimes. They don’t even have photographs
This inefficiency and corruption extend to other departments of the administration as well and affect
the working of the police. For a paltry sum of Rs 2000, a person can obtain a fake identity card. We
have caught people who had fixed their picture on the ID card of a dead man and got away with it.Many people are released on bail on the basis of forged documents which cannot be verified because a letter from one government department never reaches another. Thus the criminal is back in the world of crime,” Jameel Yusuf says.

But most appalling is the failure of the authorities to acquire the latest technology for storing data, monitoring and scanning records. Such technology is available in Pakistan and the CPLC has demonstrated
its effectiveness. At its central reporting cell, computers are used to keep records of all.the cars registered with the motor vehicle department and of the vehicles snatched. This makes it possible to trace their movement in many cases. That is how at one time the CPLC could recover more than 40 per cent of the cars lost. (The recovery rate has gone down not because of any lapses in monitoring but because of lack ,of cooperation tion from the other provinces where these cars are re-registered and sold.)

With the help of this data, the CPLC can tell you which colour and make is most in demand by the car-lifters (white/red Suzuki), which are the days of the week you are most vulnerable (Thursday)
and the time and locality you are most likely to be a victim (one example, between 8-9 p.m. in the
Delton area of Defence Society). The cell has used computers to draw pictures of suspects and scanners to intercept telephone conversations which has helped them trace kidnappers demanding a ransom. Modern technology and methodology are available to conduct investigations in a civilized and scientific manner without torturing and killing a man. Jameel Yusuf is sorry that they are not being put to use in Pakistan by the police

The CPLC’s mandate is not to replace the police. But in the areas it has been asked to intervene, the CPLC has made a breakthrough. This should be reassuring to a demoralised public. But by its very nature, the agency cannot adopt a high profile. When the people in distress who approach it for help do not want the case to be publicised, Jameel Yusuf says that they have to respect the wishes of the party concerned. If they start producing an annual report of their work, they will be treading on many toes. So they keep quiet about it. They, however, have their accounts audited and they are available for scrutiny. But there is one area in which the CPLC would not like to be he quiet: in creating public awareness about safety measures. “We would like to tell the people how to protect their houses and motor cars. What to do and what not to do to preempt the criminal,” the CPLC chief says. But their resources are limited. They have tried a media campaign in newspapers. The ideal would be crime-watch spots on television but the government has not responded to this suggestion and CPLC does not have the resources to do it on its own as PTV wants it to ay excise duty for such ads. The disarray in the administration and the relative efficiency of the unofficial sector has convinced Jameel Yusuf that the only hope for the country lies in entrusting more and more responsibility to the NGOs. True, not all NGOs are honest and actually functioning. But there are some which are doing good work and making a headway. He is right, for after all the CPLC is an NGO, and its limited resources notwithstanding, it has achieved what the police could not.

But one may add, it is not just the expertise that is necessary. Motivation, dynamism and integrity also count. The CPLC has all three under Jameel Yusuf’s leadership.

Soure: Dawn 28 July 1995

 

Population control: the ‘woman factor’

By Zubeida Mustafa

Population planning has been a highly contentious issue eversince men — as well as women — decided to intervene in the natural process of procreation to regulate demographic trends. The controversy has centred round the strategies adopted and the rationale advanced for slowing down population growth rates.

A new dimension was added to the debate when population became a North-South issue, as the industrialised states afraid of being swamped by Third World immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers began demanding that the developing countries take measures to check what has been termed as the population explosion. Continue reading “Population control: the ‘woman factor’”

Make women’s work visible!

By Zubeida Mustafa

Women have traditionally been the invisible factor in national development in Pakistan as in other Third World countries. That is because the contribution they make to the economy has predominantly, been in the form of unpaid labour that has never been counted.

It is time the women’s role in development was quantified. What better time there is for it than now. The census can easily be used to probe into the gender issue.

India is doing it with the help of UNIFEM. We can emulate them. The idea should be to draw information on the unpaid work done by women in farms and family enterprises. Continue reading “Make women’s work visible!”

Rape of the law

By Zuhair Siddiqui

geust-contThe sweep of events during the past half year has been dramatic and fast, and the Bhutto and Indira regimes already seem to belong to a distant past; but as their leaders desperately try to pull themselves out of the meshes of the law, one is struck by the contrast between their past contempt for “Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence” and their present determination to exploit its mechanisms to the full.

“Certainly no man can over estimate the importance, of the mechanisms of justice. There have been greater avenues to freedom than that beaten out by the writ of habeas corpus…

“What seem, on the surface, insignificantly procedural changes — as when a man becomes entitled to a copy of the indictment upon which he is charged, or is able, in the witness-box, to testify upon his own behalf, or may appeal from the verdict of a jury and the sentence of a judge to a body of legal experts beyond them — these, for all their forbiddingly technical character, are more nearly related to freedom than the splendid sentences in which Rousseau depicts the conditions of their attainment. Continue reading “Rape of the law”