Every form of government — be it democratic or dictatorial — ostensibly promises rule of law. In reality and spirit, this is not always the case.
In democracies that are strong, the rule of law is effective and consolidated and leads a country to peaceful order and prosperity. The situation is reversed if the rule of law is absent.
In Pakistan’s case, the rule of law has always remained a non-existing, de jure ‘reality’.
Rule of law and due process of law are two important terms. Both ensure the proper functioning of the institutions of a state within their respective jurisdiction, create peace and prosperity, build a society on sound structure and footing and confirm service delivery at the doorsteps of the subjects of a state etc. Both also protect citizens from injustice and discrimination. The Constitution of Pakistan supports the rule of law and due process of law, but unfortunately, the country has achieved little success to reap fruits of these legal terms.
Rule of law may be defined as governance in accordance with the law. The World Justice Project has explained that the rule of law is based on four universal principles. These include accountability, just laws, open government and accessible and impartial dispute resolution. Just laws mean the laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights.
Due process of law may be defined to follow the course of action for performing an act in accordance with the law. An example may be taken from the constitution of Pakistan. It provides the procedure of performing the business of each organ of the state. The following procedure provided in the constitution would be the due process of law. It is the administration of law according to accepted legal principles.
- Encroachment on the jurisdiction of one office over the other is also a big problem. If one interferes in the work of the other, it will cause confusion and chaos
Law is always made on the basis of merit and in the public interest. Only making of law would be insufficient unless it is enforced without discrimination across the board on the bases of legal principles. Our country has a well-defined constitution and laws. Subsequently, rules and regulations have also been framed which are very exhaustive but the main problem lies in their proper implementation.
Law helps to govern a state in accordance with set legal principles, maintain peace, ensure to provide rights to every citizen, tells them about their duties and mentions punishment in view of its violation etc. It also provides the base for the institution-building and politico-economic, socio and cultural etc structure. Here the problem does not only lie in making of law but lack of proper enforcement and implementation has handicapped it.
Rule of law in Pakistan has been deteriorating day by day. There are various causes which contributed to it. Some of them are discussed below:
Firstly, corruption is one of the biggest problems in our country. Corruption may not be taken only in monetary terms but receiving or giving any undue favour also falls under its definition. Corruption is rampant in our society. There are multiple agencies at federal and provincial levels which are mandated to bring corruption to an end. Persons who committed corruption have been awarded punishments. But corruption has increased manifold. Now it seems that bribe may be claimed by people as a right though law of the land does not permit it.
Secondly, encroachment on the jurisdiction of one office over that of others is also a big problem. If one will interfere or perform the work of others it may cause confusion and chaos. Consequently, the performance of employees will be affected seriously which may spot efficiency. Thus, the office may not perform up to the required level.
Thirdly, it is generally said that cases are submitted to a court of law without sufficient pieces of evidence or stuff. Consequently, the accused are released. If a person has committed the crime and released on the ground of weak preparation of a case, then such a person may not mend his/her ways. Rather, he/she may feel encouraged to commit another crime and set free by adopting unlawful means;
Fourthly, it has been observed that in order to achieve one’s ulterior motives, a matter is politicised. Consequently, a matter stands unresolved and confusion prevails;
Fifthly, there is a laid down procedure of passing bills on the floor of Assembly. But it has been observed that sometimes a bill is passed without giving due consideration to the bills. Thus, the bill passed in such a way may not ensure the rule of law.
Sixthly, overburdened courts of law. As much as incidents of the violation of law take place, the number of cases is increased in the courts. It causes a delay in delivery of justice. Consequently, people want to decide matters outside a court;
Seventhly, delay in justice or providing rights to the subjects of a state shatters their confidence in the state. Consequently, people start deciding their matters without adopting the legal course of action.
Eighthly, increased number of laws but its poor enforcement and implementation has left negative repercussions on the society and the country. People have developed the tendency to not obeying the law. Where law loses respect, protection of rights and maintenance of peace is impossible.
Ninthly, weak internal policy, a divided nation and poor law & order situation etc bitterly affect the foreign policy of a state. In this situation, a state may not face the involvement of a foreign country in its internal and external affairs.
Tenthly, excess use of power and authority is also the factor of the poor condition of the rule of law. Various incidents have been reported in which persons were killed without adopting the due process of law. Extrajudicial killing may not reduce the ratio of happening criminal or terrorist acts.
Eleventhly, national interest has been replaced by personal interest or group’s interest. It seems that either people do not know national interest or have deliberately stopped thinking about it. Their thought has been confined to local issues. They may not think about issues of national importance. It has caused a death blow to national harmony. Consequently, confusion prevailed in the country.
Twelfth, persons having negative thinking is also the main cause of poor rule of law. An unhealthy society where negativism, picking faults and poking nose in others’ affairs is rampant, a citizen of that society may not feel inclined to have positive thinking. Negativism leads a person to do something wrong. It is not necessary that the commission of anything wrong may be a criminal act. It may also be a non-criminal act.
Thirteenthly, the majority of our population is youth. They need opportunities to earn their livelihood. The empty mind is the abode of the devil. If the youth is left without work, then they may feel the temptation to adopt wrong and unlawful means for sustaining body and soul together.
Fourteenthly; the lack of periodical review of legal and justice systems. It is imperative to review the systems periodically on a regular basis for effective justice delivery.
Fifteenthly, making of law or rule by the enforcers. A body that has to implement a particular law may not be allowed to make such a law. There are chances that it may keep its own interest in view while making the law. In unhealthy societies chances of such happening increases manifold.
Sixteenthly, the education system has structural faults. It is degree oriented instead of inculcating knowledge and infusing analytical approach among the students. If a person gets a degree but lacks required intelligence and knowledge, then he may be unable to differentiate between good and bad. Rather, he may pick faults from every good thing.
Seventeenthly, the foreign hand is one of the biggest reasons for the deterioration in the rule of law. India is our enemy. It has left no stone unturned to strike against the interests of Pakistan;
Eighteenthly, the conviction of winning of election by hook or crook. The forums, from Union Council onwards, elected through engineered results or corruption may not legislate on merit and in the public interest.
Nineteenthly, representative bodies of employees or labour some time, it seems, act for their respective interest at the cost of the general interest of a society or an organization. They defy the set rules of the organization or norms of society. Extremist ideology and extremism in sectarianism or self interest-based sectarianism are the important causes of deterioration in the rule of law. They bring people together on an unjustified slogan. Consequently, a country becomes weak;
Remedies lie in adopting a due process of law and implementation of law without any discrimination across the board. It is imperative to ensure the protection of the law at any cost. Moreover, the principle of thorough investigation and exemplary punishment may be adopted. Further to add, internal and external policies must be prepared on the basis of national interest. It will make the country strong internally and externally. Law is not a stick which may hit a criminal automatically. A person behind the stick matters a lot. This person makes law through appropriate forums and is responsible to implement it.
”The writer is an author and has a doctorate in Political Science”