The 350 milian dollar access to ustice loan

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$350 million ‘Access to Justice’  Loan

The compulsive obsession for beggary has taught us many smart tricks. We now have the skills to invent such appealing compulsions and  put  forward such compelling rationale, dressed in such  nebulous and fancy  grammar, that  depriving a lending institution of a few hundred million dollars is considered  no big deal. On one such occasion (December 2001 to be exact),  we managed to extract a loan of US$350 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As customary, such swindles always begin by coining a deeply moving and universally appealing project  title.  The jargon manufacturing experts came out with a brilliant  buzzword –  “Access to Justice’.   Equally appealing to  every shade of opinion, western and  eastern, holy  and  secular, lender and  borrower, here  was a cliché  that could single-handedly launch a thousand  ships ( perhaps loaded with $350 million notes).

As a citizen, one would like to ask a few  basic questions. Why did we borrow this amount?  Could we not have improved our own justice system with our own resources and  our own thinking?  How was this amount spent?  Has it made justice  any more accessible , easier or quicker for an ordinary citizen?  If justice is still as elusive, prolonged and painful, then how do we account for this $350 million disaster.


What were the objectives of this jargon-laden, innovative, alleviating and access- providing project. To quote directly from the horse’s  mouth ( ADB website), this is what the project was intended to do.  “ To assist the Government to improve access to justice so as to (i) provide security and ensure equal protection under the law to citizens, in particular the poor; (ii) secure and sustain entitlements and thereby reduce the poor’s vulnerability; (iii) strengthen the legitimacy of state institutions; and (iv) create conditions conducive to pro-poor growth, especially by fostering investor’s confidence. The Program will contribute to this aim by supporting five inter-related governance objectives: (i) providing a legal basis for judicial, policy, and administrative reforms; (ii) improving the efficiency, timeliness, and effectiveness in judicial and police services; (iii) supporting greater equity and accessibility in justice services for the vulnerable poor; (iv) improving predictability and consistency between fiscal and human resource allocation and the mandates of reformed judicial and police institutions at the federal, provincial and local government levels; and (v) ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the performance of the judiciary, the police and administrative justice institutions.”


A careful look into  this  mouthful of fuzzy phraseology  clearly indicates that all it wanted to say could have been said  in one plain sentence – “improving the efficiency, and effectiveness in providing judicial services to ordinary people of Pakistan.”  No one needs to further qualify  the “ordinary people” of Pakistan. They are poor, vulnerable, discriminated, voiceless and deprived of  justice and basic necessities of life.  A  project that itself is manufactured on such  obscure specifications is not likely to deliver any specific results.  This is exactly what has happened. Four years down the road and the  350 million dollars  intangibly evaporated into thin air, access to justice for the common man continues to remain an elusive goal. If at all, the “Access to Justice programme”  has worked only  to worsen the existing imbalance.   The dice is clearly loaded in favour of the rich and powerful.  The High Court and the Supreme Court can move with incredible efficiency to decide a retired general’s insignificant issue of matric certificate in a record breaking period of 3 days.  On the other hand, a thousand days down the road, Mukhtaran Mai, having been gang raped in public, still awaits final justice.  Of the 43 cases taken up by War Against Rape (a Karachi based NGO) in the last  3 years, none is close to seeing a  final conclusion.  Each day of   judicial delay and denial only helps the culprits (loss of evidence and witnesses), while the victim suffers a life of living hell.   The famous   Fauzia Bhutto  murder case   finally resulted in the release of the rich and powerful  suspect, as the witnesses simply got worn out and could not keep visiting the courts for 15  long years.  That is the essence of  the extent to which an  ordinary citizen has  “Access to Justice” in Pakistan.


Has the Access to Justice Program (AJP) done any thing to simplify or improve our laws. The Hudood Ordinance is still firmly in place.   It  requires a  testimony of four noble souls who actually witnessed the rape in order to secure a conviction.  Not being able to produce such a sophisticated  rape watchers’ crowd could be disastrous for the victim who now becomes eligible for punishment  for the offence of fornication.  It  surely does not require a foreign loan to change  our own laws. (The bill to amend the Hudood Ordinance was rejected  for the nth time on 7th December 2005 by the national assembly.)  Do we need to beg for foreign loans to stop  Jirgas, that continue to operate despite having been declared illegal by the Sindh High Court.  The government topped the list  of law violators, as its own ministers and chief ministers  presided over 197 Jirgas in the past five years. The Sindh province topped the list of honourable provinces with  a score of  1796 ‘honour’ killings in the same period.  We surely do not need a  foreign loan to amend the  Qisas and Diyat Ordinance 1984, that makes murder a pardonable offence for the (dis)honourable  ‘honour’ killers of Pakistan.


It is time that we understand that while the loans can  add to the consultants’ bank balances and the misery of our future generations,  they can do nothing to  bring justice any nearer.  This is not to say that it cannot be done. There is no dearth of high calibre  judges, managers, lawyers sociologists and  scientists, who can collectively propose  scientific  and efficient solutions.  The entire judicial system needs to be ‘process mapped’ and  its delays (unnecessary and long gaps between hearings) removed by making it necessary to complete a case in a certain time. Each case needs to be computerized and its exact status available on website so that every citizen can monitor its milestone and progress.  This would also start providing some very specific data on number of visits, types of cases,  hearings, postponements, decisions, delays and other key indicators about the performance of  judges as well as the judicial system. We have no alternate but to adopt the  concept of preventive justice, if we are to make the existing judicial system any more effective or efficient.  We look the other way, well knowing that our  current systems  generate  mischief and violations of law at a rate that exceeds by at least ten times, the rate at which they can be resolved.  A basic exercise at making Pareto maps will readily indicate the major categories of cases that appear before our judiciary.  Each category could then be addressed in detail to determine and address its root causes.  Take for example the rape cases. They could be decided much faster if the victims had been provided an early and efficient facility of FIR, medical examination and medical report.   Setting up exclusive support centres in each city that provide  these facilities on a ‘one window’ concept  could greatly help in  expediting and improving  the subsequent justice delivery process.    Similarly there is hardly a family not involved in an unending complicated case of land or property.  These cases can be significantly reduced if we were to discontinue the archaic ‘patwari’ system and make all land demarcation and ownership records  transparent and available on the net.  Any buyer, seller or citizen should be able  to know precisely (without going to any office) as to which land belongs to whom.  It could save people from entering into wrong agreements  or  clandestinely taking over  each other’s property.   Similarly most traffic related cases could be eliminated if we were to remove   hundreds of policemen standing at every nook and corner perfecting the ancient  art of  extortion, and replace them  by non-partisan  cameras.  Each violation is recorded and the fines  are automatically added to an individual’s motor vehicle tax, without any regard for his  rank, wealth or status.    These are just a few examples of how we could build preventive justice mechanisms so that a large number of crimes are either never committed or there is an easy and efficient manner to obtain evidence.


Finally we need to ask the mother of all questions.  Where  precisely did we spend this  $350 million “Distance from Justice” loan.  Every one knows what this loan has not been able to achieve.  We now like to know what exactly was it able to accomplish.  Who were the  beneficiaries, the consultants and  the report writers.  What  vehicles were purchased, offices rented, people employed, hotels utilized, seminars organized, bills paid, trips made and expenses written off.  Hopefully it  would  total up to  a neat figure of US $ 350 million.  Would the government of Pakistan  in the interest of transparency inform the public as to where was this money spent and how is our “access to justice” any better today since  receiving the 350 million dollar access improving  injection.

Naeem Sadiq