The politics of containers
Containers were originally used for transportation of goods. Today they still carry goods but only when not in the service of the state. In absence of a more rational argument, the weight, size and shape of a container provides an ideal piece of equipment to impose one’s political agenda. Placed at the two ends of a road, it provides a weighty assurance that the life and liberty of your opponents are confined to these two extremes. One must give due credit to MQM for inventing a usage that the original designers had not quite contemplated. The May 12, 2007 prototype launched at Karachi was successfully replicated on 15th March 2009 by using some 2000 containers to block the length and breadth of Pakistan. It was a shameful and an illegal act of the government and it brought immense misery and losses to individuals and industry of Pakistan.
The recent containerisation of Pakistan raises many questions that need serious consideration. How come the police can move with such speed and efficiency in commandeering containers and blockading hundreds of roads, a task completely ridiculous, repressive and illegal. How come it got away with brutally arresting thousands of harmless citizens who simply wanted to travel towards Islamabad. On the other hand what makes the state so invisible and unavailable when it comes to helping an ordinary citizen in distress. How come it does not stop the powerful legislators who roam around with armed guards in their unregistered obscene Land Cruisers. How come it is helpless in ensuring that dozens of cars and hundreds of mobile phones are not snatched from ordinary citizens every day. How come it would allow a 25 minute gun battle at the Liberty Market but will not come to capture, kill or even blockade the militants. So there is something seriously wrong at the DNA level of our state machinery. It seems to exist solely for the purpose of meeting the unending illegal psychotic desires of the rulers.
The restoration of the Chief Justice is a great moral victory for the people of Pakistan. It has given a new sense of hope, optimism and participation to the ordinary people. Hopefully we shall see the Chief Justice going back to the Supreme Court Room No.1 from early next week. But would the people of this country also start receiving justice from early next week? Will the state continue to suppress its citizens by the strategic positioning of containers? Will the ordinary citizens continue to spend their lives going up and down the courts, paying lawyers and buying judges. Will the courts continue to contain the compromised and compliant judges, who will act like containers and block the justice for many years to come.? If all this is to continue, then we may have succeeded in bringing back the Chief Justice but may still be far from ‘justice’ itself.
A lot of ordinary citizens participated in the struggle for the restoration of the Chief Justice as they linked it with the struggle for the rule of law and constitution. The people are fed up of the NROs for some and containers for the others. They now have high expectations from the restored judicial leadership. They expect easy, accessible, cheap and speedy justice at all levels. They would expect the cases to be decided in weeks and not years. The Chief Justice could ask every court to make itself transparent by displaying the details of all cases on a website. A citizen should be able to see the progress made and time taken on every case heard by every judge of Pakistan. A team could be set up to monitor if the decisions taken by judges are actually implemented by the government or do they simply add to the volume of judicial papers.
The Chief Justice could begin his day next week by attending to the pending NRO case and let it be known that justice means no one is above the law. Once done with the NRO, his Lordship may like to order a seven years old file to be searched from the archives of the Supreme Court and finally deliver a judgement on this case. Pakistan’s bravest woman Mukhtaran Mai, has been waiting for it for seven long years.