Archive for August, 2005

Law and Justice ‘Justice will be imparted to the …

Law and Justice

‘Justice will be imparted to the common man’, is the most popular theme harped upon by almost all our candidates in their election campaigns. Each leader promises to provide better economical conditions for the middle and lower middle class and gives assurances that the process to get judicial decisions will be simplified and made swifter. But so far it has remained a cry that never materialized into reality. No, I am no talking about Pakistan but about the US judicial system that is considered one of the best in the world. Let’s address this issue from the common man’s perspective.

In any country legislative assembly is responsible to formulate laws that ensure justice to all without impairing their ability to pursue various ambitions of life. But in some countries, like the US, the process involves feedback from people before any bill is made part of the legal system. A bill is first presented to the public for comments which are then, incorporated into the new law. But even then it may not represent all segments of the society. For instance, the Patriotic Act impinges on civil liberties of people, especially the immigrant community, but it was approved by the constituent assembly. The question then arises about the link between law and justice. Mortal humans form Laws, which fall, within the limited scope of their knowledge and understanding, their own personal views, and of course by public opinion. So the element of bias sometimes becomes a source of injustice. For instance, for the first time in US history, federal officials can take someone into custody for interrogation without giving him or her access to a lawyer. All the authorities need in such cases is substantial suspicion or reasonable doubt of the suspect’s involvement in some type of terrorist activity.

On the other part of the Law is its execution and implementation. This is where the judicial system comes into play. During the 2004 Presidential elections, appointment of Supreme Court Justices became a key point of contention between the two candidates. In an idealistic society the personality of a judge should not even be questioned in reference to his ability to impart justice. Decisions to appoint Justices should be based on their knowledge of the law and not on their personality. The question of appointing either a conservative or a liberal judge clearly means that it is not possible for humans to be completely unbiased or objective in their judicial decisions

In order to develop a system of speedy and fair decisions, legislatures have also formulated a procedural code for everyone to follow. But it is this very procedural code that has become so complex that it is almost impossible for someone to defend his or her own case without the help from a lawyer. For instance, in a recent traffic ticket court hearing, I overheard a prosecutor telling someone it will be difficult for him or her to win it in a jury trial without the help of a lawyer. The question is why has the procedure become so complicated that an innocent citizen can be penalized wrongly if he chooses to fight on his own without the help of a lawyer. On the other hand, it is also true that without a proper procedure some people would be able to exploit the judicial system to their advantage. Recently, I also found out that owners of corporations couldn’t defend lawsuits filed against them. They have to hire a lawyer to represent them. I am sure any lawyer reading this article can come up with many exceptions and codes to show that an owner of corporation can do that. But the question is, why should the procedure be so complicated for even small matters that can be mutually resolved without consuming valuable time of many people.
In Pakistan, the situation is at its extreme end. A look at the civil code can tell that laws, as good as in any other country are there, but the real problem is the application of the Law. The first reason for this situation is the awareness of the people regarding their rights. Frighteningly, the Police, which are supposed to be the custodians of the law, are usually the first to disregard it. They hold and interrogate people without proper authorization from prosecutors or the district attorney; they use extra judicial means to get confessions from people, which are then used against them in courts and sadly, lawyers do not educate their clients on various options available to them. It is very common for small property claims to stay pending for years. Courts are ill staffed both in terms of the number and qualification of the people. No proper records are maintained.

The new phenomena added to this already slow and archaic process is the introduction of Shariat courts that are at a liberty to define an Islamic code and award punishment. Luckily, the judicial system has been able to over throw some very controversial and potentially explosive decisions to prevent a total break down of the country’s law. Shariat courts are also used by our religious leaders to pressure people who show signs of revolting against them. They have become an instrument of exploitation by the orthodox religious leaders with political ambitions.

The final falling piece of this system in shambles is the absence of justice for un- reported crimes such as family violence, child labor, etc.
For those who have knocked the doors of justice in vain and for those who have suffered in silence, there is the consolation of the Day of Judgement when justice will be served without a complicated procedural code or the imperfections of a human judge.

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Bush’s doctrine of global democracy Recently, US …

Bush’s doctrine of global democracy

Recently, US President Bush recently made his first ever visit to Russia to mark the 60th anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Allied forces, which comprised of Russia, US and UK. Considering the Russian ambition to establish its authority over their former USSR member states, Bush’s itinerary included visits to Georgia and Ukraine as a diplomatic rebuff to Russian ambitions. Bush has emphasized the establishment of democracy around the world as a central theme of his foreign policy. All US aid and other initiatives are tied to the progress of democracies in countries seeking funds.

This is not the first time in human history that a country has taken the initiative to dictate its philosophies and expecting them to be adopted by the rest of the world. In old times, weapons and armies were used to subjugate a nation while today trade sanctions and diplomacy is used to achieve those same objectives. Famous Egyptian Pharaoh, Khufu, circa 2575-2465 BC, was so influential that emperors from states far and wide would send emissaries for the protection of the king against aggression from him as well as other states. When Alexander came of age and became the ruler of Macedonia, he wanted to explore the world and impose his will by creating a unified world under Macedonian rule. In the last millennia, British, Portuguese and Dutch occupied colonies in the name of spreading economic prosperity to these culturally rich but economically poor Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries. In recent times, Hitler tried to create his own kingdom of Aryans in Europe by marching on Poland, France and Russia.

Not only rulers with armies and weapons aspired to create global influences, religious and philosophical leaders also have held their own share of ambitions. Christian and Muslim religious leaders sought ways to spread their philosophies that ultimately resulted in the Crusades that lasted for almost 200 years, consuming countless lives. Philosophers also contributed to this ambition of a unified world by promoting ideologies and theories in managing human societies. The first such effort was Plato’s “Republic” which used individual characteristics of justice, courage and honesty to be extended to a society in creating a state governed by these principles. Nicolò Machiavelli created his own body of work “The Prince” to advise rulers in controlling their societies for the benefit of the common man. If “Republic” is a society’s guide to establish an equitable system of government, “Prince” is a guide for autocratic rulers to suppress their people. Voltaire’s Socialist ideas became the inspiration for the French Revolution of 1795. Those same socialist ideologies were also considered good for other nations as well. Karl Marx’s communist philosophy entailed that the state should be the primary arbiter of material goods; products and property among the citizens became the leading light for the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1918. Once established, Russia wanted to impose those same philosophies on its neighboring countries creating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).

But all these efforts failed in one way or the other resulting in a social vacuum that gave rise to anarchy and ultimately widespread human misery. The basic definition of democracy is “government by the people for the people”. If we consider this definition to be valid then Mr. Bush needs to amend his ambition of global democracy by seeking approval from the people of each country before it is imposed on them through military or economic intervention.

There is no argument about the effectiveness of democracy in furthering equality for all citizens and giving them a chance to enjoy the fruits of progress of a civilized society. But it is also a fact that each culture has its own traditions that cannot be ignored in implementing democratic values. If democracy is considered an intrinsic part of human nature then an outside intervention is not needed to impose it on a society. The real problem lies in the process adopted to implement democratic values on a society. If Bush is serious in promoting democracy around the world, the first step needed is to withhold economic support for autocratic rulers. President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf has broken his own word to the nation by rescinding on his promise to relinquish the military uniform and keep the civilian role of the President. But instead of pressuring Musharraf to discard his uniform, the US has continued its economic support thereby defying his own promise of promoting democracy around the world.

This dual policy of US is the prime reason for its damaging image in countries affected by these policies. Instead of supporting the movements for democracy US has been supportive of autocratic rulers. These same suppressed societies become breeding grounds for terrorists and other anti social elements. Instead of waiting for the situation to become worse to the extent that US or other Western intervention would be required, democratic countries should provide support to home grown democratic movements. It is also a reality that each country will develop its own unique set of democratic values instead of importing them from other countries.

The US, traditionally, has been an open society with free flow of capital and labor across its boundaries that resulted in its unprecedented economic prosperity. This openness is a direct result of a deep democratic values build over 200 years of its history. But 911 changed all this, forcing lawmakers to adopt policies, like the unfair Patriotic Act, to convert US into an increasingly closed society. This is evident from the diversion of intellectuals migrating to Europe instead of opting for US. In the past, it is this intellectual capital that has helped US maintain its technological lead over other developed countries. With the rising phenomena of out sourcing to India and China it is even more important for the US to maintain this technological advantage. It is the basic responsibility of each citizen to protect its homeland from intruders and sabotages but closing the society will only go against the fundamental principles of the US, thereby damaging the American Dream that has survived for almost 2 centuries.
Democracy has proved to be a more successful philosophy as compared to socialism or communism. But it is also unique to each country based on its own culture and tradition. The West, Europe and US, should support democracy by working with the people instead of using external pressures for its implementation.

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