Kangaroo courts, known for about two centuries around the world, captivated the imagination of some segments and the enthusiasts for the instant delivery of a preconceived judgment. They even baffled the etymologists and historians over the origin of their name, inception and operations. Curiously enough, despite the kangaroos being the emblematic of Australia, these courts did not originate there, yet they share the moniker for being rigged up instantly just like the kangaroos jumping up quickly from nowhere. Similarly even the pouch of the kangaroos, carrying their babies pouting out from it, has an uncanny analogy alluding that the verdicts to be vended by these courts are already carried with them. The third strand of the analogy, of course, is related to the kangaroos in the sense that this term first emerged in connection with their compatriots who flocked to California during the proverbial Gold Rush as diggers of this precious metal in 1849-55. The operations also involved frequent issues of claim jumping that had to be speedily settled and rectified. Still another similar strand was jumping over or brushing aside the arguments that were likely to benefit the defendants.
The term, claim jumping meant the illegal usurpation of the goldmine area or the mining operations already acquired by some other stakeholders. Their proceedings were generally meant to be swift and on the spot trial and dispensation of punishments. The term later implied the summary trials conducted by several fascist regimes like the trial and execution of the accused involved in the abortive bomb plot against Hitler, Peoples” Revolutionary courts in Cambodia, Pol Pot trial in 1979, trials by the Romanian Revolutionary Soldiers Courts including the death sentence delivered to the deposed President Nicolai and his wife. It even entered the fiction and fantasy genre eliciting an analogy of the trial of the Knaves of Heart in Alice in the Wonderland or the racially fuelled trial of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. Josef K in Kafka, was condemned to death without even disclosing the allegations against him. The Dragonlance and the Genomes Courts similarly judged the guilt by looking at the heavier pan of the Scale of Justice. Some trials by the Death Eaters in the Harry Potter epic, may also be counted in the same category.
However, Pakistan known for its fervid passion to recreate the past through some uniquely innovative, different and distinctive styles, initiatives, perceptions and policies, for quite some time seems to be pioneering an entirely new system of instant on-the-spot courts which, for lacking any real parallel or prototype other than the Kangaroo Court may simply be called as ‘Anchoroo’ Courts. The epithet emerges as they are invariably opened by the TV anchors with quite great pomp and fanfare. Anchors, in a way, also guide, moderate, modulate and conduct their proceedings. They are also mostly responsible for selecting and inviting the learned judges meant to give their verdict.
Strictly speaking they are neither called the courts nor carry or claim any legal authority or jurisdiction. They even lack the standards, structure and decorum of the proper courts. Their entire séance and performance are rather presented under the immensely innocuous euphemistic rubrics of the talk shows and the judges or the panelists are accordingly presented as the analysts. Still, they conjure a sort of weird resemblance to the Kangaroo Courts as the mere selection and presence of the invitees often reveals the tilt, tenor and trend of their attitudes, arguments and opinions and hence the outcome of their verdict. Still, they investigate, explicate their findings and even feelings and pronounce their judgment almost within a few minutes after the case is entrusted to them.
Some would even dispute the term talk show assigned to them as they rarely take up any topics other than hectoring the conduct of the politicians. Talk shows are generally meant to be quite varied involving the entire actors, actuators, forces, events and problems concerning a country. However, some very critical problems dealing with the destiny of the nation are never taken up in these shows. Pakistan for instance, is excessively passionate for its religion yet the changing state, scenario and the role of religion in the modern industrialised countries is never taken up.
Further, even the analysts averse to label them as courts would certainly call them jirgas, a sort of traditional consultative and decision-making council of the elders among the Pashtun tribes. The jirgas have traditionally enjoyed a de facto judicial authority to award and execute even quite draconian punishments.
Further just like the eclipsing of the Kangaroo courts, the future, format and thrust of the present talk shows also seems pretty uncertain with the spread of education, realism and the critical grasp among the viewers.