Unjust laws

The purpose of law is to guide and streamline society within the limits guided by moral judgment and to guard against miscreants and criminals. This may work sometimes, but in most cases, laws have failed or have loopholes to frame others of crimes for their own vested interests. The laws can be faulty in dispensing justice which is either based on the principle of revenge in most cases, circling those involved who are handed over the verdict, sometimes wrongfully with no recourse for the accused to counter the judgment. The laws are ever being evolved to make them better suited for sufferers, but they can never be perfect, for the fault lines are much graver when it comes to punishment bestowed by a lack of evidence.
It is true that not all sentences carried out are wrong, but there is little to the defense of those accused. For example, the Diyat and Qasas laws, the Islamic jurisprudence that allows for the murderer to pay blood money to the family of the victim to go scot free. This law is suitable for well-to-do families but this facility is not for those who cannot afford blood money to be paid to the family of the victim. This law is faulty in the sense that it allows for the murderer to go scot free without any repercussions. This has been observed in the cases of honor killing where killers are pardoned within the family. This is a case of faulty justice as it serves only the rich and influential while punishing those who cannot pay blood money.
The controversial Qisas and Diyat laws were introduced in the 1980’s during Zia’s Islamization as a way to appease the clergy. Under the law, the case of honor killing is considered a civil offence, not a criminal activity, thus patronizing and justifying the killing over alleged adultery. It is because of these laws, it is estimated, that the crime of murder has risen manifold rather than becoming controlled. It is estimated that the conviction rate has dropped dramatically and out of court settlements have increased, meaning justice is not served to the murderers who can go scot free after paying blood money. This law works unfavorably for women who remain helpless in seeking justice, even in death. The cases of compromise have been so high that it is not possible to keep a track of statistics where family members pardoned the perpetrators, usually members of the same household. However, in cases where the families do not want to pardon the murderers, the family can register a complaint in the anti-terror court where the murderer can be indicted. But such cases are very few in Pakistan. There is a crying need for the review of the law to ensure justice for the victims who were murdered in cold blood to settle scores.
The other most heinous law that needs to be reviewed is the Blasphemy Law. Introduced again during the time of Zia ul Haq, this law carries its weight merely on the hearsay of people against those accused of blasphemy. This law was first introduced in 1860 and amended further in 1927 during the British period to avert mob justice and carried sentences for the crime of blasphemy. But this law was further hardened during Zia’s time and carried death sentences for the crimes of blasphemy. The major defect of the law is that anyone can be accused of the crime by mere hearsay and no investigation ever takes place to get to the truth. Worse still, the accuser can easily frame others of blasphemy to settle scores or “cleanse” society of non-muslims, as has been the case with Rimsha Massih, against whom the evidence was fabricated. Luckily, the fabrication of the evidence was proved and Rimsha Massih was acquitted, but she had to flee the country with her family for security reasons as the behavior of clerical mobs cannot be predicted. What is noteworthy in this case is that the cleric who was found to be fabricating evidence has gone scot-free as no action has been taken against him.
The laws against witchcraft in the US centuries ago are a stark reminder of how the invisible crime carried sentences of death. Mere hearsay was enough to send men and women to the gallows. This law has long gone, but it is somewhat synonymous to what we witness in Pakistan today: the blasphemy laws that strip the accused of any defense.
This is the law where those wrongly accused are sentenced for no crime of theirs while the accusers face no repercussions. Any talk of the review of the law has created more trouble and claimed the lives of Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. No one dares to talk about amending the law, yet the stark injustice is visible to all.
The Qisas and Diyat Laws and Blasphemy Laws need great introspection and review as they are a major source of injustice, creating disharmony and resentment within society. Unless the laws are repealed and replaced by more secular laws, justice can be rightly served with equality and rightfulness. Take the case of the Hudood Ordinance, which did not give any distinction between rape and adultery. This law has been gradually softened by the Women’s Protection Bill and guaranteed protection to women. The same should be introduced for the other unjust laws of Pakistan that have snatched the safeguards of the poor and vulnerable.

The writer is a freelance columnist.  Follow her on Twitter