Re­flec­tions on free­dom day

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - I.A. Rehman

IN­DE­PEN­DENCE Day is tra­di­tion­ally de­scribed as a time of cel­e­bra­tion and re­flec­tion. One won­ders what peo­ple will re­flect upon to­mor­row af­ter the rit­u­al­is­tic fes­tiv­i­ties are over. Quite a few might try to fig­ure out what to do about a preda­tory ex­ec­u­tive that ren­ders hun­dreds of peo­ple home­less by bull­doz­ing a two-decade-old katchi abadi in the cap­i­tal. Many thou­sands more might won­der whether their dis­place­ment and loss of prop­erty as a re­sult of this year's floods could have been averted by a more re­spon­si­ble au­thor­ity, es­pe­cially be­cause floods have be­come al­most an an­nual or­deal since 2010.

The hottest is­sue in de­bate to­mor­row should be the Ka­sur mega out­rage in­volv­ing the sex­ual abuse of pos­si­bly hun­dreds of chil­dren that has ex­posed some of the main causes of the mal­func­tion­ing of the state.

The Ka­sur out­rage has ex­posed some of the main causes of the mal­func­tion­ing of the state. The first flaw in gov­er­nance ex­posed af­ter the hor­ri­ble af­fair be­came public was the Punjab gov­ern­ment's bid to take refuge in de­nial mode. The way the pro­vin­cial law min­is­ter pooh-poohed an ut­terly un­for­giv­able atroc­ity only be­trayed a stun­ning pref­er­ence for pre­var­i­ca­tion. It might have been pos­si­ble to dis­miss the mat­ter as a min­is­ter's priv­i­lege to shoot him­self in the foot but for the fact that the gov­ern­ment has a habit of deny­ing the ex­is­tence of any and ev­ery so­cial ill it fails to ad­dress. Whether the is­sue is child labour, vi­o­lence against women, dis­crim­i­na­tion against mi­nori­ties or en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances, the first of­fi­cial re­sponse is nearly al­ways a flat de­nial.

By now the author­i­ties should have re­alised the cost the coun­try has had to pay for per­sist­ing with the de­nial pol­icy. Facts and fig­ures have to be cooked up to hide a lapse or a fail­ure and re­lief is sought by mak­ing false claims and base­less prom­ises. Even­tu­ally truth has to be ad­mit­ted but only af­ter much valu­able time has been lost. The Ka­sur story had to be con­ceded within hours.

The sec­ond is­sue high­lighted by the af­fair is the gov­ern­ment's per­sis­tent fail­ure to give due pri­or­ity to chil­dren's rights. No doubt the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have taken some steps to­wards im­prov­ing child pro­tec­tion mech­a­nisms and the feel­ing of ela­tion caused by the recog­ni­tion of ed­u­ca­tion as a fun­da­men­tal right af­ter the ad­di­tion of Ar­ti­cle 25- A to the Con­sti­tu­tion has not abated. But the fact that Pak­istan has not been able to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child or prom­ises made to the com­mit­tee or dur­ing the Uni­ver­sal Pe­ri­odic Re­view 2012 is no se­cret. But of this on some other oc­ca­sion.

The third fail­ure is the gov­ern­ment's ten­dency to treat child abuse as merely a mat­ter of crime and pun­ish­ment. While the law must come into play when­ever a child's dig­nity of per­son is rav­aged, much else is needed to free the vic­tim of the af­ter­ef­fects of the trauma and to pre­vent re­cur­rence. Some years ago a mon­ster was tried for dis­solv­ing in acid the bod­ies of 100 vic­tims of his per­ver­sion. Much noise was made about mak­ing a law for bet­ter care of street chil­dren, for mak­ing the po­lice re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing track of them. When the ac­cused died in jail, be­fore re­ceiv­ing the out­landish pun­ish­ment pre­scribed by the trial court, the af­fair was sim­ply for­got­ten.

Will the author­i­ties make sure that the story is not re­peated in the present case? Will the mech­a­nism to deal with child abuse be strength­ened? Will the ser­vices of psy­chia- trists be em­ployed to help the Ka­sur vic­tims es­cape any per­ma­nent dam­age to their psy­che?

Another is­sue is the fail­ure of the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to trace an evil racket that is said to have been go­ing on for many years. The place of crime is a vil­lage near the bor­der with In­dia, where in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are be­lieved to be more ac­tive than else­where. How come they re­mained un­aware of the shame­ful af­fair?

Those who, like the gov­ern­ment lead­ers, be­came aware of the Ka­sur story only on Sun­day (Aug 9) morn­ing, fol­low­ing a big media splash, should be won­der­ing as to why did peo­ple - vic­tims' fam­i­lies in par­tic­u­lar - re­main silent for years? Some of the fam­i­lies ap­par­ently chose to keep mum and even paid black­mail money. The con­duct of these peo­ple needs to be probed. Why do or­di­nary vil­lagers feel dis­cour­aged from seek­ing le­gal re­dress for the wrongs done to them? Have they lost con­fi­dence in the abil­ity of the po­lice to pro­tect them? Is ac­cess to courts im­pos­si­ble for them or have they lost faith in the sys­tem of jus­tice?

At first sight it might seem that a long history of obe­di­ence to tyrants has drained the minds of help­less vil­lagers of all ideas of rights and re­sis­tance to in­jus­tice. Even if the num­ber of such peo­ple is small the gov­ern­ment's duty to re­as­sure them of the pro­tec­tion avail­able is ob­vi­ous.

But ap­par­ently all the vic­tims of abuse did not re­main quiet. Ef­forts to bring the af­fair to the no­tice of the gov­ern­ment were in fact made. This pa­per re­ported the or­gan­ised abuse of chil­dren in the Ka­sur vil­lage quite some time ago.

On Aug 5, that is four days be­fore the Punjab gov­ern­ment was awak­ened by media head­lines, this pa­per and sev­eral other dailies re­ported a clash be­tween the protesters and the po­lice in which two DSPs were among the in­jured. The re­port did men­tion that sys­tem­atic child abuse had been go­ing on since 2009, that po­lice had found video clips of as­saults on chil­dren, that some par­ents had yielded to black­mail, and that a few sus­pects had al­ready been ar­rested. But that was not enough to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the gov­ern­ment in La­hore or in Is­lam­abad.

The fi­nal is­sue is: How big must an at­tack on the chil­dren's in­no­cence be to make the high and mighty stir out of their co­coons?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.