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Our society’s dilemma

Huzaima Bukhari

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe”—Frederick Douglass (1817-1895)

No two human beings are alike yet collectively, what we yearn for most of all, is a society where we can live in peace and happiness. A place which may not be heaven on earth but where our children can enjoy a life that is if not luxurious, at least secure and comfortable. Where good begets good, while bad is apprehended and punished. Is this a utopian thought? Perhaps yes and possibly no, because there are such pleasant abodes in this world where one can find humanity, compassion and tolerance welded in a sound justice system overseen by the rule of law. With different types of miseries like diseases, death, poverty, bankruptcy, physical and mental challenges that humans have to endure, one cannot find heaven on earth but one can definitely contribute towards addressing and alleviating these problems. This is of course possible when all members living in a society are sane, consciously aware of their obligations and strive to attain a desirable level of harmony.

Again, this kind of an atmosphere could be available in a small manageable community but when it comes to gargantuan metropolises, harbouring multitudes of human beings of all types, it certainly can be quite formidable, especially for efficient enforcement of law and order. Even a small and peaceful country like New Zealand, could not prevent the catastrophe that occurred on 15 March 2019 when a pervert, single-handedly killed 51 worshippers and injured 40. To a great extent, one can predict what animals are capable of doing but it is near impossible to predict what a human being, even the one who we think we know very closely, would do next. Since the developed countries, compared to the under-developed, enjoy better standards of justice there appears a general aura of serenity in their social set-up. On the other hand, Pakistani society, for instance, suffers from disorder, restlessness, anxiety, frequent strife and insecurity whereby every person appears suspicious of the other and it becomes difficult to even trust government officials.

After all, when we all want peace for ourselves and our families, why is then our society afflicted with so much discontentment? Could there be reasons other than mere lack of law and order and failure on the part of the judiciary to provide timely justice to victims as well as punish the perpetrators? With our firm belief in karma or retribution whether at the hands of the judicial process and in its absence, by the Al-Mighty, at least there is the satisfaction that no crime or criminal would go unpunished. There are myriads of stories that whosoever inflicted harm intentionally on someone, eventually suffered a terrible end. Thus adages like, “The one who digs a pit will fall into it, and whoever rolls a stone — it will come back on him” and “What goes around, comes around,” are well-known to all human societies. Unfortunately, however, the consequences of a crime are borne not just by the individual but by the entire community. On top of that the affected persons’ curse befalls not only on the culprits but also the society as a whole.

Among the most heinous crimes human beings commit, perhaps the one which is totally unforgivable and which has the most appalling repercussion is to separate young children from their mothers for notorious purposes: using them as beggars by physically mutilating/distorting the body of an otherwise healthy child, for labour, for prostitution, for cult sacrifices or for merely satisfying the maternal instincts of an infertile woman. Abduction of children takes place everywhere in the country, involving close relatives and strangers. Stories of missing children crop up on daily basis but very rarely are they found alive. In majority cases, they remain in oblivion or are recovered as corpses after being physically tortured. Offenders are sometimes caught but in many reported cases, they usually manage to escape law enforcement. Astonishingly, the beggar mafias are known to local police yet nothing is done to bust these organizations and put an end to this practice. As a result, beggar population has grown immensely in all cities and towns.

Regardless of who is responsible for such atrocities, one should not ignore the wretched mothers who have been cruelly separated from their offspring. Some may have lost their mental balance and some may have come to terms with their fate but the common things they all share are their silent screams and blood curdling curses. Mother-child bond is like nothing else in the world and if broken unnaturally can have extremely harrowing ramifications for any society. No wonder, people here conceal their inner despondency with trying to appear gleeful and make merry but the fact is that they lack true contentment which comes with a peaceful society where justice reigns supreme.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

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