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Land of no consequences

The writer is a lawyer and political analyst

When I heard the News of the World story, alleging involvement of members of the Pakistan team in a spot-fixing scam, the first person I thought of was Tommy Sheridan. Sheridan, a Scottish socialist politician, who was accused by the same tabloid of being a serial adulterer who used drugs. But a defiant Sheridan, representing himself, took on the publishers and in a dramatic legal case won the defamation suit and was awarded £200,000. The fact that Sheridan and his wife have since been re-dragged into court on alleged perjury has not commanded the same media attention and has been attributed by Sheridan to the “powerful reach” of the Murdoch press.

Not that I expect Yawar Saeed or Salman Butt to display the same level of charisma, but a flat-out denial of the allegations and a threat to take the tabloid to court would have been reassuring. Instead, all we got was “Allegations are allegations until they are proven.” What’s that supposed to mean?

Contrast that with Younis Khan’s reaction who sent a legal notice to News of the World, which had alleged that he had also signed the notorious Majeed brothers as agents. Younis has taken this statement (which does not incidentally implicate him in the betting scandal) seriously enough to ask for a denial and damages in the amount of £10,000 to be paid towards flood relief in Pakistan. That is the type of reaction I would have liked to see from Yawar Saeed and all those who were marked as “Named”. The wishy-washy responses in the press conference did nothing but foster doubts. For those who follow cricket more than I do, illogical team selection, the result of the Sydney Test in January and other clues are all tying in.

It is unfortunate that this incident comes at a time when Pakistan needs desperate international aid, which has already been lacking due to an image deficit. It also comes at a time when the brutal Sialkot killings have prompted a controversy on the morality of our social fabric. In these very pages, there has been a vociferous display of self-loathing. The harshest critics have agreed that barbarity and amorality are not unique to Pakistan. The more relevant question therefore is: why are there no consequences in Pakistan?

The “allegations-are-allegations-until-they-are-proven” line is fairly reflective of how we have dealt with incidences of police brutality, fake degrees of parliamentarians, unconstitutional martial laws, non-payment of loans, taxes and/or salaries due, extra-judicial killings and so on. Although the media brings these issues up, it rarely follows them to conclusion, choosing instead to sensationalise grave matters by running the song “Fraudiaye” in the background while flashing pictures of our cricketers in the middle of a news bulletin. On the other hand, those disputing the stories have yet to take the respective media outlets to court. So there is a culture of ‘sab chalta hai’, while nothing is taken seriously. Political explanations of motive are offered on either side instead of coming together across political and institutional divides to stand up for accountability.

This has nothing to do with innate barbarism or dishonesty, for there are countless people in the same country who are principled and dedicated to the honourable causes they espouse. Perhaps the media needs to focus on them too so that role models can be cultivated and the motivation to do good increased. Working on flood relief efforts, I have met Pakistanis in Britain who are doing amazing work for their homeland and also collaborated with those within Pakistan who are exceptionally honest. Yet if we don’t break away from the tendency of no consequences, distinctions between good and bad will be blurred, and the several instances of humane and scrupulous actions taken by many Pakistanis on a daily basis will be overshadowed by the equally numerous stories of corruption and cruelty.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2010.

Ayesha Ijaz Khan September 2, 2010

Reader Comments (6)

  • I wholeheartedly agree with you. Consequences are a part of due process and the course of law. Nobody should take the law into their own hands, but when people see the law being manipulated or monopolized, there remains no recourse but to commit further illegal acts (or to display an exorbitant and unnatural measure of patience).
    Only faith and belief in justice and rule of law can initiate what you are talking about; consequences and their importance. Unless and until consequences are certain, there will be no legitimacy in Pakistan, whether individual or institutional.

    Shemrez Nauman Afzal 2 months ago
  • “allegations-are-allegations-until-they-are-proven” this was something also endorsed by a tall claimer of insaaf the one like IMRAN KHAN. This makes me even more dissappointed and frustrated as an ordinary citizen of this country which is now tilting and bent asides with enormous load and pressure of Allegations day in and day out. i fail to absorb this changed stance of Imran Khan on such serious allegations especailly when every now and than he blowws his pipes for the removal of Zardari and his cronies from their jump seats because of so serious (no doubt) but still are unproven allegations and charges of corruption nepotism loot plunder murders vendalism and what not?

    Tanvir Ahmed Siddiqui 2 months ago
  • The reason why the perjury allegations against Tommy Sheridan have not attracted as much media attention is because he managed to obtain an injuction against reporting of procedings of the case which was overturned on appeal by the BBC the other week.

    The reason why he was “re-dragged into court” was because the judge became suspicious during the defamation case about witnesses called by Sheridan who directly contradicted earlier evidence, giving rise to the clear implication that someone was lying. The judge referred it to the prosecution service who, on review of the evidence, agreed with the judge and instructed the police to begin an investigation. After a year of examining the case, Sheridan was charged by the police. His lawyers have managed to drag it out for nearly three years but I believe his and his wife’s trial is finally due to start this month at the High Court in Edinburgh. The indictment against him can be found here:

    Colin Leckie 2 months ago
  • Wonderfully written.

    You are absolutely right – without consequences there is no incentive to do the right thing or to desist from wrongdoing. Consequences will only occur if there is a strict and just application of the rule of law. That can only be guaranteed by an impartial and professional judiciary.

    Mahreen Khan 2 months ago
  • Yes – Tommy Sheridan won a £200,000 defamation suit against News of the World. I have been living in the UK the last 11 or so years and have never read or purchased this rag. Such newspapers (Sun included, both are owned by Rupert Murdoch the notorious owner of fascist Fox news) are only read for the gossip and the numerous nude pictures. I guess you have to do whatever it takes to sell newspapers nowadays.

    Yusaf Khan 2 months ago
  • The Sheridan perjury trial is a direct result of actions by his former comrades in the SSP. It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that the judges comments made a difference, judges comment on cases in that way all of the time. We all remember the judge’s damning comments about Heather McCartney after her case.

    The Lothian and Borders Police instigated the perjury investigation after several SSP members came forward with what they called new evidence, a tape, notes from a minutes secretary and 5 members claiming Sheridan had confessed to them.

    The press are restricted from reporting on the proceedings in the Sheridan trial and, of course, are limited by subjudice restrictions on any live case. But, I think Ayesha is referring is to the lack of comment, something that journalists are free to do on any case within the limitations of subjudice.

    But let’s not get distracted from the actual subject by the internet Anti-Sheridan hounds.

    There have been disgraceful comments from English and Australian cricketers “maybe thats just part of the culture over there” at a time when Pakistan is not only under pressure due to the floods but also facing increasing hostility from Obama and the USA.

    pan hoonda 2 months ago