Nathu died yesterday.
He was found on a street in the premises of the Faisalabad district courts. His clothes were in shreds and shoes torn. A scroll of paper was stuck under his armpit and flies were buzzing all around him. Seeing his dead body reminded me of a day, four years ago, when he almost fainted in front of my chamber and I rushed to bring him water. He told me that he was deprived of his shop by local authorities almost six years ago and even though the Lahore High Court had said that he be paid in cash or in property as compensation, he had received nothing.
He said he had used up every single penny at his disposal – and went to the extent of not paying his kids’ school fees – to meet the expenses of lawyers, clerks and lower judiciary (readers, stenographers) for contesting his case. But he was no closer to getting his due. I asked him why he hadn’t filed a fresh appeal for the implementation of the orders of the Lahore High Court.
He liked my proposal and did as I told him. Over the next few months, I didn’t see or hear from him. One day, with a glow on his face and marks of a tired but victorious athlete, Nathu said a loud slamalekum to me and broke the happy news that the Lahore High Court had taken notice of the non-cooperation/non-compliance of the authorities concerned and ordered for quick action. The time limit, Nathu added, was four months. He even offered me a cup of tea from his own pocket, such was his ecstasy.
Nathu was incorrigibly optimistic but the time limit was ending and nothing was happening. One could tell his patience was waning but Nathu was Nathu. Unlike most Pakistanis, even after having been duped by the local administration and witnessing the treatment meted out to him by different levels of lower judicial staff, he was still waiting for a chhakka on the very last ball.
The signs of anxiety appeared on his face again immediately after the sacred four months were over. “How can this happen? Why doesn’t the city nazim take any action? Why don’t the officials concerned give any consideration to the injunctions of the superior judiciary? What should I do now?” He let loose a barrage of questions which were simple to ask but difficult to answer. Signs of fatigue and exhaustion were quite prominent on his face. How should I tell you what he was looking like?
Have you ever seen a woman who undergoes the unbearable pangs of childbirth but is deprived of catching even a glimpse of her baby? Have you ever seen a gardener who waters, cuts, trims and prunes a plant and when one day, after many years, the tree bears fruit, the gardener is deprived of the right to enjoy them? Have you ever seen a man with a bundle of dog-eared papers on which is the verdict of the supreme judiciary on his behalf, but even after months of waiting, justice evades him?
Your reaction will definitely be that this is sheer injustice and below all norms of common sense and equity. But this is a common phenomenon in any court in Pakistan. As a student of law, I bear witness to hundreds of distressed people who carry files and files of papers with them, not knowing where to go and whose door to knock on for the implementation of verdicts in their favour. If you are a petitioner, you have no chance of justice if the party against you has any link with the government, be it federal, provincial or local. In Pakistan, the decisions passed in favour of the poor remain unimplemented and the decisions taken against the rich remain unimplemented. It is common to see the less-privileged crying for the execution of decisions made decades ago in their favour; and after they are gone their children and grandchildren continue to do the same, but nothing ever happens.
What is the value and effectiveness of a verdict passed by the judiciary if it is not implemented? I would like to bring the attention of certain people to this matter: the president and prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; the chief justice of the Lahore High Court; the banner holder of suo-moto actions, Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry; Chief Minister of the Punjab Government Shahbaz Sharif; and the D.O. Faisalabad – not in the capacity of an advocate but as a very common citizen. How can the procedure of justice be consummated if people like Nathu, who constitute almost 85% of the population, are trampled upon and neglected?
Sometimes I think that Pakistan is a place of wonders where people with no land become proprietors of lands overnight, and people like Nathu are not even given a rightful share of their own belongings. Had this incident happened in India with a Muslim, a furor would have been raised. But I think that Nathu should be overlooked as he is a worthless man. It would be out of place if I mention how he paid for the expenses for litigation by selling his wife’s jewellery and his son’s tricycle. Let Nathu go to hell! Why should I worry about him?
A very sad fact. I know many people around with the same story. The stories of Nathu and other deprived Pakistanis teach us the lesson that one should be patient on all cruelties of authorities and powerful people and should not pursue courts or other law enforcement agencies for seeking justice.