The spectacle of a young man being murdered in cold blood by the Rangers in Karachi - witnessed by millions across the country on their TV screens - was horrendous, perfidious, outrageous and repulsive, to say the least. The episode is indeed a national shame. To rub salt in the wounds, the authorities wasted no time in pronouncing the tragedy as a sequel to an encounter, a usual and familiar antic to hush up things. Thanks to the media that it is no more possible for the state institutions to obscure their hideous faces through the smoke screen, which they are so good at contriving. Reportedly, a murder case has been registered against the personnel involved in the killing and they have also been arrested; a rare happening thanks again to the pressure built up by the media. The most lamentable aspect of this barbaric indiscretion by the personnel is that it may not be an isolated incident of extrajudicial killings. Perhaps, there are many more such acts since their deployment in Karachi. The fact is that many times thousands of people throughout the country have been victim of this inhuman practice by our law enforcing agencies, particularly the police. Many of the staged encounters have remained hidden from the public view. And even in cases where the police could not manage to sweep the incidents under the carpet, the culprits have invariably escaped the dragnet of law due to an extremely defective and corrupt system of investigation and prosecution. Each time something dastardly like this happens, we hear rulers vowing to deal sternly with the culprits, but nobody has ever bothered to change the system that encourages such dare-devil indiscretions by the law enforcing agencies. The phenomenon of extrajudicial killings in fact is a mindset; a collateral off-shoot of the feudal structure of governance that puts no premium at all on the human lives, what to speak of human rights. The murder of Saleem Shahzad, an eminent and daring journalist a few days ago, is also one of the manifestations of this ugly and the most detestable tendency. Merely condemning and showing outrage over extrajudicial killings and other machinations of these outfits is not enough. We need to weed out the culture that is responsible for encouraging the barbaric and gory incidents like the one in Karachi. Of all the state agencies, the police are the most dreaded entity. Often the public regards this law enforcement agency as criminals in uniform, who patronise and abet all types of crimes. Their only duty is to serve the interests of their political masters and the ruling class, who manoeuvre choice postings for them. The result is that instead of maintaining law and order, and protecting the life and property of the citizens, which is their prime duty, the police at times indulge excessively in humiliating, torturing and insulting the citizens, besides instituting false cases against them to extract money or appease their mentors. In the past, our security agencies whose mandate is to deal with matters pertaining to the security of the country only, have been used as tools to destabilise elected governments and interfere in the political affairs. Therefore, illegal acts committed by state institutions, both civil and military, surely are greatly responsible for the chaos and fast deterioration of law and order of any country and Pakistan is a case in point. Pakistan needs a new social contract that takes care of establishing the ascendency of the people; ensures equality of citizens before the law irrespective of their social status or position, and seeks across-the-board accountability of civilians, khakis, other uniformed outfits and the intelligence agencies under the law by removing certain clauses in the Constitution. The decadent and oppressive system of governance has to go and the major responsibility in this regard rests with the political leadership. It is time that all the political parties, particularly PPP and PML-N, gave serious thought to changing the system of governance and redefining the role of all the state institutions geared to serving only the interest of the people. That is the only way this country can be saved from gradual disintegration and a process of rebuilding it in conformity with the contours outlined by its founding father can be unleashed. The country is bleeding at the seams and before it is too late, we need to act and act prudently. The PPP enjoys the unique distinction of giving a unanimous Constitution to the country and fighting against the forces inimical to democracy. This is, perhaps, a historic opportunity for it to strengthen its credentials as a party of the masses by forming a National Commission on 'New Social Contract comprising judges of the Supreme Court, lawyers, politicians, including the ones representing nationalist parties, economists and eminent social leaders. The Commission should be mandated to look at every aspect of the national life, the functioning of the state institutions and reforms needed in the political and economic spheres. The Commission may be asked to present its recommendations within six months and then those recommendations may be subjected to public and media scrutiny through an open debate before presenting it to Parliament to deliberate on them to carry out the necessary amendments in the Constitution and promulgation of laws where required. The writer is a freelance columnist.