News of the month in December in Pakistan was retirement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. His controversial career, his assertiveness, his activism and what he could have or should have done, his sense of fairness or the lack of it were all dissected, debated and deliberated upon by all kinds of experts. So, instead of rehashing that I want to focus on the issue of justice itself and whether this chief justice could or any other one can really do justice to the dispensation of justice in Pakistan.

For this we need some kind of definition of justice which is not an easy task. Scholars, philosophers, and thinkers from Socrates in the ancient Greece to Rawls in modern day have not been able to develop consensus on what constitutes justice. That debate is beyond the scope of this article; however, I do believe that justice is not merely a metaphysical or a vague theoretical concept but a concrete reality which affects living breathing human beings and thus has to be continuously examined and reexamined.

The most fundamental prerequisite for any form of justice is that all human beings (adults with normal intellectual maturity) should be equal and act as free agents for themselves without any hindrance or barriers. Without this equality any talk of justice is meaningless and equality at the most fundamental level is the economic equality which is the basis of every other equality. In fact by “equality” I really mean “equity”, a concept summed up by Marx as, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I fully realize that this concept of equity sounds strange, outrageous and Utopian at first glance because we are so conditioned and brainwashed to think in capitalist terms.

However, unless this state of equity is achieved, there can be no justice. In a class based system, where ability of people to buy attorney’s services, pay court’s expenses and influence the judges’ decision due to their political, social and financial clout determines the outcome of the case, there can be only an illusion of justice. In such a system the concept of justice itself is convoluted, as evidenced by the famous Shahzeb murder case. The justice was supposed to have been served by paying parents of the victim some sum of money to compensate for the loss of their child.

Perhaps if we start with the question: why is it necessary to even have a juridical system, we can explain the situation a bit better. Justice is needed when there is conflict. Majority of conflicts arise because there is competition for the control of resources. It is true at every level of human society, from family feuds to world wars, the underlying reason is the struggle to get most of the wealth. And of course, the scarcer the resources the more chances of conflict. The situation is made worse when a few people control most of the wealth, leaving meager scraps for the majority. This leads to conflict not only between rich and poor but among the poor people and poor nations. Under these circumstances the rich and powerful devise systems of conflict resolution, legal structures, and international tribunals under the guise of dispensation of justice, while the whole reason for conflict is that they are monopolizing wealth. In fact under capitalist system, the whole juridical system is set up to protect the rights of the powerful rather than provide justice. That is why workers are put in jail when they protest against low wages; students are “lathi charged” when they raise their voice against privatization of educational institutions; anyone who raises her or his voice against the system is labeled as a troublemaker and a hooligan; the reason why the right to free speech is curbed and right to assembly is violated is because it threatens the status quo and the foundation upon which the current system is based. And that is why the word socialism has been delegitimized and almost criminalized because it questions the control by few over majority and threatens their monopoly.

We should always remember that all social, legal, and political relations are based on the economic relations. Thus we can safely conclude that the current system which rests upon uneven distribution of wealth is not only unjust in itself but the root cause of most of other injustices in the world. If we are complacent and accept this system of wealth distribution then we have to also accept the juridical system based upon it.

So, what is the alternative? The only lasting solution to this is to devise a system of equitable distribution of resources. While the details of such a system need to be debated and discussed, I can, perhaps, suggest some broad outlines. All natural resources should belong to people and not to private owners. This includes land and whatever is in it and grows on it. All production should be first and foremost to meet human needs and not for profit, the most important among this being food items, eliminating food insecurity. All means of production should be publically owned and profit from them used for society’s benefit like free education, universal healthcare, cost effective transportation, child care for working women, reasonable shelter for all, instead of lining the pockets of a few. All means of making money without work, for example interest and rent, should be eliminated.

Thus we can see, if private ownership of land is eliminated, all disputes related to it will automatically disappear; if workers are paid their due and fair share according to the wealth they produce, all the labor disputes will go away; if all people have equal right to education, healthcare, job market, shelter and other basic human needs, some of the major reasons for civil conflict will vanish. In fact I am confident that once the above state of equity has been achieved the need for courts, attorneys and the whole legal system will be reduced to a minimum.

Thus we can say that this chief justice was, and any other one will be, incapable of ensuring justice unless the current economic system is changed. Is the system I am proposing beyond human capacity? I don’t think so. If human beings could get rid of divine rights of monarchy, abolish slavery, eliminate feudalism in most of the world, then I do believe that the next stage in human progress is abolition of capitalist control on world resources. I envision a world without a class based system where the spirit of cooperation rather than competition will prevail and the fruits of nature as well as of human ingenuity will be shared by all. But it will not happen without struggle by the masses and will not be easy. To change the system, masses will have to do consistent, organized, united, and goal oriented struggle against formidable forces of capitalism.

The writer is a practicing physician and resides in Florida. She is a founding member of Rise for Pakistan and International Youth Movement. She is a founding member and was the chairperson of the Human Development Foundation, and has served on the board of PAKPAC. She is also a life member of APPNA.

Tweets at:@shahnazsk