Amidst calls to get the debate on legislation in parliament moving, we often forget another major hurdle in the path to reform- that of execution of the law. Even if the parliament and the provincial assemblies manage to put aside their bickering and pass a bill, the laws sometimes never make it to implementation.

The example of one such law had been the Punjab Witness Protection Act of 2018, enacted by the previous Shahbaz Sharif government to ensure convictions in terrorism or other heinous crime cases. Despite the law being decreed in the last few months of Shahbaz’s government, it was being held up by some departments for some excuse or the other.

It is thus a welcome relief that the now Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has turned his attention towards this neglected law. The CM has given approval for the constitution of the Witness Protection Board; provincial approval had been a requirement for the constitution of the board and its lack of had caused the Act to be left pending previously. The Witness Protection Board, as stated in the Act, will devise policy, strategy and funds to formulate a reliable witness protection program to witnesses, especially in murder or terrorism cases, who are in danger of being targeted or killed.

This Act was the need of the hour, particularly after the recent heinous murder of Afzal Kohistani, a witness in the Kohistan honour killings. After years of living as a fugitive and being denied any proper witness protection despite repeated threats, Afzal was gunned down as revenge for reporting the Kohistan killings to the courts. Had the Act been implemented properly, perhaps innocent brave lives like Afzal would not have been senselessly lost. The implementation of this Act is a helpful step towards improving our prosecution and criminal system.