There has been much discussion in the press and in the political medium concerning FATA reforms, with much of the focus being on the black law known as ‘FCR’ (Frontier Crime Regulation). This FCR introduced by the British Colonialists, gave sweeping powers to the political agent which had the power to detain, convict and punish people without any judicial process. The political agent also possessing the right to sentence a whole family to prison on the basis of only one member being convicted and to take possession of the families' private assets.

Given the natural injustices that stem from this black law, there has been much pressure on the federal government to negate this law and to integrate FATA into KPK to give it a formal political and judicial process, through which people can seek justice. The benefit of this is that evidences would be presented, the right to a counsel given, and witnesses and an appeal, if it is needed. This would give FATA a sense of civility breaking, it away from the colonial past, which has been adopted by the Pakistani Political leadership to this very day, without any thought of the implications. Justice is a purchasable commodity for them, given the wealth and political capital which they hold in the country, allowing them to buy justice when needed.

Now the ironic point in all of this discussion is that the federal government in parliament consented to reforms to the Army Act, which in principle has extended a form of ‘FCR’ to the rest of the country. Let me explain this point. These latest reforms to the Army Act allow the thousands of kidnapped detainees over the years to be legal detainees, meaning that their kidnapping has been converted into a legal act, which prevents them from seeking justice, as the officers and officials involved in their kidnapping would be untouchable.

Doesn’t all of this sound familiar? The federal government has legalised a form of the ‘FCR’ in the rest of the country, similar to the ‘FCR’, now people have no way of seeking justice or taking those involved, to court for compensation. Imagine this, a person kidnapped 10 years ago, now being released and having no possibility to seek justice – how would this individual feel? Naturally there would be much anger and frustration built inside this individual and the Pakistani government complains about terrorism- well this individual is a ticking-time bomb because of the reforms to the Army Act and the extension of the ‘FCR’ through the backdoor to the rest of the country. And we all thought the politicians were concerned about justice! Well we thought wrong, it seems that they have no idea what they are doing.

Further evidence of this is ‘NAP’, due to which thousands have been detained according to the federal government’s own data, with fake cases developed and judicial remand given (prison). The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ejaz Choudhary recently heard the case of Moazzam Raschid, who was detained and had a case registered under the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA) against him. In the hearing of Moazzam Raschid, after more than 1 year of being in prison, Justice Ejaz Chaudhry stated quite frankly that the police should feel ashamed for registering false cases on innocent individuals. Moazzam Raschid, after more than 1 year of injustice was given bail. The Lahore High Court failed to give this person justice, despite the obvious evidences that this person was innocent, and they prolonging this individuals oppression until he reached the Supreme Court 1 year on. The Lahore High Court, in particular, the judges that have sworn to dispense justice, should feel ashamed for not doing their job and allowing political pressure to be a criteria of deciding on the fate of this individual. Now in jails throughout the country, there are thousands of similar individuals, arrested/kidnapped with fake cases registered under ATC and POPA, with the legal fraternity knowing that this is the case, but remaining silent- meaning that they have legalised a Black Law similar to that of the FCR and the Army Act after its recent reforms.

The Pakistani leadership have continuously criticised Indian actions in Indian occupied Kashmir, in particular its black law known as ‘POTA’ (Prevention of Terrorism Act), which legalises kidnappings, detentions and sentencing. At the same time the federal government is also institutionalising black laws throughout the country, whether that be POPA or reforming the Army Act. Some may argue that these laws/reforms are resulting from military pressures, this might be the case but shouldn’t the federal government stand up and be counted or should it drown in injustice?

The road ahead for Pakistan looks dangerous, with a shift towards a police state, as we find in many Arab countries. And the developments we see with NAP, POPA and shifts in civil military tectonics all point to this. Justice has become a victim of this shift as fear and pressure become a norm rather than due process, which seems to have gone out of the window post Army Public School Massacre, which gave the powers in Pakistan, the pretext to derail whatever justice prevailed in Pakistan.

The legislation of kidnapping and illegal detentions through new black laws is a significant downturn of justice in Pakistan. The families of those kidnapped must have held hope of justice one day for the pain and emotional torment they have gone through not knowing where their loved one are and the continuous failed attempts of getting the Judicial process to help them. This hope has diminished further now with the legalisation of kidnappings and detentions, all the hallmarks of authoritarianism at its peak.

So my question is to the lawyers, judges, civil society and politicians – when will you stand up and be counted? If you don’t, then injustice after injustice will continue to occur. I am not naïve to believe that you cannot sense the injustices I have mentioned, but unfortunately the wheels are grinding and there is a need for much bravery and determination to raise a voice for the voiceless. Those languishing in detention centres and prisons on fake cases, legalised through the advent of black law after black law. Time will tell whether you become agents of justice or perpetuate the wheel of injustice, which seems to have snowballed with NAP and the federal government’s desire to show results of their efficiency in cracking down on terrorists and extremists. With a majority of those kidnapped and detained being innocent souls that have been randomly picked up or victimised due to their political beliefs.