The formation of two committees by Prime Minister Imran Khan for introducing constitutional reforms with a special focus on legal reforms and women rights will pave the way for long overdue changes necessary to improve governance and provision of rights in Pakistan. The PTI government’s manifesto is quite unambiguous about the party’s focus on issues pertaining to dispensation of justice and equity in society. As the TORs of the committees suggest, the situation in prisons is quite dire, especially for women whose circumstances are only made worse due to the prevalent gender bias and lack of reasonable legal aid. There is also a need to create and strictly enforce just inheritance laws for women, ease procedures concerning divorce and alimony, and provide protection from domestic violence and abuse. The justice system overall needs to be made more responsive to the plight of women in the country.

The PM is correct in noting that people have almost lost faith in the justice system. A common citizen finds far too many hurdles in the pursuit of justice, which often proves to be fruitless and takes a heavy toll on the individual. The committees must provide solutions to remove the backlog of cases in the country’s courts. Legal loopholes that are exploited to create delays should be fixed. Judges must be allowed to work without fear or favour. It is unfortunate that due to some bad apples, judges now require protection from lawyers who use intimidation and violence to get their way. The integrity of the justice system must be restored.

This is also an excellent opportunity to review outdated laws relating to evidence, criminal procedure, prosecution rules and so on. Another feature that requires attention is witness protection, so that people feel confident in choosing the legal path for justice. Parallel systems of perverted justice such as the jirga and the panchayat should be done away with. The state should establish its writ so courts can exercise their jurisdiction and provide relief to citizens. It is hoped that the PM’s initiative will incorporate all necessary changes and help create a more just society.