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Badrul Arafeen Bhatti



By Syed M. Aslam
Sep 11 - 17, 2000

Badrul Arafeen Bhatti did his LLB from Government Islamia Law College Karachi. He is practising law since 1995. An expert in criminal law he pleads cases at City Court as well as High Court in Karachi. He successfully defended the former Inspector General of Police Sindh, Rana Maqbool, as the assistant defense lawyer in the famous aeroplane case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He runs a registered social welfare organisation, Islah-e-Maashrah Welfare Trust, which provides free ration to the needy, organise medical camps. It has also provided loans to the displaced Kashmiris as well as Afghan Mujahideens. He has financed the welfare works personally without any donations from outside. He also offers free legal help to defend the poor under-trial prisoners both personally as well as through his organisation. He has helped arranged bails by providing personal surety. He successfully helped in freeing 11 Bengalis some years ago during the rounding up operations in Karachi. He was instrumental to start a campaign in 1996 which demanded the withdrawal of immense financial benefits to the former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan including Rs 200,000 funds for his personal library each year. The campaign succeeded in the withdrawal of some of the benefits to the former president which were costing the exchequers huge amounts of money every year.

PAGE: There is a general impression that procuring justice is very hard in Pakistan, particularly for the poor. What are your comments?

Badar: It is sad that despite gaining independence 53 years ago we are still following the same old system of our colonial masters. The judicial system is no exception. Look at our criminal law it is the State Vs the accused. I feel that it is single biggest detriment to the justice in the country as it leaves all power to the government depriving the victim of any power. The various levels of criminal judicial process in our country comprise Judicial Magistrate, Session Court, High Court and Supreme Court in the manner of ascendancy. It means that this leaves all these venues available to the aggrieved party to seek justice. However, permanent constitutional powers given to the President and the interim powers given to Chief Ministers and Governors as the case may be at any given time simply means that after spending years of time, energy and money the accused can be pardoned by any of these high officials which negates the very sense of justice for the aggrieved. To fulfil the demands of justice these discriminatory powers to the federal and provincial governments should be altogether abolished or else what's good is the whole process.

PAGE: Why it takes years to decide a case in Pakistan? Isn't it amount to 'justice delayed is justice denied?'

Badar: Like all other departments judicial process has also not remained immune to procrastination which has become our national psyche. Furthermore delaying tactics by both the defense and prosecution has become a routine practice. However, delaying the case only benefits the accused and this should not happen. In addition, judges in Pakistan take regular summer vacations and the fact that their cases are being heard by their replacements also negates the sense of justice as replacement judges do not understand the ins and outs of a particular case to help them make educated decisions.

PAGE: As a lawyer you have to interact closely with police. How professional is our police force?

Badar: Effective police investigation forms the very base of judicial process in any society. Unfortunately the majority of the ranks and files of our police force lacks educated and training rendering them incapable of conducting proper investigation. It primarily depends on self-confessions, and we all know how confessions are extracted by police here, which are hard to prove in the court of law. Backing out of self-confessions have become an all too routine here. This denies justice not only for an innocently accused person but also for those who really deserved to be punished.

PAGE: What do you suggest?

Badar: I suggest establishing an accountability cell to deal with police excesses in particular, I also suggest recruiting the police officials from the Civil Services to ensure the flow of educated and civilized persons to help develop a truly professional force. The SHO of a police station should be a CSP officer instead of the rankers at present most of whom are uneducated, untrained and uncouth. Some of them could hardly speak without being drunk and I personally know many such SHOs who are extremely abusive and sadistic. The least the government can do is to order the medical check of the police force, particularly SHOs, to detect that huge liquor content in their body and to award them the deserving punishment.

PAGE: You have said that police is still using such primitive techniques as self-confession taken under threat of, or real torture. Is there a remedy?

Badar: Yes. Perjury is treated as a heinous crime all over the world. Even in Islam given false evidence under oath is punishable by 80 lashes and the ignominy of a life-time disqualified witness. Perjury should be made a punishable offence as police can make false cases without worrying about the consequences. This will help cut police excesses considerably.