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Neither explicitly martial nor ethically civil, Pakistan in 2023 is experiencing an unsavoury blend of both forms — which can be termed ‘Partial Law’. The inherently authoritarian aspect of the military, newly intensified by the 9th May violence, will soon be evident in the military court trials of vandals.

Selective, biased enforcement of civil law is already visible in police invasions of homes, alleged maltreatment of those arrested, re-arrests, acquittals by NAB of PDM figures, et al. Fortunately, civil courts have begun acquitting dozens of those picked up post-9th May but the amalgam of martial authority and civil law prevails, without being formally claimed.

The inexcusable, curiously unchecked rampages on that date are being projected multiple times every day on virtually every Television news channel. Such saturation is self-defeating, especially while simultaneously, in another mass medium such as public space, portraits of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Director General, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have been put on display. In addition to the duality of martial and civil authority, there is the dyad of over-reaction.

The most ignominious expression of hybrid fusion is the disappearance of the prominent journalist Imran Riaz Khan, since 12th May, and of Sami Ebrahim for some days and of activist Jibran Nasir for a day. While all transgressions are contemptible, the unexplained vanishing of these three individuals are reprehensible acts.

Particularly so because none of the three acted violently. They spoke, wrote, took sides — not in concealed anonymity but openly in full public view. This writer is not always aligned with all their views, yet, one respects their right of expression. And their right to protection from unlawful force.

The civil part of ‘Partial Law’ does not even acknowledge that one of them is actually a genuine journalist. In a video on social media, the honourable Federal Information Minister responds to a question about Imran Riaz Khan’s disappearance by instantly, robustly denying that he is a bona fide journalist.

Instead, she categorized him as a partisan political person, a member of a political party and therefore undeserving to be termed a journalist. If this view had come as a second or a third part of the response, it may have been understandable and could be debated.

The shocking immediacy of unconcern, of disregard for his disappearance was most disturbing. Regardless of a human being’s political or professional credentials, the right to simply be around, to be with family, at work, or elsewhere, should surely have been the first aspect on which the response focused.

Whether in the Lahore High Court which is addressing Imran Riaz Khan’s disappearance or the Islamabad High Court that reviewed Sami Ebrahim’s invisibility until his return, both civil and military intelligence agencies reportedly denied that either of them was in their custody. Which is so reassuring.

Yet also deeply disturbing. If they were/are not with them, then who were they with, and in one case, still is? Are they surrogate or vigilante-type groups that cannot be termed “official” while also enjoying anonymity?

Ironically, denials only reinforce the nebulous nature of ‘Partial Law’. It functions in a system of surveillance that invisibly invades privacy, taps phones, records conversations, releases them at scripted or improvised stages, tracks last-known whereabouts of disappeared persons by tracing call records.

These reflect the unacknowledged yet very real capacity of both realms to wield power —- and also claim powerlessness before the Courts of Law.

A bizarre touch is added by the fact that Sami Ebrahim’s last traceable phone-determined location before his return was reportedly close to the Judicial Housing Complex in Rawalpindi. So close to justice, yet so far from it!

When ‘Partial Law’ prevails and persons go absent, multiple possibilities torment their loved ones, and well-wishers. In purely civil or in plainly martial frameworks, at least the person’s whereabouts, charges faced, trial dates, detention conditions , bail prospects are mostly known and visible. If not so, equipped with bare specifics, the media, the streets, the Courts can be used by their families and citizens to raise a din.

The horror of disappearance under ‘Partial Law’ is the starkness and silence of the unknown. How is the person being treated? Humiliated, undressed, photographed, filmed, juxtaposed forcibly with others to concoct degrading images which can be released if required, compelled to listen to threats against family members, deprived of light, food, water, sleep, interrogated, tortured, threatened, abused, forced to write self-incriminating confessions, or subject to forced reorientation, or sign a pre-prepared statement? Or, simply left alone, in a closed space from which there is no escape, no phone, no news, no indication of when the agony will end.

Often, those who return from enforced disappearances decline to share details. Very few do. That chosen, willful quietness about so loud and brazen a violation only magnifies the likely unspeakability of offences or threats against them.

The ambivalence of ‘Partial Law’ is compounded because it is learnt from reliable sources — and from some openly stated political views — that at the highest levels of both civil and military spheres, the Superior and even some of the Sessions Courts are seen as being unduly biased in favour of PTI.

‘Partial Law’ can also be multinational. It operates with impunity outside Pakistan. After the weird experience of having umpteen cases registered against him in all Provinces, an outstanding Pakistani temporarily departs his country. He is then encouraged to move from Dubai to Nairobi — only to be murdered in cold blood.

The so-far inexplicably unsolved, tragic assassination in Kenya of the courageous journalist Arshad Sharif in November 2022 reflects the dire need for both the civil and military spheres to ensure holistic, not selective and partial application of law, to respect human dignity, prevent disappearances, killings and darkest despair.

‘Partial Law’ weakens and demeans Pakistan far more than it punishes or damages a political party or its leaders, be they law-abiding as they should be, or irresponsible and destructive. Let the declared, known Law of the land — Law that is just and fair, not Partial and arbitrary — be applied to all, without fear or favour.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Javed Jabbar

The writer is a former Senator and Federal Information Minister and author.


Comments are closed.

Sumaroo Jun 08, 2023 09:03am
Million dollar question: When they can not defend one house how can they defend the nation?
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Sumaroo Jun 08, 2023 09:05am
"‘Partial Law’ weakens and demeans Pakistan far more than it punishes or damages a political party or its leaders, be they law-abiding as they should be, or irresponsible and destructive. Let the declared, known Law of the land — Law that is just and fair, not Partial and arbitrary — be applied to all, without fear or favour. " Partial law? What planet author is on? There is no rule of law...or following of constitution...its indirect martial law!
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KU Jun 08, 2023 11:29am
The protestor-turned-mob crowd committed crimes against defense monuments and properties, but are they the enemy of the state? There seems to be an urgency and push for quick justice without following the due process of law and investigation, and this does not bode well for the democratic system which we claim to follow. Among various questions, few beg answers. If Baloch separatists are considered as misled youth and encouraged to join the folds of society and pardoned for raising arms against the country, then why is the current situation deemed unpardonable? Every year thousands of citizens experience crime, murder, rape, kidnappings, and property fraud, and are not given timely justice, has anyone shown any urgency or interest in protecting the citizens, or has it become a norm? And what about economic crimes against the country committed by our leaders and elite, have they been pardoned as well?
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Nabil Jun 08, 2023 04:01pm
@KU, Because it was a staged black swan!
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Khawaja Shah Karamatullah Jun 08, 2023 07:20pm
It's referred to as Parental Control and he was himself part of this partial law the soft image during Mush era. His write up is very good effort to camouflage the fact that it was the nexus of command and control was Establishment all these years.
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Tulukan Mairandi Jun 09, 2023 12:17am
Jinnah's failed experiment.
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M Saleem Chaudhry Jun 09, 2023 02:30pm
Salute to my friend and old business associate Javed Jabbar a professional of unquestionable integrity and exceptional competence having the same traits in field of politics wherein he once upon time served as Senator and federal minister for exposing current ground realities of Pakistan threadbare by coining a new term Partial Law the most befitting description of the prevailing environment. His concern for missing persons particularly journalists and media persons is reflective of his being a gem of human beings in fact a blessing for Pakistanis and humanity at large. He has explicitly described rather exposed the cobweb of security and intelligence agencies and the limitations of our judiciary already placed as130/136 in the prevailing of Partial Law
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Tariq Niazi Jun 09, 2023 06:09pm
JJ has superbly put the facts in nost subtler manner...God Bless Him.
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Ali Shah Jun 09, 2023 06:14pm
What happened on May 9th, was shocking and every Pakistani condemns it. That was "failure" of Police and Rangers allowing a mob to enter secure Cantonment and reach Corp Commander's House. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Police IG should be fired for their failure. The army must investigate failure to protect the area and absence of Fire Brigade which could have stopped any fire. Not forgetting, India's 5th generation warfare where such things are done to harm the country. Indian agents infiltrated the mob to cause mayhem and fled the area. Why did the government allow public to visit the crime scene for two days and take pictures? - PDM government may have staged the crisis to blame PTI? - That is Treason.
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Zahid Imran Jun 10, 2023 06:09pm
Your dishonesty distracts from some of your Human Rights issues which everyone supports. You start the history of Partial Law from 2023. A big distortion and denial of reality in service of your political narrative which makes your tears for human rights violation like a crocodile’s tears. Read the interviews of Imran Khan. “It was Bajwa all the way from 2018 and even before”.
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Zahid Imran Jun 10, 2023 06:14pm
Distortion of not recent history but immediate history can be done so easily and shamelessly is hard to imagine but then a filmmaker counts on the “willful suspension of belief” of his audience! Hybrid Regime, The Selected, Partial law way before 2018! Sir, be honest.
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Zahid Imran Jun 10, 2023 06:21pm
@Ali Shah, watch what you wish for! Those trying to ask for an investigation of the events of May 9 like many did after 9/11 claiming the failure of the security means “conspiracy from within” are going to be shocked by the results. PTI leadership will be destroyed by investigation. Think!
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Imtiaz Rastgar Jun 10, 2023 08:54pm
Sir, there are also serious intrusions into the economy the partial law. Every one talks about FDI. Actually there is flight of capital and talent from Pakistan. If the establishment cannot encourage local industrialists, big and small, how can you even talk about FDI.
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Syed Jun 10, 2023 09:06pm
Wilfully biased analysis of Pakistan's current political crisis. Conveniently ignoring the criminal who is the origin of this situation, IK. Which country and the state in rhe world allows desecration of its monuments and properties, abuse of its armed forces by turning its head to the other side.
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Syed Jun 10, 2023 09:11pm
Further what freedom of speech the writer defends. Can anyone be allowed to yell and scream in social media and openly in public and on national TVs, on whatever he wants. Most of those pro PTI supporters, (I would definitely not call them journalists, as they were literally IK's spokesperson) crossed all boundaries defending IK. Who knows one of them was killed by the master (IK) himself to achieve his goal.
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Syed Jun 10, 2023 09:17pm
If you are a proponent of free speech then why your people so vociferously oppose Swedish and Dutch newspapers publishing religious cartoons. Obviously, the answer is, there is no free speech, you are responsible for what you say and you cannot utter offensive discourse. You are allowed to fill up your mind with whatever you want. As much as you loathe Imran Riaz Khan, his diatribe was despised by plenty.
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Ali Jun 10, 2023 10:38pm
Worst times in Pakistan in terms of human rights, media freedom and voilation of constitution. Army has ruined the pride of tbis nation.
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Tanveer Sadiq Jun 11, 2023 12:41am
It’s a surgical article on the miserable political situation in Pakistan. Alas !!! One may not like it but truth remains the truth even if it is said and followed by one person.
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AI Jun 11, 2023 03:37am
Thank you Mr Jabber for penning this piece. Pakistan needs more brave and intelligent voices to come forward to stop the tyranny.
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Mujahid Jun 11, 2023 07:38am
@Sumaroo, Partial law... History is repeating itself: Rewind back: 1971: A Sindhi Wadera and Punjabi elite/general acted brilliantly on a foreign script (Civil War)! Constitution was abrogated! Ballots were crushed by Bullets! Country got divided as as result of their arrogance of ignorance! Fast Forward: 2023: Sindhi Waderas and Punjabi elite/generals, again acting marvelously on a foreign script (economic warfare)! Country is polarized and is on a threshold of a civil war! Constitution is again abrogated! Ballots are again threatened by bullets! Arrogance of ignorance has reach new heights! No lessons learnt! Where have all sane and wise people gone?
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Abid Khawaja Hussain Jun 11, 2023 12:46pm
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Abid Khawaja Hussain Jun 11, 2023 12:47pm
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Jamil Jun 11, 2023 02:26pm
Javed Jabbar himself has been part of this partial law. He was member of Zia's Mujlis e Shura and Information Minister of Musharaf. He ows us an explaination for this manifest contradiction.
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KU Jun 11, 2023 03:36pm
@Mujahid, Absolutely spot-on analysis. The sane and wise have now become capitalists and investors in a system that doles out benefits without interest or accountability.
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A Pakistani Jun 11, 2023 04:49pm
True picture of the situation, I wish you had mentioned the arrests of Thousands of innocent political workers including bright young ladles.
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Afzal R Jun 11, 2023 09:23pm
JJ, thanks for your timely article on the of civil liberties in PK. Partial law is an excellent metonym for misrule & mayhem that exists in PK today. I doubt if the GHQ will care to remember Abraham Lincoln's quote: "Force is all conquering, but its victories are short lived".
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Syed Jun 11, 2023 09:49pm
Lawless country Pakistan controls by criminals people they don’t care about the law and they want everybody else follow the law whatever they doing is unlawful nobody if anybody tells the truth they put them in jail or make them disappear them unbelievable
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Mushtaq Hussain Jun 12, 2023 01:06am
Appreciated for your ingenuity to introduce new words like PARTIAL LAW ... Your views have always been both educative and informative but yet reassuring in these times of suffocating prohibitions and state brutalities where Lifafas have belittled the meaning of journalism
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Murtaza Jun 12, 2023 11:51am
One of the best articles I have read in recent times.
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Asmat Jamal Jun 12, 2023 12:06pm
The situation in Pak Sar Zamin couldn't have been better explained. We are getting deeper in the morass of slavery and poverty
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Mujahid Jun 12, 2023 01:40pm
@Afzal R, President Lincoln has also said: "Ballots are better than Bullets" America is a super power becasue everyone from Generals to Presidents respect the constitution! The Generals of No 1 Army in the world do not posses free "Real Estate" and do not create a state within a state!
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Mujahid Jun 12, 2023 01:41pm
@Sumaroo, And most important of all...what will it take for generals to respect the constitution!
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Mujahid Jun 12, 2023 01:42pm
@Zahid Imran, Its called being politically correct! A hallmark of the author!
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Tanveer Jun 12, 2023 01:45pm
@Mujahid, They have left the country...brain drain..a sell-designed keep masses poor and uneducated so no body can challenge their rule!
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Tanveer Jun 12, 2023 01:47pm
@Jamil, JJ is their own man!
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Tanveer Jun 12, 2023 01:49pm
@KU, Right on the money...the country has been hijacked by the corrupt ruling elite...the voices 230 million people have been brutally curbed!
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Tanveer Jun 12, 2023 01:55pm
@Nabil, It shows the deterioration of professional standards of the institution...from recruitment to accountability for wrong doing...corruption to punishment for toying with the constitution!
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Moid Jun 12, 2023 08:28pm
The White colonial rule has been replaced by the Brown one...the Generals have made Pakistan their colony.
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Abid Hussain Jun 13, 2023 12:32am
What a bottomline at the bottom of the article!
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