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EditorialJudge individuals, not institutions

Judge individuals, not institutions

Speaking at the annual Asma Jahangir Conference, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that the people should judge individuals for their actions and not the whole institution. He gave many examples from the judiciary, bureaucracy, and the military and reiterated that it is not the institution that is flawed, but the individual who makes certain decisions. Therefore, it is the individual that should be held accountable. He also focused on the sanctity of the constitution and said when that is violated, the country suffers immensely. On joint investigation teams (JIT), he said that they are not required unless the case is related to terrorism. However, in this country, every other case is given to JITs.

A state’s constitution is its backbone. Without this document, there is no law and order and nobody knows what duties their roles entail. It is imperative to guard the sanctity of this document for the rule of law to exist and for democracy to prevail. In Pakistan, however, the constitution has been put on hold on many occasions. The country has seen several long periods of military rule in which the constitution has been disrespected. The blame for this cannot be put on an institution but on individuals who, for whatever reason, could not respect the backbone of the state. On the face of it, two out of three branches of the state endorsed the takeovers. However, it is the individuals who are to blame for these actions.

Democracy is fundamental for development, as seen in most cases around the world. In Pakistan’s case, the authoritarian rule took over democracy for more than a quarter of its history, resulting in the poor development of institutions. This resulted in an unequal distribution of power among the most important institutions in the country. Currently, the country has gone the longest without any martial law. However, it is no secret that governments have to compromise on their principles in order to come into or remain in power. The musical chairs that political parties have been playing over the years is due to their stance for or against one of the most powerful institutions in the country.

Although the actions of individuals do not represent institutions, it is imperative to see why they are empowered enough to take those actions. Institutions, by a broad definition, are the rules of the game which must be followed to embark on the road of growth and development. When one institution gains excessive power, the system does not work properly. Individuals represent their institutions, and it is their actions that give life to them. With the systemic degeneration, in the end, individuals themselves become the institution as power is kept at a certain position. This is why some individuals become so powerful that they end up taking over the country directly or indirectly. Therefore, it is crucial to have a balance of power within a state, and this is where the trichotomy of the executive, legislature, and judiciary plays an important role. Once power is equally divided among institutions and not individuals, and loyalties lie with the state, states are more likely to progress.

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