Islamabad—Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali said that the country had been passing through extraordinarily difficult times marked by terrorism for the last many years as violence and corruption continued to challenge the criminal justice system.
He said according to reports on the recent Gulshan-i-Iqbal suicide bombing incident, over 72 innocent citizens lost their lives and at least 300 were injured with many more directly affected such as family members.
Legislature, in its wisdom, had taken steps, “but we, as the justice sector, also need to address this scenario to our best efforts in our respective areas of competence and available resources,” he added. Addressing the first national conference of the provincial justice committees here, he said,”I have no doubt that the low conviction rate is a matter of concern for us all. It reflects on us both as individual organizations and collectively, as interdependent multi-organisational justice sector. And rightly so; since no one organization acting on its own can significantly change the conviction rate, as it requires a collective sector-wide coordinated and concerted effort from all parts of the justice sector.”
The CJP said that beyond everyday functions, “it must concern us that this apparent ‘inability’ to provide justice to the aggrieved, adversely affects public confidence in the formal justice system, encouraging citizens to seek justice by whatever means possible, thereby undermining the formal rule of law. We need to therefore come together to learn from each other, deliberate on what we can do and move together to improve the quality of our justice services.”
He said this conference thus dealt with some of the more difficult questions that “we must address to ensure a fair and effective criminal justice system. It requires us to critically, honestly, openly and constructively reflect on our performance.”
He was of the view that the provincial justice committees were key to this effort. “The provincial justice committees can reach out to the district level through their local service delivery units such as the local police stations and courts; and also as members of the district criminal justice coordination committees whose performance and recommendations can now be reviewed directly by a provincial counterpart. The provincial justice committees are thus well placed to examine the quality of service delivery based on officials and citizens’ feedback.”
The Chief Justice said that the information technology could be a significant enabler and multiplier to improve service delivery including transparency and reducing discretion.
“We are pleased to learn that there have been significant achievements in the application of information technology as management and operational tools, as information databases to store and retrieve information efficiently, and as social media to engage and inform citizens,” he added.
Chief Justice Jamali said that secretary LJCP, the ex officio secretary for all the provincial justice committees, the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan could ensure horizontal coordination between the respective provincial justice committees to share and exchange ideas and learn from each other. “Similarly, the Commission can provide an important vertical linkage between the provinces and the federal level to ensure communication and coordination. For this purpose, we also need to strengthen the Commission’s capacities to provide effective technical and coordination support to the respective committees.”