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When there is no rule of law

Qamar Bashir

By: Qamar Bashir

Pakistan’s ranking on the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index was 129th out of 140 countries, placing it among nations like Myanmar and Sudan, where the rule of law is severely compromised​​. The absence of rule of law creates a society marked by instability, injustice, and suffering. It undermines social cohesion, economic development, and human rights, leading to a deteriorating quality of life and widespread despair. The rule of law is essential for creating a stable, just, and prosperous society where individuals can thrive and communities can develop harmoniously.

In a society where laws are trampled, selectively employed, and the government and its institutions become above the law, numerous adverse consequences arise, leading to instability and suffering. Without the rule of law, a society faces chaos as individuals and groups may resort to violence or take matters into their own hands to protect their interests. Crime rates tend to increase, and personal safety becomes a significant concern.

The absence of rule of law erodes trust in institutions and government. People lose faith in their leaders and the fairness of the system, which can lead to social unrest and political instability. Public cynicism and apathy towards civic engagement increase, weakening the social fabric.

Those in power can govern arbitrarily, making decisions based on personal whims rather than established legal principles. This leads to corruption, favoritism, and abuse of power, as leaders and officials are not held accountable for their actions. In a lawless society, justice is elusive. Victims of crimes and abuses have little hope for redress, and perpetrators often act with impunity. This perpetuates cycles of violence and injustice, as there are no mechanisms to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Countries lacking rule of law often face international isolation. Other nations may impose sanctions or restrict diplomatic and economic ties, viewing the state as unstable and unpredictable. This further exacerbates economic difficulties and hinders development. Sustainable development is severely hindered without the rule of law. Education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other critical sectors suffer from neglect and corruption, preventing long-term progress and improvement in quality of life for the population.

In a country where there is widespread perception powerful Supra Executive(SE)  in a country has co opted legislatures, intimidate the judiciary, use the civil bureaucracy as tool to perpetuate terror, and where free press is throttled,  the country faces  serious and far-reaching implications for the democratic fabric and institutional integrity of the country.

Intimidating the judiciary undermines the principle of judicial independence, a cornerstone of democracy. When judges feel threatened or coerced, they may not be able to make impartial decisions based on the law and constitution. This can lead to a lack of fair trials, miscarriages of justice, and an overall erosion of public trust in the legal system. It may also discourage qualified individuals from serving in the judiciary, further weakening the institution.

When a country’s legislature is co-opted, it effectively diminishes the checks and balances that are essential to a functioning democracy. Legislatures are meant to represent the will of the people and provide oversight of the executive. If they are co-opted, they may fail to hold the government accountable, pass legislation without proper scrutiny, and ignore the needs and rights of the populace. This can lead to the enactment of laws that benefit a select few rather than the public at large and erode democratic norms

A free and independent press is crucial for transparency and accountability in governance. When the government throttles the free press, it limits the flow of information, restricts public discourse, and hampers investigative journalism. This can prevent the exposure of corruption, abuses of power, and other governmental malfeasance. Without a free press, citizens are left in the dark about the actions of their leaders, undermining informed public participation and eroding trust in democratic institutions.

When there is widespread perception that the government itself is involved in breaking the rule of law, abducting its own people, destroying properties and businesses, attacking its citizens using proxies, torturing individuals, abducting political activists, and undermining political parties while promoting others, the implications for the country, society, and its people are severe and multifaceted.

Trust in leaders and institutions erodes, leading to a breakdown in the social contract and a climate of suspicion and fear. Social and political instability becomes rampant, with protests, strikes, and civil disobedience escalating into violence. Human rights abuses create widespread fear and repression, stifling free speech and democratic engagement. Economic decline follows as instability deters investment, increasing poverty and unemployment. International isolation through sanctions and trade restrictions cripples the economy further, while diplomatic relationships deteriorate. Public disillusionment grows, leading to emigration of skilled individuals and further weakening the country’s prospects for recovery. The legal system breaks down, losing credibility and the ability to enforce laws impartially, resulting in corruption and lawlessness. Long-term consequences include generations growing up in an environment where violence and injustice are normalized, making the rebuilding of trust and restoration of the rule of law a challenging and lengthy process.

On the other hand, In a society where the government, institutions, and individuals follow the rule of law, numerous positive outcomes emerge. Trust in institutions and government strengthens, fostering social and political stability. Citizens are confident that justice is served impartially, which enhances personal safety and reduces crime. Human rights are protected, allowing free expression and active civic participation. This stability attracts investment, spurring economic growth and raising living standards. Public engagement increases, with citizens actively participating in the political process and community development. Accountability is maintained through a free and independent judiciary, a free press, and transparent institutions, reducing corruption and ensuring efficient use of public resources. The legislature enacts laws that promote fairness and social welfare, addressing societal issues equitably. A free press keeps the public well-informed, enabling educated decision-making and holding leaders accountable. Social cohesion and equality are strengthened, as everyone is treated equally under the law, fostering a sense of belonging and unity. Ultimately, such a society thrives, achieving prosperity, equality, and cohesion, with trust in leadership and a shared commitment to justice and fairness. Choice is ours.

By: Qamar Bashir

Former Press Secretary to the President

Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France

Former MD, SRBC






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