It is said that justice delayed is justice denied, and in Pakistan's northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), which is generally plagued by too little education and too much terrorism, justice can often get delayed.
That's where mobile courts come in. These buses painted with the colors of the Pakistani flag have been launched in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's capital of Peshawar by the provincial government under the flagship of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), according to Saach TV. The court aims to bring expeditious and low-priced justice to the doorsteps of the people.
KPK is the province well-known Pakistani teen activist Malala comes from; it shares a border with the drone-targeted tribal areas and Afghanistan and has been affected by war, terrorism and floods the last few years. Repeated hearings in clogged courts situated far from home are an expensive affair for many citizens. Eleven such mobile courts for swift justice have been planned for the province with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme.
It's not the first time that mobile courts have been introduced in Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari issued a decree in 2009 to create mobile courts so that justice could be delivered quickly and to the doorsteps of individuals living in far-flung areas of the country. However, opposition parties at the time feared that mobile courts might target their activists during anti-government protests led by the lawyers’ movement to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was ousted by the country's former president General Pervez Musharraf. But Asif Ali Zardari's mobile courts ordinance was labeled as ‘unconstitutional’ by lawyers, and at that time PTI chief Imran Khan called them “kangaroo courts” that would suppress democratic norms. Under pressure, the president and the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) retreated on the idea.
Social media users have actively discussed this new justice delivery system. Nadia Naviwala (@NadiaNavi) announced:
Pakistan's first mobile court starts dispensing justice http://t.co/nEtlH6ujog
— Nadia Naviwala (@NadiaNavi) August 29, 2013
Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) posted a picture:
A mobile court van is parked at PDA Building during a hearing in Peshawar. Mobile Courts in KP passed the 1st verdict pic.twitter.com/RvrGn6At1e
— Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) August 27, 2013
The Express Tribune tagged it as “Justice on Wheels”. Dunya TV reported:
The mobile court has been established in a special bus and has been completed with financial assistance provided by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Such courts will hold sittings at town, union councils, police stations or other places specified by the high court on rotation basis as may be directed by the district judge.
— UN Development (@UNDP) August 29, 2013
On its first day, the mobile court heard 30 cases in Peshawar. According to news reports, it freed juveniles from jail, heard property disputes and imposed small fines.
1st mobile court of Pakistan settled 28 cases out of 30 cases in its 1st camp in Hayatabad Peshawar.
— Pervaiz Khattak (@Pervaiz_Khattak) August 28, 2013
Mobile courts have received a warm reception in the province as well as in the rest of Pakistan. News anchor and journalist Wajih Sani (@wajih_sani) tweeted:
Mobile Courts In Peshawar a very postive initiative by KPK Govt (PTI) must be appreciated. Geo News covering this News
— Wajih Sani (@wajih_sani) August 27, 2013
Twitter user @TheNewNormal_ shared a photograph published by The Express Tribune on its Facebook page the day mobile courts were functional:
— حسام (@TheNewNormal_) August 28, 2013
A working journalist from Peshawar, Musaratullah Jan explained in his personal blog that how journalists were oriented about the mobile courts by the KPK government.
The opponents of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) like Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), even lauded the initiative. Syed Ali Raza Abidi (@abidifactor), a Muttahida Qaumi Movement party member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and a blogger for the Express Tribune, tweeted in the following words:
Mobile court bus at KPK is a great step by the Government. But I hope they have planned a strategy to keep it safe from terrorist attack.
— Syed Ali Raza Abidi (@abidifactor) August 27, 2013