Advocate Hamid Khan speaks on Importance of Rule of Law in Society

Mr Hamid Khan, Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan, gave a plenary lecture at the FCC Department of History entitled ‘The Importance of the Rule of Law in Society’ on 7 December 2012. Mr Khan is the former President Supreme Court Bar Association, and founding member and Senior Vice President Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf .

Speaking to a packed room of over 150 students and faculty members, Mr Khan first described what was meant by the rule of law. He stated that the attributes of the Rule of Law were: absence of arbitrary law, equality (or equal protection) before the law, due process, presence of civil liberties, and the separation of powers.

He then charted the benefits to society of the rule of law. He said, “When there is rule of law there is stability or else there will be anarchy.” He also argued that development, peace and security are all predicated on the existence of the rule of law. Without the presence of the rule of law, a society simply cannot move forward. Hamid Khan also stated that one of the great benefits of the rule of law is the end of arbitrariness. He said,  ”Arbitrariness creates oppression of the rich and powerful.” He gave the example of military courts, where the judge can simply declare a person guilty or not guilty without giving any reason, as the prime example of arbitrariness. “What is then the point of arguing a case before a military court if the judge refuses to give reasons for his judgment,” Khan iterated.

Answering questions, Hamid Khan stated, “There is no real rule of law in Pakistan. In a country where even the Chief Justice is denied justice, how can there be rule of law in society?” He accepted that there was lack of due process in Pakistan which needed to be addressed.

Hamid Khan stressed that there was nothing inherently wrong with the system—the issue was how we run it.  He recalled that people breathed a sigh of relief when the British instituted law courts in the Indian subcontinent, as before there was no concept of the rule of law.

Replying to another question on judicial activism in Pakistan, Hamid Khan said that political space was given by other institutions for the Supreme Court to interfere. He recalled that in Delhi there was no political will for improving the environment by banning two stroke rickshaws, so the Supreme Court had to intervene. He said that Delhi Chief Minister Ms Sheila Dixit herself admitted the beneficial role of the Supreme Court in this regard.

On a question about him being the lawyer for Malik Riaz, Hamid Khan clarified that he only represented Riaz on certain land issues, and that he disassociated himself from Riaz as soon as the latter began to defame the judiciary.

Admitting that there were a number of issues with the judiciary itself, including questions of accountability, Hamid Khan stressed that in the end we need “morality—by which I mean honesty,” through which we can bring positive change and development.