A key tool / weapon in the use of mass and collective violence of so-called ‘tribal’ societies of Pakistan is the prejudiced presumption that these are ‘lawless’ communities, or communities that have ‘traditional law’ or even no ‘rule of law’. Few have examined the idea of ‘rule of law’, and the use of this convention to oppress and dominate those who have something that does not look like what is basically a bizarre belief that only anglo-american ideas of law are valid descriptions of ‘rule of law’.
As Ugo Mattei, in his essay ”Emergency based predatory capitalism'(see the book: “contemporary states of emergency”, edited by Didier Fassin / Mariella Pandolfi) , points out.
“It is worth repeating that whatever sense of the term (rule of law) we choose, the meaning of ‘the rule of law’ finds its roots in the deepest self-conscious of Western civilisation. It is certainly remote from non-Western political experiences. The ‘Orientalism’ that altogether dominates Western political discourse feeds on the perception of the ‘other’ (the non-Western) as lacking ‘the rule of law’ and therefore lacking ‘law’ itself, and consequently the basis of human rights. This discourse rejects the idea that the legal profession is just one of the ways in which conflicts can be governed in complex society. It perhaps may be a ‘better’ technical instrument, but certainly is not a more legitimate one from a democratic perspective, since jurists lack democratic legitimacy. From this perspective, the narrative around the legal history of people considered ‘without history’ is false beyond all limits.”
Ruskola’s has a fascinating book called “Legal Orientalism” which examines the impact of these legal prejudices on China.
See a short video about this work here.
But we have a similar pattern in Pakistan, where a ridiculously disconnected legal apparatus, discourse, and ethic, infects the entire Pakistani legal system. To say nothing of the repeated use of ‘the rule of law’ as a means to discard and dismiss entire communities and societies existing legal and civic practices and imposing upon them the band-aid and paper glue Pakistani legal system, complete with its hideous colonial continuities, prejudices, arrogances and violence.
Legal scholar Obaid Siddique’s new book ‘Pakistan’s Experience With Formal Law: An Alien Experience’, captures one aspect of this situation.
However, I am particularly intrigued by the ease with which so-called ‘tribal’ communities – a label that is not only a legacy of colonial arrogance and justification for murderous pacification i.e mass slaughter, have repeatedly been the victims of the state’s attempts at ‘civilising missions’, all performed from the safety of draconian authoritarian legal structures that kill first and ask questions later. And despite this decades of violence, despite this complete evisceration of non-Western legal practices and codes in these communities, we are told that it is ‘they’ who have no law, and it is they who are barbaric and lawless. A recent example of the sickening racism and ignorant judgement – a judgement that condemns the so-called ‘tribal’ people to mass murder and brutality, was offered by the deviant and ridiculous Dawn columnist Irfan Husain, where he declared – in absolutely and complete contradiction of known and documented history and facts – that:
WHAT do Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Mali, northern Nigeria, Pakistan’s tribal areas and Yemen have in common?
They all have Muslim populations, are socially backward, mistreat women, and have a profound distrust of reason and modern education. Above all, they are tribal societies that use Islam to rationalise and uphold archaic tribal values and laws.
Unsurprisingly, most of them are caught up in violent conflicts fuelled in equal parts by tribal loyalties, faith and ignorance. Shia-Sunni rivalry is one fault line dividing the Muslim world. The second one is the tension between those aspiring to democracy, and the autocrats who oppress and misrule them.
The buzz words run wild. Democracy. Mistreatment of Women. And of course: Archaic Tribal Values And Laws. Now lets kill them.
The rule of law. A series of laws and legal arrangements designed to protect the interests of the powerful, and in particular, the propertied. The rule of law – always imposed on those from whom we are stealing at will, and killing with ease. The rule of law – a pretext to violate the sanctity of human life, and remove any and all attempts at social, economic and political equality and power. It is time for us to examine what this ‘rule of law’ is, and how it actually manifests itself in the lives of the people in Pakistan. We will find quite the ugly truth.