Now that one offender from the motorway gang rape has been caught and the other is also expected to be apprehended soon, the question that confronts authorities is just how to deal with these degenerates. The entire purpose behind upholding the law by awarding punishment is to deter would be criminals by the sheer unpleasantness of the penalty. Yet there are instances, and our own country presents one of the finest examples, where the existence of laws and even, on occasion, implementation of punishments does not keep criminals from going about their business with full confidence. What then is the state to do? It is, after all, responsible for safety of life and property of all citizens. And if the arrangement in place is not working, clearly another approach is needed.
Once again this ugly incident has stirred calls for public exactions of convicted rapists. If some reports in the press are to be believed even the prime minister has expressed disgust about the said crime and advocated very strict punishment. But there are also people, even among enlightened and liberal groups, who believe that extreme punishments do not solve the problem and a different, far deeper approach is called for; one that address societal and psychological factors behind the most disgusting and disturbing crimes. Whichever way the government decides is better suited to the situation we all confront, it will have to carry out this important debate very soon.
Either way one thing is crystal clear. Criminals like the rapist that was caught by the police are able to tear the law to shreds with such reckless abandon only because they know that the chances of the law catching up with them are very thin. Even in this and the last few cases, the police was forced to move so quickly because of all the pressure that unprecedented media coverage put on the government of the day. Whether it is better to execute merciless rapists in public or in an execution chamber, crimes like rape will not diminish in number until the law, and agencies that enforce the law, are made so strong that all criminals are caught and made horrible examples out of. Surely that is one area where the government can begin to pull its socks up.
Ease of doing business
The government is right to think about policies that would not only boost the industrial sector but also address that lingering problem about ease of doing business. It’s one thing to give industry tax rebates and other such incentives but unless you cut some of the cumbersome red tape even such measures can only achieve so much. After all, it’s an open secret that anybody wishing to set up any new production unit has to have so many phone calls made to so many relevant officials and grease countless palms that very few consider the whole exercise even worth the effort at the end of the day.
There’s another reason that industrial transformation must happen now. This government has made some impressive strides forward since the lockdown was lifted, and even grabbed some export markets from some other countries even though some of those gains have since petered out, so it must now also take the additional step and finally initiate the process that ultimately adds value to both production and exports. That the government seems going down that road finally is a welcome sign, even though all sorts of stakeholders have very justifiable reasons to be skeptical. That is because these are the kind of promises that all governments make.
Wasn’t it Commerce Advisor to Prime Minister Abdul Razak Dawood, back when he was commerce minister in the early Musharraf government, who said these same things and made the same promises to the business community? Yet, to give credit where it is due, even though the Musharraf years were far better for anybody trying to earn a living by indulging in commerce, it’s not as if he situation improved at all in the long run. But now we as a country stand at a far more crucial crossroads. Failure to put things right and overhaul the revenue generating mechanism, of which exports are a central part, would mean that the economy would surely crash and the country collapse in the not-too-distant future. Improving production is not going to be an easy task, especially if it is to translate into more export earnings. But it is a step that has to be taken. Governments usually shy away from such things because they take a lot of money for something that will become visible after a long time. But this government has come to power at a time when the country no longer has a choice. It must do the right thing and it must do it now.