SIXTEEN years, more than what a life sentence is in many systems of jurisprudence, is what Aftab Masih has spent in the Kot Lakhpat Jail. That too, on death row. The Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday and the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, who had been visiting the said jail to meet with condemned prisoners discovered Aftab Masih languishing there, who had been sentenced by a speedy trials court way back in 1993. The LHC CJ has directed the Jail Superintendent to appear before the court and explain the details of the case. The details about the status of his appeals have not been found. This is, of course, a travesty. It speaks volumes about the state of the justice system in the country. If the said judges hadn't made the trip, Masih would still be there, unaware of his fate and the jail bureaucracy would not have been too pushed about him. The current political government, after taking the political wind out of the sails of the Swat militants by signing the Nizam-e-Adl regulations, has decided to go into an all-out war against them. The decision to go into war is correct. But the need for the aforementioned regulation emerged only because it was a longstanding, curiously secular (despite the nomenclature) demand of the people of the valley. It had merely been hijacked by the militants. The lethargic justice system still has many unresolved land property cases that had been initiated back when Swat was merged into Pakistan proper as a tribal area and not a princely state. Even though Malakand's claim to a different system might have been greater, everybody across the country has an axe to grind against the judicial system. When militant groups present a different, seemingly better (it is anything but) system, they will get local support. Cases like Aftab Masih's might become one of the many footnotes in the history of Pakistan's descent into chaos. The battle for Pakistan must be won through war in some parts of the country, but through better service delivery of the state in all parts of the country.