It is premature to say that the events that transpired within Lahore on the 17th of June shall be preserved in infamy in our collective public conscience forever. Several persons were killed and countless injured, but we are a fickle people and today’s atrocity is tomorrow’s vague recollection. It may perhaps be called a coping mechanism in a country in which even empathy for the plight of so many disappears as quickly as it develops; pelted as we are by an unrelenting avalanche of outrageous events.

With such little value attributed to human life, it is apparent that our society is fraying rapidly. In a well-ordered society, the basic rule of law framework is predicated upon at least one basic principle: the right to remain safely alive. There is an unspoken agreement between a state and a person that gives the state power over an individual in exchange for certain protections, chief amongst them being the protection of life.

The Constitution of Pakistan also preserves this right. Article 9 states that “no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law.” There are countless domestic and international legal systems constructed around this seminal statement. Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “every human being has the inherent right to life,” and law must protect that right. Article 6(1) further clarifies that, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” This translates to mean that on behalf of the state, any action taken to deprive a person of their life must be in strict accordance with a well-defined law and not without sufficient reason or upon the whims of any individual.

Pursuant to Article 6(1), the Human Rights Committee, the United Nations body tasked with overseeing the implementation of the ICCPR, makes it clear that this preservation of the right to life is not required only in issues like the death penalty. It applies equally to states to prohibit arbitrary killing by a state’s security forces. This comment on our legal obligation as a state under this Article makes plain that “the deprivation of life by the authorities of the State is a matter of the utmost gravity.” The law, as it were, is meant to strictly control the circumstances in which people may be deprived of their lives by entities of the state.

This right as we see it written in the Constitution or in an international treaty is almost comically, perhaps tragically, oversimplified. The state is charged with protecting the right to life in all manner of ways, including from its own arbitrary acts of aggression. These recent events are indicative of the aftermath of direct or indirect actions that expose the callous indifference of state entities towards the public-at-large. More often than may be admitted, disinterested state actors flagrantly violate fundamental rights for personal gain.

Presumably, those presently in a position to make decisions on behalf of the state in whatever capacity, have withdrawn from any sense of duty for several possible reasons. It is possible that they have misinterpreted age-old political theories that prescribe the conditioning of a fearful rather than loving body public. Under this misguided influence, they are conducting themselves in a manner that is almost comically villainous in an attempt to strike fear into the hearts of Pakistan’s people. It is also possible that after enjoying the pleasures of a Scrooge McDuck-esque swim through piles of earnestly swindled money, these entities are addicted to overtly corrupt practices no matter the cost. It may even be plausible that aliens have taken over their bodies to institute anarchy in a plot to eventually take over the earth.

This verbal jaunt into the ridiculous is not meant to belittle or make light of what has transpired in Pakistan in the past several days. What occurred, what continues to occur is tragic and demoralizing to us not only as individuals, but also as a nation.What is written above is meant to shed light on what possible alternate course of thought the representatives of our nation must have endeavored upon to continuously allow such events to occur. It would be easier to believe one of the outlandish theories listed above than to believe it is a byproduct of an eroding government that pays only lip service to its public service institutions or the people they represent. It would be easier to reconcile with an outrageous theory because something as mundane as indifference, as the irrelevance of the common man to those with wealth and power, is far more dangerous.

This would normally be the appropriate point to discuss what may be done to counteract such actions, what may be done to rectify this state of affairs. However, in this instance, a moment of silence for all those that find themselves on the wrong end of the political power and wealth divide may be more appropriate, along with one final thought. We are guaranteed the right to life, a right that may not be arbitrarily expunged, even by the state. If a life has value, it is a presumption based on the belief of the individual and the belief of those around him. This understanding may be self-evident elsewhere in the world, but not Pakistan. If we do not preserve this right by our own action, this deplorable state of affairs shall become the norm.

The writer is a researcher based in Lahore.

mairasheikh1@gmail.com