There is an old adage for prioritisation that states “task-2 will never be as important as task-1”. Essentially, the bottom will never be as important as the top of the to-do list. The National Action Plan (NAP), which was created in a state of grief after the horrendous attack that left 133 schoolchildren dead on December 16, 2014, contains 20 points. It is no wonder then, that hanging people on death row (point-1) and passing verdicts in military courts (point-2) have been implemented judiciously, but improvements in the criminal justice sector (point-20), has seen minimal progress. Similarly, it is no surprise then, that in a recent report by the World Justice Project (WJP), Pakistan ranked 105 out of 113 countries, squarely in the bottom 10 of the list. The other countries sharing the shameful bottom rungs of this ladder were Uganda (104), Bolivia (106), Ethiopia (107), Zimbabwe (108), Cameroon (109), Egypt (110), Afghanistan (111), Cambodia (112), and Venezuela (113). Rule of law in Pakistan seems more tenuous than ever. It would be easy to blame a general lack of civic education, an absence of understanding about responsibilities in addition to rights, and a distinct deficiency in constitutional education. It would also be easy to blame the common man, citing examples of traffic laws being treated as mere suggestions by ordinary commuters, or settling differences by fistfights in the streets as the norm, or parallel judicial systems such as panchayat and jirga to be responsible for this sordid state of affairs. The fact is, treating rule of law as a joke starts at the highest echelons of power, and trickles down to the motorcyclist breaking the red light every opportunity he gets. The starkest recent example of this is the case of disgraced policeman Rao Anwar, who is held responsible for literally hundreds of extrajudicial murders. He has not seen the inside of a jail cell for a single day and continues to be under house arrest… inside the comfort and confines of his own house, catered to by his well-wishers and sycophants. Earlier in the week, a convoy transporting a Sindh High Court (SHC) Judge Faisal Kamal, in its noble crusade to barrel down the highways of Karachi with nary a thought to the mere mortals that dare not cross its path, decided to detain and severely manhandle lawyer-turned-activist Jibran Nasir for the simple crime of driving in his lane and refusing to give way to the unlawful special protocol. Jibran’s car was shoved to the side, his person assaulted, and he was taken to a police station. Pakistan is in dire need of reforms in the criminal justice sector. There needs to be a complete ban on how certain citizens are given a privileged status based on position, connections or political influence. Comprehensive civic education is also needed The police claimed that he was not under arrest and not beaten, both of which have been disproven by a medical exam and the Facebook Live video which shows him being taken to the police station against his will. In Islamabad, next to the district courts in the heart of F8 Markaz, there are hundreds of illegal offices constructed by the untouchable lawyer mafia. Despite several petitions to the local administration and authorities, police, the lawyers themselves, and even the courts, no one has been able to lift a finger to end this illegal encroachment. Just recently, right next to the police barricade that guards the entrance to the courts, six new offices have sprung up, literally overnight, by cordoning off a part of the road, and cementing an artificial boundary. To summarise, the above three examples illustrate how a high raking police officer, a senior judge’s convoy, and lawyers in Pakistan are systematically decimating the concept of rule of law daily. Is it really a surprise then that the rule of law index by the WJP places us so close to the bottom? Pakistan is in dire need of reforms in the criminal justice sector. There needs to be a complete ban on how certain citizens are given a privileged status based on position, connections or political influence. Comprehensive civic education is also needed. For now, the last point in the NAP remains the criminal justice sector reforms. Perhaps the new government can shift priorities and ensure that rule of law remains at the top of the agenda, instead of murder (lifting of the moratorium), and a parallel justice system (military courts). The author serves as a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad, is a freelance journalist, and holds a bachelor and master degree in strategic communications from Ithaca College, NY. He can be reached via email@example.com and Tweets @zeesalahuddin Published in Daily Times, July 5th 2018.