Price Of A Life: Compensation To The Civilian Victims Of Terrorism
An overlooked or rather ignored aspect which needs attention is the amount of compensation awarded to those citizens who leave their homes regularly to earn a livelihood and meet daily needs only to become victims of terrorism. We live in a state that is supposed to provide a constitutional guarantee of security to life and dignity. This guarantee is made against the payment of taxes and duties, which the state imposes from time to time and collects from every citizen directly as well as indirectly. Collection of tax can always be enforced by the state through the use of force when needed, therefore breach on part of the citizen is out of the question, whereas when the state fails to fulfill its obligation in upholding its constitutional guarantee, the same shall be deemed as a ‘breach of duty’. This breach of constitutional guarantee exposes the state to certain consequences, the foremost of which is the payment of compensation to victims of crimes or their legal heirs, besides digging out causes of the incident and taking the culprits to task.
What if the state promulgates laws for compensation of victims of terrorism? The law may, inter alia, contain modalities, for example a fixed amount may be calculated and assessed based on certain criteria, a department be made responsible for disbursement of the amount of compensation and the mode of delivery of the same to the victims or their legal heirs be specified. It will be uniform for all citizens and will give them a right to compensation. Of course the existing circumstances cannot change overnight. So far, compensation given by the state to the victims of terrorism or their legal heirs after incidents of terrorism is variable. Sometimes the compensation awarded to the victim proves to be insufficient compared to the loss sustained. While awarding compensation, the state for instance needs to be conscious of the fact that whether the compensation awarded to a person who lost a part of his or her body would be enough to cater for his or her future needs. It is about time that we stop treating cancer with mere painkillers. The state cannot turn a blind eye towards the victims of terrorism. Looking after the victims by awarding them compensation is a means for the state to recompense its own breach of duty.
Freedoms of movement and assembly are the natural and inalienable rights of every citizen along with the right to life. A state is always formed for the purpose of the safety and security of its subject. A state maintains armies to repel external aggression. Similarly, it enacts laws to punish the internal aggressors or wrongdoers. To achieve this objective, the state imposes and collects taxes and duties of various kinds in order to develop infrastructure, maintain law and order and protect the rights of citizens.
Chapter XVI of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 (PPC) deals with the offences affecting the human body. The person accused of an offence under the said chapter can be punished in a manner provided for in section 53 of PPC. Normally the accused is a known person and is always brought before the court. But in case of terrorism, the terrorist groups are always at war with the state. The suicide attackers die and the authorities only make efforts to arrest the masterminds who manage to evade their arrest and accordingly cases are closed. With the passage of time, the incident gets overshadowed by a new incident and the vicious cycle goes on.
Personnel of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and government employees get benefits of relevant compensation policies. But when it comes to the civilian victims of terrorism, compensation depends on the announcements of the political leaders representing their respective electorate. These announcements do not have any legal backing and thus the victims never get compensated.
It is time for the lawmakers to realize the need for enacting a law which provides for a statutory body with the chief objective of determining compensation to be awarded to the victims of terrorism or their legal heirs. We, as a nation, are fighting the menace of terrorism. We have, till date, lost thousands of lives in this war. Those lives were priceless and even though no one can reunite a departed soul with a dead body, it will be considered a serious effort on part of the state to wipe the tears of the victims of terrorism in a reasonable manner.
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