Published in the opinion section of Dawn on 28th January 2008
Carry a placard “Release Justice Rana Bhagwandas and you will be thrown into the slammer. FIR No.13/08 lodged at the Clifton Town police station confirms the highhandedness of Musharrafs despotic regime.
Justice Rana Bhagwandas started his judicial career as a civil judge at the age of 24. In 1994 he was elevated to the high court and then to the Supreme Court where he eventually became the senior-most judge, serving as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, whenever the Chief Justice was out of the country. He earned the reputation of hard work, dedication, clear thinking, impartiality and fairness. Upon retirement it has been the practice of the court to give the retiring judge a Full Court Reference, but in the building that now reminds one of the Supreme Court, traditions too have been banished.
On Nov 3, 2007, Justice Bhagwandas the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court was illegally incarcerated. After his retirement he was made a prisoner in his own home in Karachi. He caused offence because he did not break his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan when another was grinding his boot into it. “The people should fight for the law as for their city wall (Heraclitus, 5th century BC).
Justice Bhagwandas during his meritorious career spanning 41 years, decided thousands of cases, yet for this great judge who did not prostrate before a dictator there was no justice. Citizens, however, wanted to honour him and express their gratitude. They assembled outside his residence, held candles and flowers, and called for his release. Amongst them were recently-married Salahuddin Ahmed, barrister-at-law, Asad Umar, chief executive of Engro Chemicals Pakistan Limited, and Kamran Noorani, owner of Pakistan Law House.
The law enforcement agencies doing anothers bidding in vulturine fashion made off with the citizens. But infamy did not stop there. The candle, flowers and placard holders have been charged under Sections 147 and 148 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for “rioting and “rioting armed with deadly weapon. To constitute “rioting, there must be force and violence (Section 146 PPC).
These conscientious citizens upon being convicted may be imprisoned for three years. Is this the republic that Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted to create? “The idea was that we should have a state in which we could live and breathe as free men (Quaids address to civil and military officers, Karachi, Oct 11, 1947). Instead, grovelling before the dictator and forced to accept the odious PCO oath of personal loyalty is the only guarantee to live and breathe freely.
The orders for lodging FIR No.13/08 must have come from the very top because Salahuddin Ahmeds father is none other than Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, who has been prevented from carrying out his duties since Nov 3. Overnight the chief justice of the province is controlled by a foot constable. Light recedes, justice is eclipsed and darkness descends. The beast is born. “Law alone can give us freedom (Goethe) and without it we are shackled.
The state itself violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, including the right to “freedom of speech and expression (Article 19), “freedom of assembly (Article 16), the inviolability of the “dignity of man (Article 14). Under Musharraf and his neutered caretakers anyone exercising his or her fundamental rights is liable to be arrested and imprisoned for a very long time. “When dictators and tyrants seek to destroy the freedoms of men, their first target is the legal profession and through it the rule of law. (Leon Jaworski).
In Pakistan, the Constitution stipulates, that sovereignty “belongs to Almighty Allah alone and “wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured. A land “dedicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle against oppression and tyranny. Abrogation and subversion of the Constitution is categorised as “high treason.
Justice (adl o insaf) lies at the heart of Islam. Without justice, nations perish. Justice predates democracy and representative government. A candlelit vigil for the release of a judge who spent his entire life in the service of Pakistan is manufactured into a serious crime. This happened in the heart of the largest metropolis of Pakistan, and respectable members of society were targeted in the full glare of the media, but far worse treatment was meted out to people living away.
In interior Sindh, thousands of FIRs have been registered reportedly against half a million members of the Pakistan Peoples Party. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the all-pervasive Police and Rangers disappeared for days, and advantage was taken by criminal elements. It now appears that this was done to help elect members of the quisling League.
FIRs have been lodged on the basis of instructions from above and compliance made necessary to retain employment, but irreconcilable anomalies reveal the truth. Two representative examples put to rest the neutrality of the caretakers. The mukhtiarkar and the assistant mukhtiarkar both lodged FIRs (Nos.3/08 and 4/08) in respect of the very same incident against Abdul Jalil Memon, PPPs candidate for PS 84.
FIRs against Haji Usman Jalbani, PPPs candidate for PS 88, were lodged in four different police stations (Keti Bundar, Gora Bari, Garo and Gharo) pertaining to offences that took place at the same time, despite the fact that a day would be spent travelling between these areas. Coincidentally, six immediate family members of a caretaker minister are contesting on Q League tickets, including PS 84 and PS 88 constituencies.
Tainted self-seekers grasp their opportunity. Rather than apply salve to the raw wounds of the PPP, kerosene is sprinkled. People are being pushed towards intolerable injustices.
Constitution is the force which coalesces and forges the nation. An iron grip must stay the hand of the terrorist as he does not have the right to take life and because the Constitution mandates that “no person shall be deprived of life (Article 9). Forced closure of CD and barber shops must be stopped because the Constitution grants every citizen the freedom of trade, business and profession (Article 18).
“Obedience to the Constitution is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan (Article 5). But General Musharraf declared war on the Constitution and its custodians. The Taliban and the terrorists have followed suit. Until the Constitution and the judiciary are restored, terrorism, oppression, tyranny, injustice and anarchy will continue. Terrorists pierce the body. Americas trusted lieutenant whips the spirit. Pharaonic arrogance preserves the shell, mummified. A withered, shrivelled curiosity