For sometime I contemplated if this article may best be simply linked too in the collection of Decidous Links [mini-links] we have running on the blog but then it would not have opened an opportunity for comments and reactions and I suspect this heart felt article by Ghazala Minallah might evoke some comments from our readers here on Teeth Maestro
Published in The News on Saturday, May 31, 2008
By Ghazala Minallah
It appears that whoever comes into power in this God-forsaken country of ours, shuts themselves in a shell, oblivious of the cries outside. My head is bursting with questions, and I want my cries to be heard and answered. Firstly, why is Farooq Naek suddenly the biggest authority on the Constitution? Why is there a conspicuous absence of veterans like Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, Justice Wajiuddin, former Chief Justices and judges of the Supreme Court and Aitzaz Ahsan? Is he the next Sharifuddin Pirzada in the making?
The recent unexpected verbal attack on Musharraf was eyewash meant to distract us and pave the way for the constitutional package. The package intends to reduce the chief justice’s tenure. It is ironic that such a ludicrous idea can even be considered by a party which claims to have its roots people’s hearts.
I am sick and tired of the lame argument that after all Iftikhar Chaudhry also took oath under the PCO in 1999. In that case let’s forget that in March 2007 he stood up to five generals and said no. Let’s forget that he was manhandled, dragged by the hair, persecuted and mentally harassed for months. Let’s forget that he contested a bogus reference filed against him, was kept prisoner with his family for months, and finally reinstated by a full bench of the Supreme Court. Let’s forget that Musharraf himself admitted that the subsequent coup/emergency was illegal and unconstitutional. Let’s forget that dozens of judges took a stand and risked everything for a cause. Let’s forget the lives lost, the beatings, the arrests, the torture and humiliation suffered by thousands of lawyers and members of civil society. Let’s forget that institutions like Harvard, the New York Bar Association and many others have paid tributes to Iftikhar Chaudhry and have termed the lawyers’ movement a milestone in the struggle for the independence of the judiciary. Let’s forget all this and just focus on one thing — that Iftikhar Chaudhry took oath under the PCO eight years ago and therefore he is doomed forever. So if a kid fails in a school exam and goes on to graduate from Harvard with distinction, he doesn’t deserve a degree?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the package as a whole. It’s the part regarding the judiciary which is disturbing. The message is that no judge should ever be stupid enough to take a stand. We are told repeatedly that this new government wants to change the “system,” and that any amendments in the Constitution will not be person- specific. Well, in that case, how come the only person who loses out if this is implemented is Iftikhar Chaudhry, and the PCO judges come out the winners? What logic, I ask, forms the base for this ludicrous suggestion?
What happened to the civilised universal principle that the law is never retrospective? Laws are always for the future, particularly if one is detrimental to an individual. But, of course, who said we were a civilized country? We live in a country which punishes its heroes and rewards those who should be tried for treason. There are claims that the reforms are designed to punish “future” dictators and collaborators, so the present lot are exempt, with Mr Naek bending over backwards to reward them. But they apply to Justice Iftikhar, who needs to be taught a lesson right now. No amount of reasoning will ever be accepted by the nation, which suspects a sinister intention and an ulterior motive. Is this the “system” Mr Asif Zardari has been talking about?
Why don’t the conscientious people within the PPP ask why the US and Musharraf want Iftikhar out of the way? Was it because he had the audacity to ruffle the feathers of our class-conscious society, where no one dares mess with authority? Especially when the other party is an insignificant five-year-old girl at the mercy of a wadera-headed jirga, or, in the words of the chairman of the CDA, dirty Christians living in a slum and who dared to use a public park, or preventing the sale of a national asset worth billions for peanuts, or daring to summon heads of our intelligence agencies to ask why people they had picked up had disappeared without trial? Obviously he was treading on too many toes and hence these powers are to be taken away too.
In contrast, the present Supreme Court has also exercised its suo moto powers, first by summoning journalists for daring to use their right to free expression, and, more recently, by ordering FIRs to be filed against a group of civil society activists who dared protest peacefully outside the Supreme Court.
The announcement of the “package” extinguished my last spark of hope, and I feel angry and betrayed. The joy and relief we felt on Feb 18 was short-lived. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had announced outside Chief Justice Chaudhry’s house that he was still Chief Justice and that the Pakistani flag would once again be hoisted on his house. I do not believe that she could have meant a “compromised reinstatement” in which case a torn and tattered flag would be more appropriate.