Guest Blog by Amjad Malik
On 5th of May 2007 Lahore High Court Bar gathered a storm where deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan was facing trial on charges of misconduct, came to the city with a procession of lawyers and won the day. He won the hearts and minds of lay Pakistanis for just saying ‘No’ to the outgoing General. Ahsan Bhoon then President of Lahore High Court Bar was at forefront in the host committee organising that event. Since then he became a priority in the eyes of establishment and like Americans say ‘there is a price for everyone in Pakistan’ Mr. Bhoon proved that right by putting the price of his leadership of popular lawyer movement for the sake of becoming Mr. Justice Bhoon proving Sir Allama Iqbal right that Muslims bowed down when the time came to standstill in the battlefield. No offence to the judge, he did what all are doing around, he grabbed what he could.
Another example of a fiery anchor Dr Shahid Masood who gained prominence from his popular ‘views on news’ programme at local TV channel later was prompted or rather demoted to ‘Merey Mutabiq.’ He successfully caused stir in the ranks of the blue eyed clan by touching the corny subjects. One TV channel nearly went bankrupt as these lots were adamant that these newly liberated channels can truly bring true independence of media in a society where military regimes have deep rooted stakes visible at every corner of the major cities and ingrained in every chapters of the national history of Pakistan. He hit the nail aright and after partly causing 3 of November emergency, caved in when newly installed Government found him to be their loyal subject ready to do a job under them other than the job of nailing them for their wrong doings. At last his fire, mighty claims of principles, and future aspirations seeing media on top, all went to ashes and he gave in and accepted the hiring & firing role of chairmanship of national television PTV, a job truly well suited for a managerial type man. In UK, Jeremy Paxman would never accept a job of management of a TV station when his mastery is an anchorship of BBC ‘Newsnight’ a popular daily current affair programme. However, the sacred struggle for a genuinely free media was sacrificed at the altar of pragmatism and after shaking all the conscience of the nation to be brave and steadfast against the General, he left all on the likes of Hamid Mir, Ansaar Abbassi and Rauf Klasra or at best for the younger generations to fight for the so called freedom in some other times. He must have thought that he has done enough and let’s give other a chance, can’t blame him, he did befittingly to the environment as who knows he may not have this opportunity again. Alas, the destination is far away but struggle is lost for a job.
9th March initiated an era of constitutionalism in Pakistan and 20th of July 2007 could have been a beginning of a new era if the top judge understood it, however, we lost the opportunity to psychologically defeating the mind set which promotes dictatorship in our minds and attitudes. On 3rd of November General Musharraf once again imposed emergency curbing media freedom and sacking loyalist judges. Be Nazir was hunted down to save the western monopoly and despite all odds 18th February 2008 election results vetoed all the actions of the military man. Parliament came and went without declaring unlawfully confined judges as ‘restored’ instead they were merely freed by the Chief Executive who was yet to swear his oath. General Musharraf was resuscitated by the same clan who prayed 9 years for his ouster and if he survives another 6 months, critics strongly believe that he has the capacity to stay for another 5 years and all thanks to anti Musharraf forces who are wishy washy lacking unity of thought and action. Since taking his oath, PM so far, could not get time to enact the so called ‘Bhurban Declaration.’ Despite the fact that Mr. Gilani lost good 5 years of his life in jail on trumped up charges for the sake of parliament’s sovereignty, when the time came he happily handed over to the military commander the very powers and vested in him to exhibit fireworks in Fata at his sweet will. It begs the question what is the difference of Q league and the current administration, is it not just faces. Rule of law’ justice and constitutionalism became a slogan and a ball in the hands of politicians and My God, they played it well.
Then came a call for a long march as mandate was being humiliated by rulers. Lawyers without meritoriously bringing ‘legal action committee’ into action to adjudicate the wisdom of Chief Justice’s visit to then under trial Zardari failed in bringing a close check on those responsible rather went ahead with the leadership of one man. Aitzaz with the slogan and style of Bhuttoos and with the aid of ‘habib jalab’s verses mesmerised most of the nation especially young dancing advocates. We thought for once, that he meant it. Negligent ignorance to leave Justice Wajeeh, Siddiqui and Fakhur uddin Ibrahim behind was spared too. Then came 14th of June when all was set and ready to rock and roll but Ali Ahmed Kurd was gone and here came a messiah of the nation who taught the lesson of pragmatism that leader of his party must have understood the underlying message of this million march. In his self belief he called it a day without taking any public statement in response to his million march, in fear of unrest without proper consultation leaving the nation in shock and lawyers in dejection. How will he ever gather 5 lakhs in future, only he knows?
On top, people were humiliated by saying that Supreme Court Bar is short of funds and there was a fear of unrest. Alas, who will tell them that Quaid made Pakistan and 40 lakh people died at that time but no one blamed him for that onslaught. How come a few scoundrels in peaceful gathering could have created havoc in this march or sit in if the lawyers were determined? Young advocates cried and genuinely lawyers mourned with them and apologised to the nation. I must say, in the past even Clerk’s association have performed better in their negotiation skills to muster their minimum demands whilst staging a protest. He caved in meagrely, called off his moot and went to United States where all leaders go once they are tired.
With him on that day the dream of rule of law, justice and constitutionalism for the time being was also washed away as it will take time to pick up pieces from the rubble of pragmatism. Constitutional package is yet to be tabled and I genuinely feel for those great judges who did what they could but in the end the issue became a shuttlecock. In these circumstances, how can we expect a successful drive of democracy when every one wishes to keep his feet in two boats keeping their options open? They are busy negotiating their future on one hand whilst shouting slogans of ‘Go Musharraf Go’ and ‘long live Iftikhar’ on the other. They consider receipt of judge’s salaries out of PM’s alimony fund as their partial success, funnily they cannot see the difference, as they see everything with their own eyes and read Jalab with their style without understanding him. I think they need to read Allama Iqbal more. Aitzaz is confronted with his own conscience his aspirations, party loyalty up are against the popular drive of restoration of 2nd November judiciary. He cannot escape from lawyer’s movement as that is his recognition but he cannot decide on 40 years association either so he himself is standing in between both. Jinnah left congress the day he knew it can’t go together. His lawyer’s move against his own party PPP is failing as his party knows how to lose one stalwart for the sake of party. But he is no different to other Pakistani folks who know that freedom will take time, and in his self belief he put all off till some other day when people will not be hungry and he will have money for food, and when General Musharraf is a little more aged. That’s why we have no independent judges as the very people who raise voice for them do not want them back due to fear of losing their jobs.
This is the sorry state of play of the drive of civic rights in Pakistan where all stake holders keenly keep an eye on each other so that no one could rock the boat. It’s a land where heroes are ruined like Qadeer Khan, where judges are detained like Iftikhar Choudhary and Premiers are hanged, shot and exiled like Bhuttoo’s and Sharifs. Protest leaders eyes are stuck in their bellies. Public for once is confused whether all this is carried out in genuine sincerity or everything is done for a job. It’s a fittest to survive society and I fear the day when public who always back popular movements turn into a pragmatic nation and never come out when they call, then where will all these lots go and who will give them a job.
Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England) and a political analyst based in UK