Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Tale of Two Visits!

Badalta Hai Rung Aasmaan Kaisay Kaisay is a famous verse of Aatish's couplet that has become a cliche in Urdu political writings. Yet I found out today that cliches are cliches for a reason.

The full couplet goes as follows,

zameen-e-chamn gul khilati hai kia kia,
badalta hai rang aasmaan kaise kaise!

A rough translation would be

Of kinds, flowers in the gardens bloom Of kinds, the sky changes colors

In response to this are presented another couplet by Amir Minai which is likewise now a cliche,

hoay naam war be-nishaan kaise kaise,
zameen kha gayee aasmaan kaise kaise

A rough translation would be,

Became fabled, the unknown, unnamed, The earth swallowed the skies so famed.

The couplets are timeless as we witnessed recently once again. The unknown and unnamed have gained thrones, became kings and then suffered humiliation at the behest of those who so eagerly cheered their coronation. The most recent example of this was the recent visit by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to Quetta.

This was not his first visit, he had visited Quetta before, Quetta being his hometown. He had also visited Quetta about two years back on 31st March 2008. He was deposed at the time and came on the invitation of Balochistan Bar Association. Upon arrival he was welcomed by thousands of citizens, lawyers and women and children who had their fathers, brothers and sons taken away by the intelligence agencies. The Chief Justice was their only hope, he was their hero and had fought and lost his office for their cause the missing persons case. He had stood up against the establishment and summoned the all powerful representatives of Military Intelligence and ISI to the Supreme Court. The slogan of 'Chief tere jaN nisar, beshumar beshumar' echoed the main Quetta road as his caravan took hours to reach the Balochistan High Court. But this was two years ago!

On 12th June 2010, more than two years after his previous visit and more than one year after his reinstatement he visited his hometown again. This time there were no crowds, no hoards of lawyers jumping over each other to shake his hand but I guess that is understandable. You cannot expect a sitting Chief Justice to be acting like a political leader, indeed his office is above politics. The only place he can make an address is the bar associations. The Chief Justice was joined in by the Chief Justices of all four provinces. The electronic media dutifully aired his speech at the convention. What they did not air was the pictures of the audience. Why?

Because the audience was limited. A news which the media at large conveniently forgot to relay is the strike call by Balochistan Bar Association to protest his visit to the city. The sparsely populated convention venue, lack of attendance by lawyers and lack of enthusiasm was not a mere coincidence. It was a protest!

The same lawyers who were boycotting courts for his reinstatement are doing so to protest his arrival in the city. They are angered at his lack of interest in the missing persons case, the courts comments that the evidence against intelligence forces will not be examined and his indifference to the plight of people of Balochistan. This is not what they fought for. They had no corporate clients like the lawyers of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad with hefty fees to pay for their living but they did not appear in front of courts which they deemed unconstitutional. They did not violate the directives of their leaders of Lawyers' Movement at the cost of personal suffering to themselves and their families. All for what?! They ask themselves today as the man who sits in the white marble mausoleum of justice has abandoned them.

The Chief Justice in his visit hoped that the lawyers community of Pakistan and Balochistan stood once for the rule of law and Constitutionalism and he expected them to do it again if need be. We salute the lawyers of Balochistan Bar Association, who have today made it clear that they will stand for rule of law, no matter the who leads the opposing forces. So Honourable sir, be careful what you wish for, lest it come true!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The return of the Doctrine of Necessity!!

After the democratically elected parliament that represents the wishes of people of Pakistan passed the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan unanimously. It was hoped that it would bring peace, stability and normalcy in the functioning of this Federation that is desperately needed. With the Constitution back into its original state and most of the short-comings removed the nation took a breath of sigh.

Their peace, it seems was short-lived as the guardians of Constitution it looks, have after all not mend their old ways.

What is going on in the Supreme Court of Pakistan is tremendous. The basic law of the country is under threat! Of course this is not the first time this will happen therein, the courts have done it plenty of times to validate the martial laws of military dictators, when they suspended the Constitution they were sworn to protect.

But today there is no military dictator on who's behest this is being done (at least not openly). The independent judges are doing it on their own. They are deciding whether the Constitution is Constitutional or not? In the absence of their old cheat code aka doctrine of necessity they have found refuge in a new doctrine called the doctrine of basic structure. Since they had no Constitutional ground they seek refuge in a doctrine that has been rejected by the courts of Pakistan over and over again but obviously those courts were not as 'azaad' or independent as these ones.

Yet they did reject it over and over again, during democracies and dictatorships. Because those men, traitors some of them may have been, established a line, in ignorance or consciousness I know not. But every act was to be validated by the parliament to gain legality. No matter how many days had gone by, eighth and then seventeenth amendment were passed to legalize everything. To make it Constitutional, since Constitution of Pakistan can only be changed by the parliament of Pakistan and no other institution.

In exercise of its powers the Constitution was changed by the parliament once again in April 2010. It was challenged in the Supreme Court, but instead of dismissing the petitions the Court accepted them and officially disposed the shield of sanctity that surrounds the Constitution. But the question that baffles me is that if indeed the court decides that a single section of the Constitution is to be suspended, will the Supreme Court be committing high treason?

Did we not agree that be it Musharraf or Dogar or any other judge or general, the Constitution cannot be amended by anyone save the parliament? The article 175A is now part of the Constitution and no matter how many judges or lawyers or media anchors want, can it be altered, suspended or deleted, save by the parliament of Pakistan. Any attempt to do so would be high treason under the article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan and the government would be duty bound to protect it and act against those who tried to subvert it.

So will Chief Justice Iftikhar commit high treason once again and become the first civilian to suspend(in whole or in part) the Constitution of Pakistan? Will he join the ranks of Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf, it seems unlikely in any other country but lest we forget this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan!!