Photographs by Zahid Husain
Photographs by Zahid Husain
by Khurshid Anwer
I cannot recall an instance when one pillar of the state had made such scathing observations about another pillar of state. To wit, the remarks of the chief justice of the supreme court about the executive.
But the executive is unmoved, neither defending the charges, nor going for course correction. ‘Business as usual’ appears to be the strategy. ‘Catch us if you can’, the PM and his boss seem to be saying to the chief justice. Literally thumbing their nose at him.
The CJ calls the “Affair of the probes chaotic”. This is putting it mildly. The term chaotic fails to describe the NICL probe.
As the PIA boss said to the reporter, “We are the PPP government, we don’t fire, we only hire”. The message coming through here is, “We are the PPP government, we are friends of friends, we don’t allow our friends to be held accountable”. We are a law unto ourselves.
Talking about the officials involved in the RPP scams, he has said, “The court could not shut its eyes to corruption”. As the PPP government so conveniently does.
He said FIA is showing no progress on the cases sent to it. And if the court orders action against the relevant officer he is promoted to high rank next day. While an honest and capable officer is posted to Gilgit.
Those who should be probed are being appointed secretaries. All the inquiries sent by the court are pending.
Every institution in the country is infested with corruption and there is not even a single institution which could be trusted.
Circumstances have come to a point where a file from the minister’s table reaches to secretary’s table in five months.
The CJ needs to fall back on folk wisdom:
‘Latun ke bhoot batun se nahi mante’
A few contempt-of-court notice would be in order.
Obituary By Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider
Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider pays tribute to an unsung Christian warrior of the 1965 war
Wing crews in front of a B-57, with leader Bill Latif in centre
Come September, much exaggeration is fed to the ignorant nation to distract it from the chaos, corruption and bloodshed that is today’s Pakistan. Each September 7th, the Defense Services are shareholders in this bizarre state’s corporate extravaganza by the celebration of Defense Day to commemorate the 1965 war as a victory.
Retired veterans are put up by ignorant TV anchors and much unsubstantiated rhetoric unfolds about shooting down the enemy like partridges. The official history of the 1965 War by the Pakistan Air Force is in fact biased and evasive of the real happenings.
In truth, celebrating the war as a victory was a ruse, which was cleverly devised by Ayub Khan’s state propaganda machine to masquerade the debilitating failure of leadership.
However, no one should underestimate the gallantry of the soldiers of the army and the pilots of the PAF who halted the juggernaut of the Indian invasion comprising two army corps supported by their air force (four times the size of the PAF), against Sialkot, Lahore and Kasur in the North.
It is in this context that I would like to share the story of one of those many real heroes whose legacy as a fearless warrior in war and a thorough professional in peacetime is a legend amongst the men in blue of the vintage PAF. Air Commodore Nazir (Bill) Latif had brilliant eyes, which mirrored his soul and a massive, generous heart. I can still picture him today standing in his uniform, his exceptional pilots’ golden wing on the right breast pocket and the highest individual gallantry award in the row of distinction medals on his left chest.
Bill Latif was born to a Christian family – his father Professor Latif was the renowned psychology professor at the Forman Christian College in early 1950s.
Towards the end of his life, Bill Latif never spoke about his legendary achievements or tribulations. It was unthinkable for this non-controversial warrior to publicly boast to the media about his exemplary career as a consummate professional. That is why few in this nation would have heard about this gallant son of the soil.
Tragically, this legend glided gently, silently into the sunset on the 1st day of July, 2011 (I believe that is the date because no one from the PAF or the retired officers who knew about his death had the compassion to inform me about his sudden death, knowing how very close I was to him as he braved through the last three distressing years).
Both of the founding Commanders-in-Chiefs of the PAF, Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan, had held Bill Latif in the highest professional esteem and helped him during his recent desolation when he was hit by a stray bullet, losing one eye, followed by a stroke and prostate cancer. They were not informed of Bill’s demise.
Bill Latif had been alone in the world, after having lost his wife years ago. I was one of his closest colleagues during his difficult years but I never heard a whisper of complaint through his most tenuous moments. Every single day he would call me at 11 am with the words: "How are you today; is everything alright? It will be alright, don’t worry.
" How could one respond to a friend so positive even as he braved a lost eye, a stroke following the extraction of the bullet, and prostate cancer? "Sir, I am on top of the world" was my only reply, even if it was far from reality.
Bill Latif was undoubtedly one of the best fighter pilots, bomber pilots and commanders during peace and in both the wars. He was an exceptional case, the only one to my knowledge who was kicked up even as a cadet to a higher batch because he was so good from the start.
He commanded several fighter squadrons, all the fighter wings of the PAF; twice commanded the B-57 Bomber wing, especially when he replaced two mediocre predecessors to perk up the poor performance of the bombers. Bill Latif also commanded the prestigious Fighter Leader’s School (Top Gun School) where I was his flight commander.
I had the honour to serve under him again as squadron commander of No.19 Squadron when he was the Commander of the largest No. 32 Fighter wing at Mauripur (Masroor Base). Later I served with him when he commanded the famous No. 33 Tactical wing at Sargodha, and finally when he was base commander Peshawar, where I left him to join the Air Staff College.
He was a spectacular flyer, instructor and commander; and he never ever raised his voice or used expletives so common in our profession. That was the quality that made every subordinate and superior place him on the highest pedestal.
Once as a squadron commander he was leading a flight of four fighters, with Flt. Lt. Rehmat Khan as deputy with two younger pilots as wingmen. The weather at Mauripur began to deteriorate and a general immediate recall to all aircraft was ordered by the air traffic control. Bill Latif brought his formation back but the visibility had dropped to below the minimum required for landing.
Low on fuel, he made a swift though ominous decision. He ordered all three in the formation to head in different directions and eject. Three F- 86s crashed to the ground as their pilots parachuted down to safety to live and fly another day.
The aerobatic team of black F-6s (call sign Rattlers) perform over Sargodha. This team was led by Wing Commander Nazir Latif
What about Bill Latif? Tinchoo Zaheer, my old buddy, batch mate and a fighter as well as bomber pilot, recalls: "The weather had moved in too fast and when we heard Bill’s formation overhead, the runway visibility was down to 100 yards at the most.
We had a prayer on our lips, as there was no alternative for diversion and the formation had been gone long, thus it was low on fuel. Lo and behold, after the thunder of the four fighters had swished away, we heard the sound of a fighter engine as though someone had landed in that treacherous weather.
Suicidal was the only word to describe the act, and it could only be Bill Latif!" That was my commander, friend and a real warrior. Bill Latif saved one fighter that day at the risk of his own life. This is but one of a thousand episodes which filled the life of this legend.
The performance of the Bombers in the 1971 war was spectacular but it came as a surprise when the Indian historians Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra (and the Official Indian record of war) exposed the truth about the PAF performance during the 1965 war and the Indian Air Force losses to PAF bomber raids in the 1971 war.
Bill Latif not only could take credit for the overall performance by the bombers but he was also the only commander in his air rank that flew dangerous daylight and night missions against the Indian deluge in Khokhrapar sector threatening Hyderabad. He led his men in both wars with great leadership, aplomb and courage.
In 1965 his last mission was the deepest penetration in enemy territory against their farthest bomber base in Agra – with Mig-21s, SAM missiles and the inferno of light and heavy anti-aircraft shells emblazing the sky over the target.
Nazir Bill Latif with a PAF Martin B-57 Canberra bomber
It is an ominous indicator that a Christian warrior, who along with many of that faith fought with exemplary courage (some even gave their blood for Pakistan), it is ominous that such a man was given little recognition by the Government of Pakistan.
He was the true legend for whom the Hilal-e-Jurat was created, but instead it went to losers in high quarters. This odious fracas goes on relentlessly with the highest medals being pinned on ignoble quislings whose only achievement is bootlicking and looting.
Farewell Bill the great fighter, you will always live on in the brave hearts who loved and admired you. I can see a new shiny star in the firmament and know it must be you with such brilliance, in the holding pattern, awaiting your turn for scrutiny.
Surely, the most Compassionate and Merciful Creator will judge you justly as you were fair and good to everyone in your life. May your soul be in eternal peace, far away from this cruel and unjust world.
By:Humayun Gauhar Sunday, 16 Oct 2011
Once upon a time a man called America enticed a woman called Pakistan, promising all kinds of things that Lotharios always do. The giddy girl fell for it. America fathered many children with her. A woman called Saudi Arabia the midwife every time. One child was named ‘Mujahideen al Amreeka’ and later renamed ‘Taliban bin CIA al ISI’. Another, conceived with ova supplied by the midwife, was named ‘Al Qaeda bin Amreeka’. A third was named ‘Haqqani bin Amreeka al Jaal’. There were many others. America fathered them for a purpose.
After the children had served their purpose, the father abandoned them. Naturally, they turned against him and became his enemies. Ever since, he has been doing everything to kill them. The children are killing him back. The children are winning. The father is desperate. He has gone bankrupt. His political system is paralysed. He cannot think logically. He hypocritically blames the mother and the donor-midwife for having fathered them too like self-procreating organisms and also turned on them. But he never blames himself for abandonment as callous fathers do. So he is paying the price, as are the mother and the midwife.
Lacking logical answers, America scoffs at those that question it by trying to portray them as inferior life forms: “That was history. This is now. Forget the past”. Pseudo ‘intellectuals’, themselves looking to help America father more illegitimate children, say, “Right on. Look to the future.” Problem is: the past never allows you to forget itself. If you try, the future becomes bleak. That is America’s prime hypocrisy in this region.
Hypocrisy: There were times when Ronald Reagan likened the Haqqani Network’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and America’s other children to the “moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers” who were freedom fighters against the British. America’s children then were freedom fighters against the Soviet Union. Today, they have become the “moral equivalent” of freedom fighters against American occupation. That’s the only difference – just a detail.
Hypocrisy: Retiring Admiral Mike Mullen’s assertion that the ‘Haqqani Network’ is “a veritable arm of the ISI” is a parting-kick of desperate petulance. He forgets that the Mujahideen-Taliban, Al-Qaeda and the Haqqanis started life as “veritable arms of the CIA”. If America’s callous, hypocritical and irresponsible personality hadn’t caused it to become an abandoning father, they would never have turned against it. America forsook its strategic and moral responsibility of looking after its children and is now reaping the harvest.
Hypocrisy: What would you do if someone broke into your house and tried to occupy it? You would bring out your gun and shoot him, wouldn’t you? Well, that is exactly what the Haqqanis and Taliban are doing. Contrarily, America wants Pakistan to wage war on the Afghan Haqqanis on its behalf because they are killing Americans in Afghanistan. That begs the question: what are you doing in Afghanistan in the first place? It is not your country. It belongs to the Afghans. They are fighting to free it. They have every right to do so. Wasn’t that the logic when the Soviet Union was the occupier? Or does logic change with occupier?
Hypocrisy: While America wants Pakistan to wage war against the Haqqanis, it itself wants to negotiate with them. What sense does that make? Talk of being two-faced.
Hypocrisy: America allows its unstable drug lord stooge Karzai to cozy up to India, giving it undue entry and influence in Afghanistan. India should be careful. History shows that whoever befriends America eventually comes a cropper, and not just in the Third World.
Europe followed crazy American economic nostrums cooked up by bankers who by definition are limited of living on more and more credit. Today their economies have flatlined. Afghanistan has been totalled. Pakistan followed America slavishly virtually from the beginning and today its very existence is being wondered about.
Learn lessons from our pathetic histories, my dear neighbours, learn lessons. Don’t commit suicide in an effort to do Pakistan down. Keep pestering us if it pleases you, but for your own sakes don’t do it by getting into bed with America, else you will get an unmentionable disease. We have.
Hypocrisy: The events of 9/11 started it all. Ten years on and America has still not provided incontrovertible proof that it was Al-Qaeda that did it. Oh, I forget, I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’.
Hypocrisy: On May 2 this year America claims to have killed Osama Bin Laden in a decrepit house in Abbottabad, while many important Americans say that he died in late 2001. But they are ignored as – you guessed it – ‘conspiracy theorists’. No one was shown the body, not even their own media. They claim to have done a DNA test in 24 hours, which experts say is impossible. They quickly dumped his body in the Arabian Sea.
They don’t even show us the photographs because they are too gruesome. Since when did ‘gruesome’ bother America? Since they saw the bodies of cooked Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? There goes the ‘conspiracy theorist’ again. When people don’t have cogent answers to what you are saying, their defense is to discredit you by labeling you a ‘conspiracy theorist’. Their puppets parrot them. When the ‘conspiracy theorist’ abuse is hurled at me, I’m convinced that there is something to what I am saying. Yes, I am a ‘conspiracy theorist’ and proud of the label. You keep hatching conspiracies; I will keep questioning them. When you cannot answer rationally and in a civilised manner, you have lost and I have won.
Hypocrisy: America keeps moaning about the growing heroin addiction in its country. Having ‘successfully’ occupied Afghanistan and installing its satrap Karzai there, couldn’t it have prevented the growth and refinement of poppy? The Taliban government made poppy cultivation history. But if America did it too, how could it assert that the drugs trade is financing its abandoned children, when actually it is financing America’s war: enough has been written about how America part-financed its wars in Latin America, Indo-China and Afghanistan through drugs as a matter of policy.
As you sow so shall you reap: there was a time when America and Britain deliberately exported so much opium to China that it turned it into a country of addicts. Today, China is an audacious world climber and America is a pathetic world descender. Too many Americans are drug (and credit) addicts. Which is worse? Such is the bitter fruit of perfidy and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the product of stupidity.
So, my two-faced ‘friend’, let’s forget history and talk of today. European economies are finished. America’s economy is in terminal decline. The dollar isn’t dead yet not only because China keeps it on life support to save its loans to America, its investments in America and America’s investments in China.
It is more because the dollar still remains the reserve currency till an alternative is found, which it will be. When people buy dollars (or US bonds), they don’t do so because they think that, “it is as good as gold”. They do so because with all other dollar-pegged currencies also in decline, stock markets in turmoil, equities unstable and real estate falling, they might as well go with the reserve currency until they have something more solid and stable to park their money in. With America’s political system too incompetent to throw up quality leadership to solve its myriad problems, confidence is zero. That, my dear America, is today.
If America doesn’t see sense, stop its hypocrisy and get out of the many messes that it has got into, I wouldn’t bet on it surviving as the global bully much longer. But that is how empires fall: hubris, strategic and intellectual decadence, and imperial overreach.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be contacted at email@example.com
by FARAZ INAM
It is an open secret that Pakistan and the USA share a very complicated relationship. While people in Pakistan perceive the USA as the World’s bully, an Israeli ally, an Indian partner, a ‘fair weather friend’ or even a frenemy, Americans perceive Pakistan as the hot bed of fanaticism, untrustworthy, complicated, the birthplace of Islamic fundamentalism and the launch pad of terrorism worldwide.
However, the bottom line is that both need each other because their interests are intertwined. Pakistan needs economic assistance for its much-battered economy, a consequence of entering the ‘war on terror’. Pakistan also needs the USA to meet their security needs vis-à-vis their larger neighbor India. Similarly the USA also needs Pakistan to maintain access to Afghanistan and further to the mineral rich states of Central Asia. Besides, the USA needs to keep Pakistan engaged to maintain security in its own homeland.
After all it was the follies of these two allies that gave birth to the ancestors of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Afghan Jehad of the 1980s, then affably known as the ‘Mujahiddin’. Despite the entire riposte by their respective security analysts and armchair alarmist, the bottom line is that the people of both these countries share the same human instincts primarily in social values, religious conservatism and a common desire to live in harmony, to provide a good life for their families through a decent livelihood; a life free from terror, fear and the danger of meeting an unnatural end. Sixty-four years into her existence and the Pakistani nation is facing identity crises.
The voice of the innocent, peace loving and progressive masses has been subdued by a vocal, fanatic, determined, but small minority who otherwise make the bulk of the news from Pakistan; thus signaling a skewed perception of the country to the world. But they have their reasons.
This novel attempts to understand different perceptions that have become extremely deceptive over time. This story attempts to understand different views on sincerity, friendship and loyalty. It is an attempt to recognize that while we all have a common goal we need to reach that goal via mutually acceptable means. ‘The Misunderstood Ally’ may be a novel but the environment it reflects is real.
It’s characters may not be original but the personas they represent are real. The events may not be precise but the motives behind their occurrences are real. The story may not have all the solutions but can help to make the reader understand all the perspectives. So let us understand these perspectives and join our hands together to make this world a better place, where people from all over the world can live a decent life; a life with our loved ones in peace and tranquility.
I’d also like to give you an idea on the main characters of the novel from the following excerpts
Dhil, 41, is a pure Commando in form. Strong, well built with deep brown intense eyes, thick black moustache cutting across a hardy facial structure; good looks are now a thing of the past. In fact his current demeanor reflects years of robust lifestyle half of which has been spent in challenging terrains undertaking death-defying missions all in the name of performing his duties for his country. Conscientiously following the Commando tradition of leading his men from the front this almost 2 meter tall Commander stands out among his subordinates acting as their beacon of success thereby enjoying their trust, respect and loyalty. Such is the effect of his commanding personality that his men’s morale is boosted at the mere sight of him and who are then ready to follow him even in the most difficult of missions.
Despite such a strong exterior he still has the heart of a child who needs to confide in a loved one. Who needs to be cajoled and caressed from time to time for him to gain his motivation and encouragement in undertaking his duties. While the men of his Battalion come up to him for their morale boosting, he seeks his emotional support from his wife Rania, whom he lovingly calls ‘Rani’ meaning ‘Queen’ of his heart.
Mullah Baaz Jan, who claims to have counted thirty-six winters from the time he learned to count, has been fighting one enemy or the other since he was an adolescent. Son of a Mujahid (2) his early childhood memories were of his father bearded, with a traditional meter long cloth wrapped around his head, carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle and bullet belts strapped across his body, heading out on fighting expeditions against the Soviet Army in Khost province of Afghanistan.
He would come back home every time jubilant and triumphant carrying some souvenir or war booty comprising of Soviet fire arm, army boots, clothes, helmet or personal belonging of a soldier. Baaz would be eagerly awaiting his gift, which would be this war booty. By the time he reached 10 he had made a collection of Soviet artifacts. Then one day he saw his father being brought on a stretcher badly injured and fighting for his life. He remembered his father’s last words:
‘Son, you are now the guardian of your mother and siblings and custodian of your motherland. Since centuries we have defended our homeland from foreign invaders be it the British Empire or the Soviet Army. I entrust you to carry on the family legacy of defending your honor, your family and your country. Remember guard your homeland till the last drop of your blood. Prefer death to Dishonor. May Allah be with you’.
These parting words have been resonating in Baaz’s mind for the past 27 years and have charted the course of his life. Just like his father fought the Soviets he feels it his moral duty to fight off the Americans who have now invaded his country, hence honoring his dying father’s last wish.
Special Agent Samantha Albright, 34, is engrossed in conducting a Drone Operation over the Af-Pak border area. The target is the Leadership of LaM and Al Qaeda reported to have gathered in the Union Mosque. Samantha Albright, code named ‘Sam’, is single but claims to be married to her job and country. Belonging to the mid-Eastern State of Arkansas, patriotism runs in her blood. Her family heritage has been to protect America from her enemies. Her grandfather was a soldier of 101 Airborne Brigade in WWII, whereas her father was a Vietnam Veteran.
Her prime objective is to continue the family tradition of making America a safe place to live, free from any fear or terror. She just cannot see her country held hostage by anyone else in the world. Her cold-blooded emotions and motivation to conduct any operation without giving it a second thought makes her an ideal candidate for her present assignment. However, covering such a torrent of emotions is an attractive façade.
She catches the fancy of her male counterparts who although are enamored by her chiseled features, auburn wavy tresses, supported by a statuesque figure, more an outcome of rigorous exercise and disciplined routine rather than any beauty regimen, are afraid to seek her out due to her fiery temper which has given her the nick name of ‘Balls Buster’. In fact it is because of this that she has not maintained a steady long-term relationship in her life. She graduated from Harvard University with a Degree in Law and International Relations just after 9/11 but instead of continuing a career in the same field opted to join the CIA with the desire to follow in her ancestors’ footsteps.
Today is an important day for her and she wants to make sure that the mission is a success.
My idea is to project their views and perception on the “war on terror” and also the various views of their comrades, relatives and friends; as their fates eventually bring them across each other in the story. The blurb of the book is as follows:
“Year 2010 – 11
World is in the grip of “War on Terror”.
Reprisal threats from indigenous forces resisting foreign presence in Afghanistan have made the developed countries wary of extremism in the Muslim world; bringing Islam in clash with the West.
USA, the sole super power and leader of the free world and Pakistan, the sole Muslim nuclear power and teetering citadel of Islam; are two countries on the different edges of this conundrum but their intertwined interests have brought them into an uneasy alliance against the radical forces rising from Afghanistan.
As fanatics threaten revenge attacks on American soil, a gutsy and determined Special Agent, Samantha Albright, lands in the hornet’s nest. As violent suicide bombings increase in Pakistan, a brave and patriotic Army Officer, Lt. Col. Dhilawar Jahangiri, grapples between his personal challenges and call of duty. As CIA initiates independent anti terror operations at Af Pak border, a ruthless and belligerent militant commander, Baaz Jan, fights back for what he feels is right.
In a volatile environment where all forces fight for supremacy, three individuals persevere in their beliefs, embarking on a dauntless journey of valor, sacrifice and self discovery”.
I’d also like to share with you an interesting conversation that ensues between Sam and some other characters in the story. This excerpt would be of particular interest to you since we all have Air Force background. By the way this part like the rest of the novel has been thoroughly researched first.
…….As she gasps for breath trying to lower her temper, Khalid pauses for a while and then softly responds.
“Sam, I’ve been a combat pilot myself having flown thousands of hours on fighter bombers in which I’ve made countless bombing runs as part of my training. I’m also now an airline pilot flying the same Boeings that were flown into those Twin Towers. You ask any pilot and he’ll tell you that it takes hours and hours of actual flying and formal conversion courses to successfully fly those planes and then hours and hours of training to successfully take those planes into their intended targets. The margin of error is so little at that high speed and low altitude that I feel it could not be done by some rookies who were also busy hijacking the planes at the same time”.
Sam can’t believe what she hears. An attempt to completely deny the fact that she had been told repeatedly; she scoffs at Khalid, “so you mean to say that those planes were remote controlled or something!?”
At which Khalid responds, desperately trying to control his voice, “yes indeed I mean to say that Sam. To me there is something much more than meets the eye. Time will tell that this was the biggest conspiracy hatched in the world to bring the two great civilizations at war with each other! Both your and my people are dying for the benefit of somebody else and you guys are just too naïve to understand this conspiracy!”
Seeing tempers flaring Bilal interjects helplessly in trying to ease the situation, “Okay, Okay time out please. Take it easy guys, what’s wrong!?”……
This novel is full of such incidents where characters clash with each other trying to justify their positions as story unfolds. In my novel, nobody would be right or wrong, hero or villain. The three aforementioned protagonists along with other support characters will get to present their points of view as the plot unveils and it’ll be for the reader to finally decide who is right and who is wrong. There is also action, thrill and drama in the novel depicting various events as the plot unfolds.
Lastly something about the author mentioned in the book
“Faraz Inam is a corporate banker by profession. After a brief stay in the Pakistan Air Force he opted to continue his career in civilian life, obtaining an MBA degree from the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in the process.
Having played major roles in two blockbuster television series in Pakistan in the 90s, Faraz now leads a humble life while working for a bank based in the United Arab Emirates. He currently resides in Dubai with his wife and three children. The Misunderstood Ally is his debut novel”.
Wanting to play my little part in this struggle to keep our country’s name high, I embarked on writing this novel on the current state of affairs in Pakistan and our part in the ‘war on terror’. I’ve been related to military since childhood one way or the other; son of a PAF Officer, an ex-Cadet of PAF myself, having projected the Army on media through two drama series and maintaining contacts with my numerous course-mates in the military; I believe gave me sufficient knowledge and motivation to initiate this project.
By Maheen Usmani
Once upon a time we were privileged to have barristers and lawyers like Justice M.R Kayani, Justice A.R Cornelius, Justice Dorab Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah- men who were the very embodiment of brilliance, hard work and gravitas. They were circumspect in their personal as well as public dealings and were a credit to the nation.
Now our icons of the past must be turning in their graves at the unsightly spectacle of furious lawyers attacking and ransacking Judge Pervez Ali Shah’s courtroom in Rawalpindi because of their opposition to the death penalty handed down to Salman Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri.
Aside from the religious sentiments being provoked of such ‘Aashiq e Rasool’ (lovers of the Prophet) amongst the legal fraternity, this situation begs the question: if lawyers themselves do not respect judicial verdicts, then who will? Are they not bound by the tenets of their profession to pay heed to court decisions?
Surely, discipline and dignity are the two essential pillars upholding a major state institution like the judiciary. Far from being censured and suspended for their ridiculous behaviour, the District Bar Association has asked for Judge Pervez Ali Shah’s transfer because “it can create a law and order situation.” Lawyer Farooq Sulehria has proclaimed that lawyers would boycott Shah’s court because of the “unacceptable” sentencing.
Now this is mind boggling stuff. Lawyers are refusing to accept a judicial verdict because it collides with their personal religious beliefs. How then can they profess to be custodians of justice and the epitome of neutrality and objectivity? Why is the Bar Association kowtowing to such obnoxious behaviour? Are they too lily-liver’d to rein in frenzied members, or do they also believe in their “cause?”
Based on TV interviews and statements, it has been established time and again that Salman Taseer did not say anything against the Prophet (pbuh), but in fact he said he respected the Prophet like all Muslims. Taseer expressed support for blasphemy convict Asiya Bibi and opposed the implementation of the blasphemy law since the majority of the cases so far have been motivated by enmity. Hence, Mumtaz Qadri’s justification of blasphemy for murdering the late governor in cold blood does not stand in court. How low lawyers can stoop to grind their own axes was visible during the case when Salman Taseer was subjected to a disgraceful character assassination because the case for the defence was so weak. What do a man’s marriages or lifestyle have to do with his murder?
Naturally, members of religious parties have been hailing Qadri as their hero at massive rallies, because they are indoctrinated, immune to logic and after all this is their bread and butter. But since when have lawyers joined these militants who have blood in their eyes and froth on their lips?
In retrospect, there are bittersweet memories of the Lawyers Movement which galvanised Pakistan in 2009.
These very same lawyers and their Chief Justice garnered support from almost all Pakistanis because people applauded the courage of one man to stand up to a system in front of which so many have caved in. Lawyers were garlanded and cheered as they marched for justice through the sweltering heat. When the Chief Justice was restored, there were celebrations galore and an overwhelming camaraderie brought on by “peoples’ power”. How ironic then that today when another brave man has stood up for truth and justice, he has been hounded out of office by his very own colleagues.
Justice Pervez Ali Shah saw the frenzy of the religious right every day during the closed door hearing in the high security Adiyala prison as trucks of supporters shouted full throated slogans and embraced Qadri. The judge knew there would be hell to pay if he did not release Qadri. Yet he upheld the dignity of his office by giving the right verdict: guilty as charged. How ironic then that instead of supporting their valiant colleague, lawyers are showering rose petals on Qadri and kicking apart Shah’s courtroom.
It beggars the mind that things in Pakistan have come to such a sorry pass. Increasingly, it seems that it is no longer a country for sane men. Even the cleric who led Salman Taseer’s funeral prayers has been forced to flee the country after constant threats to his life. Taseer’s son, Shahbaz, who appeared in court for the prosecution, has been missing for more than a month and there are reports of his release being sought in exchange for freedom for Qadri. Who then can blame the Taseer family for their guarded silence after the guilty verdict?
When the death penalty was handed down in the Sialkot lynching case, it seemed like a ray of light on the dark horizon and justice for the bereaved family of Muneeb and Mughees. One was jolted back to grim reality when the main culprit, SHO Rana Ilyas, who was filmed during the lynching, was given bail when he filed an appeal with the Lahore High Court. One may well ask whither justice then for the aggrieved in Pakistan?
Another puzzling question is why do we express so much concern about the rights of Muslims in other countries, be it Palestine, Syria, Bahrain, Kashmir or India? How well are we treating our fellow Muslims in Pakistan? All one needs to ostracize, maim or kill another here is to have him or her declared an Ahmadi or a blasphemer or a member of a religious minority.. take your pick.. and self appointed standard bearers of Islam pop up like magic, wielding axes, guns and batons and hurling abuses.
This vile madness is consuming us all and making us a stranger to one another. Our diversity should be our strength, not our weakness. To add to the maelstrom of disease, natural disaster, corruption and inertia devouring Pakistan, one can add that justice has also become a commodity to be bartered and many of it’s practitioners are truly a disgrace to the noble profession. To have dispensers of justice applauding murderers is truly the stuff of nightmares.