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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lords of justice

Has the Pakistani media, like a pack of wolves, been baying under the wrong tree waiting for the fox (the president) to come down? Two visiting lawyers from Pakistan seem to think so. Why just target politicians? Why give judges a ‘free pass?’ they ask. “The number of critical cases crying out for their attention is in thousands. Yet, everyone, including the judges, is fixated on nabbing the president.”

Such is the inarguable reality. Until recently, everything hung on the Zardari government writing a letter to the Swiss! Remember the child play we indulged in about dropping a handkerchief while sitting in a circle and singing ‘I sent a letter to my friend and all the way I dropped it.’ Well, that’s exactly what’s been happening since the day (Dec 16, 2009) when the apex court declared the NRO unconstitutional. The government continued ‘dropping’ the letter and the court kept going in circles looking for it.

Deadlines set by the judges for the letter came and went. They left Zardari unbroken. Finally, the letter is going.

Seriously, if one was to look, the elusive Swiss letter cost three years of the judges time, resources and energy along with the sackings of a prime minister, a law minister, three federal law secretaries, two attorneys general, a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman and a prosecutor general. When history is written, I wonder how the apex court will be graded.

Another minus awaiting the judiciary are the murky accusations by Malik Riaz. If the supreme commander of the apex court (the man we all considered our greatest hero) is shying away from the most consequential allegations levelled against his son, it is trust shattering. Imagine for a moment, had it been Bilawal or Bakhtawar or Asifa allegedly charged with gross misuse of their father’s high position, would our lords of justice swiftly rush to a verdict?

Two events scream for the savagery done to ordinary Pakistanis. Who will give them justice? Ghazala Tufail, 50, was beaten, bludgeoned and shot eleven times on the morning of September 18 at her home in Sheikhupura. Two days earlier, Governor Khosa had ordered that she be given protection and her property returned. Ghazala had fought a legal battle for a decade to get back her ancestral property in Sheikhupura occupied by a Qabza Group. She finally won the case and now wanted possession of the plaza worth a couple of crores. Khosa gave her a sympathetic hearing and asked his staff to make sure that she was given protection. Two days later, some lads broke into her home in the morning, locked up her two grown daughters in another room. The intruders then tried coercing Ghazala to sign a paper saying she no longer was the owner of that plaza. She refused. “They slapped her, beat her with rods and finally pumped eleven bullets into her body,” Najam ul Hassan, her son tells me. He lives in the US; his two other brothers live in the UK. “My mother survived for 60 hours.
The doctors in Mayo Hospital, Lahore, where my brother-in-law took her, did their best to save her life. But she died.”

Is there no law or justice in our Pakistan? Says Najam. “Do we have a jungle ka kanoon (the law of the jungle) that flows from the influential wealthy down to the scumbags who litter our country?”

Listen to this: despite eyewitnesses no investigation, no arrests, nothing has happened since. “We don’t want property; we want justice,” says grief-stricken Najam, sitting thousands of miles away, beseeching justice for his dead mother.

The second incident involves police brutality on an unarmed motorcyclist in front of the Evacuee Trust complex, next to Marriott in Islamabad. The beating was witnessed by one man who was moved enough to send an email to every media outlet. This is what Mudassar Zia Hashmi says he saw: three security force personnel responsible for clearing the route where a VIP was due saw a youth drive past on his motor bike. Quickly, they jumped out of their four-wheeler and pounced upon him. Halting him, they instantly began to beat, kick and punch the hapless fellow until he doubled up with pain. He was holding his ribs that may have broken with the force of kicks and blows by these booted brutes who completed their diabolic terrorism by kicking far the youth’s helmet as though it was a football!

“I am a polio patient and use a wheelchair,” writes Hashmi. “Helplessly I watched, unable to come to his man’s assistance. I am writing this email to all of you because Allah holds you answerable for your duties. Was it for this we fought to restore the chief justice so that this poor guy could get a hard thrashing just 100 feet away from the CJ’s residence?” asks Hashmi. “Was it for this we stood solidly behind the freedom of the press so that commoners get treated like donkeys while the media is busy discussing the president’s immunity, wasting precious hours on something totally useless?”

Scotus vs Scop: The difference between the Supreme Court of the United States and Supreme Court of Pakistan can never be bridged. The judges of Scop cannot be questioned, commented upon or censured. This rule is firmly embedded in the DNA of Pakistani culture. Dare one try to cross the red line; the dragon called ‘contempt of court’ can swallow you up.
The judges of Scotus have no such protections: the media and the public is free to criticise, scrutinise and even demonise them. The judges are appointed by the ruling president, whether a Republican or a Democrat. Hence a judge’s political affiliation is no secret: their rulings are based on their conservative or liberal ideologies. No president has the power to sack them; nor is there any retirement age. Speaking to the media is not forbidden. Recently the most conservative and controversial of judges, Justice Antonin Scalia invited CNN inside his chambers to discuss important issues. As the longest-serving justice, Scalia touched upon topics ranging from religion to politics, explaining the “thinking which allows him to arrive at his legal decisions.”

In Pakistan, we make do with the CJ’s press statements. He is routinely throwing the book at the lawbreakers and the corrupt, but it appears the ‘book’ is either going over the delinquents’ heads or they have stopped caring!
By: Anjum Niaz, http://dawn.com/2012/10/21/view-from-us-lords-of-justice/