Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thwarting Justice Khwaja Sharif

Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, Poker, Snow-white’s Whirling Rings of Cigarette Smoke – Going Crazy

Omer. G

Justice Khwaja Sharif of the Lahore High Court, one of those judges who refused to take oath under the PCO, was supposed to give a talk at Aiwan e Adal Lahore, at 10 30am today, Tuesday. Lawyers had planned to take him in the form of a procession from his house in S Block DHA to Aiwan e Adal. Students also had token representation to express solidarity with the judges. At around nine in the morning, a friend who was gracious enough to wake up at this early hour (considering the usual owl-like routine in our university) drove me to the place.

Looking around, we found street after street blockaded. In the vast leafy and quit streets of DHA, polices blockades, manned by policemen in riot gear, presented a very depressing sight. The regime’s PR team is doing a pathetic job. They are not giving us any excuse to believe their claim that the emergency has been lifted. With riot police blockading posh neighborhoods, what kind of a fool will believe that things are back to normal. I asked a senior-sounding police officer standing at one of the barricades about where Justice Sharif’s residence was. He pointed to a street. We went in there and then further until we found another blockade, then another. The policeman was a liar. He had standing right at the opening of Justice Sharif’s street while misguiding me. In any case, I asked the policemen at the other barricade about whether they were there to prevent Justice sahib from coming out. They nodded. At least, they weren’t lying this time. I had a brief chat with them. Then, I walked into another street. I greeted a man just walking past me and asked him how he felt about what was being done to his neighbor Justice Sharif. “It’s wrong, of course.” he said angrily, resuming, “How can there be two views about this?” Then, he went away. After that, I waylaid a middle-aged woman engaged in what appeared to be her daily morning walk, and asked her the same question.

Her expression was part vacant, part melancholic, a queer mixture. She answered, after a pause: “It’s your fault; you the younger generation”. She repeated this again and again. I felt as if wanted to agree with her, adding “You too, ma’am” By this time, I ran into a young reporter from ARY. I said salam and told him that I has was there for the same reason as he was. He told me to go to the Caltex petrol pump nearby, where I would found others of my sort.

We drove out to the Caltex petrol station. There was no one there. I tried calling up some lawyers. One of them told me to call later because his plane was just landing in Lahore or Karachi. The other one told me that it was the Lahore Bar President who would know what was to be done now. Nonetheless, by that time, we could see black coats on the other side of the road. My friend had a class to attend, so he left.

More lawyers gathered until there were around fifty. Then, we walked as a rally, passing through a few streets of Defence Housing Authority, chanting slogans like “yeh general, colonel bay ghayret”, we made our way to the first blockade. The lawyers were quick to push the police and, after some resistance, managed to cross the first barbed wire. That moment, I felt very elated. Just yesterday, at a Students’ rally, the police had been much harder to negotiate with. Today, we had pushed them, at least one bit.

The next blockade, however, was harder. We tried very hard but the police refused to budge. Ultimately all we could make them concede was to allow just a few Lawyer leaders and a few media people to go and present the bouquet that the lawyers had brought for Justice Sharif. All this while, the lawyers kept making a lot of noise, and kept pushing and shoving, but weren’t allowed in. Who says the Judges are free to move?

By that time, despite frantic messaging, only four SAC members were there, while six or seven Jamiat Talaba representatives had also joined in. The Jamiat Talaba members were quite noticeable for their aggressive manner of dealing with the police. Ultimately, however, despite the students’ insistence, no student was allowed to go and meet Justice Sharif.

After a while, Justice Sharif’s son came and addressed the gathering from the other side of the blockade. He conveyed the Honorable judge’s message for the lawyers and civil society at large: Assault against the judiciary will be resisted by the deposed judges, even if it demanded the sacrifice of lives. The judges appreciate the support everyone is showing and they plan to hold fast. Justice Sharif’s son agreed to accompany the lawyers to Aiwan e Adal and speak in lieu of his besieged father.

By that time, I too had to leave for a class. I ran back all the way to LUMS. It took just five minutes or so. Back in LUMS, life was going on just as usual. As I passed a bench, crammed by quite a few guys and girls, dressed up in the latest fashionable western wear brands, I could overhear talk of poker. Poker, I thought, deserved a lot of attention. It’s all about poker, isn’t it.

Near the PDC, basking in the sunlight, a tall, slender, snow-white girl with long flowing ash-brown locks was sitting, smoking a cigarette, holding it between her long, thin, white, soft-looking fingers. She could not have been blowing ring with cigarette smoke, but it looked as though she did. Later, she was rolling something silver between her palms, completely absorbed in her task. For a moment, I thought she was rolling a joint, although at second thoughts, I dismissed the suspicion – you couldn’t do it so publicly. On any ordinary day, she would have looked so irresistibly beautiful. But that moment, smoking in that superbly insular frame of mind, she looked sickly.

I looked at her, and the people back at the bench, and all the merry crowd in between them and I thought about Munshi Prim Chand and his short story about Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Lucknow. One day, out of nowhere, British soldiers came in, passed by a few absorbed chess players, arrested the Nawab, dragged him through the streets passing by the chess player again, and went away. A lot of things that Muslim India had been proud of, went away with him, never to return. The chess-players, in their insular frame of mind, they did not so much as notice. Is it all about chess? I thought about this and a lot of other things and then my head began swimming – that moment, everything around me looked very sickly.


Anonymous said...

really interesting account. Exactly, the chess players will always be there, be they among our friends, family or acquaintances. However, we must be what we must be, and if it some kind of madness, so be it. What a pleasure to be mad and long for things that Bobby Kennedy says never were, and ask why not?
Is it not our right to breathe free? Must we be cornered like animals while force pushes us to sit in a corner and live subdued lives?
The point though is how to sustain the movement? How do we go forth?

abhishek said...

i wish some of the guys at the emergency times made this news available to us too. so that indians also know and support their fight for democracy

a friend of freedom, in the US said...

The world 100 years from now will be very different because of you. A people's demand for freedom is inevitable, but the process is not easy. Nietzsche said that progress is not possible without chaos. But it's human nature to seek order and not everyone is willing to sacrifice and suppress their short-term need for "normality" and face conflict head-on, to make a lasting peace. It's like in the movie The Matrix. Most people would rather the semblance of normality than real freedom for which they would have to fight. This is represented by the woman who blames the younger generation (yes, be proud that your generation is not numb to the call of freedom!), by the smoking girl, and by the chess players. People world-wide are watching and supporting your struggle for freedom. I hope, for all the world's sake, that your government soon will realize that the time in human history for suppression is over forever. Besides, once a true democracy is established, it won't take long before people do not participate, by choice rather than by force, as the laziness of freedom sets in.