Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'Simple order, not two-third majority needed to restore pre-PCO judiciary'

By Urooj Zia
Karachi. The News, Monday, February 18, 2008: The Constitution of 1973 stood restored the moment the Emergency waslifted, and the only thing that the next parliament has to do isrestore the pre-PCO judiciary via a simple order, as opposed to apopular conception about needing a two-third parliamentary majorityfor the purpose. This has been the position taken by at least fourformer chief justices of Pakistan, including Justice (Retd)Bhagwandas, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association(SCBA), Munir A. Malik, said Sunday.
He was speaking at an event organised at The Second Floor (t2f), wherea high court advocate, Faisal Siddiqui, interviewed him. This wasfollowed by a detailed question-and-answer session after the floor wasopened to the public.
Prior to taking up the leadership of the current lawyers' movement,Malik has been known to participate in a number of agitations,including those against the war in Vietnam while he was a student inthe US. He has also been actively involved in bar association politicsin Pakistan, especially that at the lower court level. He never joineda political party, however, and spent most of his career with theKarachi Bar Association (KBA), with what Siddiqui referred to as the"masses of lawyers." The reason for this, Malik said, was because onehas to start from the beginning, and the KBA, as the lowest level ofbar association of politics, was the beginning for the former SCBApresident. "When I was 18, I thought I'd conquered the world, when Iwas 19, I realised that the conquering was only half-done. By the timeI was 24, I realised that I had to start from the very basics," hesaid candidly.
Substantially there is no difference between the movements during theformer military dictator, General Ziaul Haq's regime, and the movementagainst the current military dictator, General (Retd) PervezMusharraf, Malik said. "Both are movements for the supremacy of theConstitution, and the supremacy of the rule of law," he said."Tactically however, both movements are different. The majordifference has been brought about by the communications age. The mediahas played a major role in the current movement."
"During Ziaul Haq's time, word of what happened with us on M.A. JinnahRoad would not reach Nazimabad until around three days later," Maliksaid. "Now however, what happens in a remote area of Sahiwal becomesnews all over the world."
Malik sees himself as a normal, everyday person, doing his duty as acitizen. "I'm so glad I'm not abnormal like Musharraf," he said,amidst cheers and applause from the audience. "I'm not a revolutionaryeither. I share the ideals of the left – they were romantic ideals,and the politics of the left attracted me. The world has changedhowever, and I believe in change. Marxism has changed. I subscribe tothe ideals of the left, the concept of a welfare state, verypassionately."
The first lawyers' movement under the current regime came forward in2002, when 32 amendments were made to the Constitution via the LegalFramework Ordinance (LFO). The leaders of the current movement,including Malik and Ali Ahmed Kurd, led an agitation against the LFO,and the ordinance was withdrawn after being in place for 16 months(August 2002 to December 2003). That movement, however, did nottransform into the mass-based mobilisation that the current movementis, Siddiqui said.
"We have to realise that lawyers don't write the Constitution, and atthat time [in 2002] we ran the risk of being accused of going againsta particular individual, not the idea behind the individual," Maliksaid. "The best way to get through to the masses was to pose afundamental question in front of them: did they get justice in thiscountry in 60 years? By the time March 9 came around, we were able toexplain to people that bonded labour and practices such as vani andswara were still in place, that land in Gwadar was being sold togenerals like it was someone's personal fiefdom, that the armed forceshad permeated every facet of civil life, that despite the fact thatthis is the age of privatisation, you don't sell family silver forpeanuts," Malik said. "The slogan of the current movement was'justice.' And justice is possible only when everyone is equal beforethe law – an equality that is guaranteed in the Constitution."
"We explained to people that their money had been used to set up thebiggest commercial enterprise in Pakistan – the GHQ. The success ofthe current movement lies in the fact that this time around we wereable to connect to the masses, and change mindsets," Malik said.
The citizens of Pakistan had, due to the remnants of colonialmindsets, learnt obedience at the cost of liberty. The currentmovement, Malik said, changed that. "Politicians were taught that theshortest route to Islamabad is not through Washington or Riyadh, butthrough Pindi, Lahore and Quetta, etc. There was resentment boilingunder the skins of people. Through this movement, we channelised thatinto a positive direction," he said.
Another fundamental difference between the post-March 9 lawyers'movement, and the agitation against the LFO, is that the former hasthe support of the "masses of lawyers," or as Siddiqui put it, thismovement has "captured the imaginations of the entire lawyers'community." Malik explained how this had happened. "The rank and fileof lawyers is divided into the 'haves' and the have-nots.' The formerrule over and oppress the latter. When the CJP, Justice IftikharMuhammad Chaudhry, stood up to the regime and refused to resign, herebelled against authority and became an icon for the younger,oppressed lawyers. "They are the ones providing strength to themovement," Malik said.
He spoke about one incident that took place post-March 9 in Sahiwal.Lawyers there had organised a rally where they were walking whilecarrying candles. Police contingents stopped them en route and dousedthem and their candles in petrol. Around 33 lawyers were seriouslyburnt, "but even this did not stop them," Malik said.
The aim of the current movement is to ensure that every judge in thecountry should be able to say 'no' to the executive if he or she seesa judgement that goes against his or her conscience. The other aim isto send the army back to the barracks.
The lawyers had called for a proactive boycott of the elections,rather than a passive boycott, Malik said. The main thing thatpolitical parties that come to power after these elections is torestore the pre-PCO independent judiciary. "If you want to removeArticle 58-2 (b), you have to go to court. And whether you want to goto Dogar's court or Iftikhar Chaudhry's court, is your choice," Maliksaid. "A man can only be free if he wants to be free."
If the new parliament restores the pre-PCO judiciary, the short termgoals of the lawyers' movement will prevail within the next couple ofweeks. If the judiciary is not restored however, the movement willdrag on, but it won't stop or die down, Malik said, adding that peoplereally had nothing to be afraid of by participating in the currentmovement. "You have nothing to fear but fear itself."

No comments: