Dear Mr Asif Ali Zardari,
THE election result was an answer to the prayers of the nation. However, the forces of evil forces have been bending over backwards trying to sabotage the democratic process and incite the lawyers into entering into a confrontation with the new government.
They need to be told that we are not the gullible sheep of the past. I am a born optimist, and while writing this, a part of me tells me not to be silly. I want to believe that the Bhurban accord will be honoured and that the tenure will be as it was on Nov 2.
The nation is absolutely not prepared to consider such a humiliating option. It is humiliating for the deposed judges, who for the sake of this ravaged country, put their families at risk. You must have experienced that fear too when Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan last October.
It will be an insult to her memory because she risked her life for democracy, and she, above all, knew what an independent judge meant.
It is trivialising the sacrifices of the lawyers, who, despite all odds, have stood their ground for over a year. The world has already accepted Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the 60 honourable judges as icons of the struggle for an independent judiciary. Theirs and the names of thousands of brave lawyers have already gone down in history for all times.
A compromised restoration will be an insult to the memory of Hammad Raza, the first precious life lost after March 9, 2007. What about the massacre on May 12, the carnage the day Benazir landed in Karachi, the brutality unleashed on lawyers and civil society, the inhuman act of burning lawyers alive in Karachi? It will be insulting the memory of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, whose mission was to restore democracy, and who better than her knew the value of an independent judge. The nation lost a great leader on that tragic day.
Too much water has flowed under the bridge, and it is unthinkable that after getting this far, there can be talk about actually penalising the judges. Because that's exactly what this act would be.
Mr Zardari, I am fully aware of your sufferings, the brutal act of cutting your tongue, your long years in prison, and the fact that you did not have a pleasant experience with the judiciary at the time. We condemned it then and we condemn it now. But, sir, it was a different Pakistan then, which I say with regret. As I said earlier, we were a nation of sheep. Why am I not writing to President Musharraf? Because one pleads before someone who you have faith will relate to you — and that's the beauty of democracy.
My late father, Justice Safdar Shah, was a victim of an amendment in the Constitution by Mr Z.A. Bhutto when he was chief justice of the Peshawar High Court, identical to the one I am writing about. An ideal person to be appointed judge of the Supreme Court by Gen Zia and to be party to the judicial murder of the very same man. Fortunately, he refused to sell his soul, and the rest is history. At least today I can hold my head up high.
Many other honourable judges have stood up for the independence of the judiciary in the past, but they were not supported the way these judges were.
The nation has suffered long enough. The president has ravaged the country for nine years and wants five more. Yet time is being wasted on whether the deposed judges (real for me) should have their wings clipped. The president uses words such as 'scum of the earth' for a man whom the world has honoured, and gets away with it. We are stuck with an attorney-general whose father was party to the judicial murder of Mr Bhutto. Certain ministers are visiting the man who wrote in his book that the worst thing that happened to this country was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Why is there intrigue and jealousy against the likes of Aitzaz Ahsan? Should we forget how Muneer Malik was tortured? Men of principle like Ali Ahmad Kurd, Justice Tariq Mehmood and so many others who led this movement are a rare commodity. Why are people like Sharifuddin Pirzada and Maulvi Iqbal Haider allowed to assist the Supreme Court in mutilating the Constitution?
Yet priceless assets like the honourable Justices Wajihuddin and Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim are ignored. Mr Zardari, I recall clearly the conversation between late Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and my late father just before she returned to Pakistan in 1986. Amongst other things, he repeatedly told her not to surround herself with sycophants, and that Mr Bhutto's fate was because of such elements.
Mr Zardari, do you realise the importance of the opportunity God has given you? In the past we have had independent judges but never an independent judiciary.
The hearts of the nation are with you in the torment you must feel for your children since the loss of their mother. You can either prove yourself to be a selfless, pragmatic leader, rising above personal grudges, or you can go down in history as the man who deprived this nation of an opportunity that can come only once in a lifetime.
Sir, I have confidence that inshallah you will do the right thing, and that you will put the wishes of the people and the salvation of Pakistan first.