Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Polite Rejoinder to a Judge

According to a newspaper two days ago, Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal took the opportunity to criticise journalists for discussing the constitution without possessing much knowledge about it.

With all due respect to the honourable judge I think he has got it badly wrong.

Lest anyone accuse me of contempt let me quote the highly regarded Lord Salmon in my defence.

In 1968 Salmon LJ, dismissing an application for contempt of court went to the extent of recognizing that writers must be permitted to make criticisms that may be inaccurate, unfair, off the mark, rumbustious or in poor taste.

"It is the inalienable right of everyone to comment fairly upon any matter of public importance. This right is one of the pillars of individual liberty - freedom of speech, which our courts have always unfailingly upheld.

"It follows that no criticism of a judgment, however vigorous, can amount to contempt of court, provided it keeps within the limits of reasonable courtesy and good faith.”

Anyhow I am not venturing to comment on a judicial judgement, but simply making an observation on an aside uttered by Justice Javed Iqbal.

Here is my respectful address to Justice Javed Iqbal.

Respected Judge Sahib,

As you should be well aware, the Constitution of Pakistan is not the property of the Executive, the Parliament or the Judiciary. It is the property of the people of Pakistan.

Simply put, the Executive is legally commanded to follow it and the Parliament empowered to amend it, the Judiciary’s role is limited to interpreting it – and no more.

As the Constitution is a property of the people they are perfectly entitled to discuss it, comment upon it, praise it and even criticize it. Judge sahib, whether their comments are informed or not, is completely and utterly irrelevant.

In fact it is high time the Constitution was discussed and debated on television, radio, chaikhanas and in the streets. The more it is discussed, the more people will become conscious of their so-called ‘sacred rights’ guaranteed by the Constitution - which sadly have been regularly watered down by a feeble judiciary following the instructions of dictators since days of Justice Munir in 1955.

It is widely accepted by many citizens of Pakistan, that along with the military, the judiciary is equally culpable in destroying their freedoms and human rights for over fifty years.

In the past month we have witnessed an extraordinary revival in the defence of our Constitution – thankfully it is no longer considered ‘a simple booklet of ten to twelve pages which can be torn up’ by any tin pot dictator with the support of a servile judiciary.

People are now calling for an independent judiciary as stipulated in the Constitution of 1973; others are calling for provincial autonomy as envisaged in 1973 when the constitution came into existence. Importantly, many citizens are demanding their guaranteed rights of free expression, an unshackled press and liberty from unlawful oppression and illegal detention as encompassed in this most important of all national documents.

One of the few admirable aspects of the modern Americans is the reverence they display for their constitution.

Judge Sahib, I respectfully suggest that it is high time we did the same.


Anonymous said...

Right to free speech I think not. Seems only the ninjas have that right these days and the govt. does nothing setting one bad precedent after another.Pakistan bans satire about burqas. READ THE REUTERS STORY BELOW:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Irate Islamist lawmakers have persuaded the Pakistan government to stop a theatre group staging a satirical play about the burqa, the all-covering head-to-toe garment worn by conservative Muslim women.

"Burqavaganza" played earlier this month during an arts festival in Lahore, the eastern city regarded as Pakistan's cultural capital, and home to some of the most liberal and most puritanical parts of the Muslim nation's society.

"The burqa is part of our culture. We can't allow anyone to ridicule our culture," Culture Minister Sayed Ghazi Gulab Jamal told the National Assembly.

The minister announced Thursday that the government had barred the play, which had already ended its run in Lahore, from being performed in other Pakistani cities.

Veiled female parliamentarians and Islamist lawmakers cheered Jamal and thumped desks in approval, while trading barbs with women from both the ruling party and liberal opposition parties.

Described by critics as a romp, the play sought to highlight the impact of the veil on society, by showing how wearers use it as a way to hide what they want to keep private.

In the play, young men and women wore the burqa to go out on secret dates, and it featured a character called Burqa bin Badin.

The play also showed a burqa-clad married couple put to death for making love in public.

Predictably, religious conservative Pakistanis did not find it funny, going as far as to describe the play as blasphemous, a crime in Pakistan that can carry a death sentence.

"They have committed blasphemy against the Prophet (Mohammad)," Razia Aziz, a female lawmaker from the Islamist opposition alliance, told the National Assembly.

She demanded the government take action against people responsible for staging "Burqavaganza".

Mehnaz Rafi, a lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League from Lahore, opposed the government giving in to the Islamists.

"A few people cannot dictate affairs of the state. Every person has the right to lead his life his own way. A few people cannot snatch freedom from society," Rafi said.

Shahid Nadeem, the director of the play, told the weekly Friday Times that the play aimed to raise awareness about a trend to force women to wear the veil.

Progressive Pakistanis have become increasingly shocked by how bold religious radicals have become in spreading their Taliban-style values in society.

Last month, burqa-clad female students from an Islamic school, or madrasa, raided a brothel in the capital, Islamabad, and abducted three women. The women were released only after they were made to repent before the media.

Students from Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, and its adjoining madrasa have also pressured music and video shop owners to wind up their businesses as part of their anti-vice campaign.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

jusAthot said...


In Pakistan, the executive, the legislative or the judiciary do not hold any real power when it comes to the Army. The Army is the defacto ruler of the country. The past records of all these four branches of government of Pakistan are gravely wanting. It is because the system is rotten. And unfortunately, the realities of power do not allow for fundamental reform. Most of the demands for fundamental changes in our priorities are impossible to effect within the present system if that system is to maintain itself. And those who have the power have the least inclination to change from the status quo.

And as an American political scientist Alexander Hamilton writes: The politics of restoration will start, not in [Islamabad], but in many places, separately and together, when people decide to close the gap between what they believe and what is. People may begin this work by understanding what they are up against. Alexander Hamilton’s sarcastic dictum - “The People! The People is a great beast!” has become an operating maxim in Washington. Now and then, to the general dismay of the political elites, (and judges) Hamilton’s “beast” breaks loose and tramples upon the “System” (or rather the Establishment).

jusAthot said...

Correction to previous post:
American political scientist is John F. Manley. Alexander Hamilton was an American statesman.

On Constitution (the American point of view):

1) All this talk of the Iraqi Constitution—or lack thereof—serves as a useful reminder that a country's constitution is only as useful as the tools that will be used to interpret it later.

2) Tom DeLay: the only alternative to the interpretive theory of "Originalism" or "strict construction" is to have judges swinging like monkeys from the constitutional chandeliers, making up whatever they want, whenever they want.

3) Jonah Goldberg: A Constitution' denies us our voice in this regard because it basically holds that whatever decisions we make—including the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments—can be thrown out by any five dyspeptic justices on the Supreme Court. In other words, the justices who claim the Constitution is a wild card didn't take their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution in good faith because they couldn't know what they were swearing to.

4) Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in the recent Ten Commandments cases: "What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority, is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that—thumbs up or thumbs down—as their personal preferences dictate."

5) Todd Gaziano from the Heritage Foundation: "If judges can essentially do whatever they want in the guise of updating the Constitution … making it real for today or choosing whatever silly phrase you want, then we might as well have a completely unwritten Constitution."

AAS said...

Yes, the army has played a part in what is wrong with doubt about it. But we keep forgetting that the industrial, feudal, commercial, political,religious and social elites have also played a role.

And lets not forget that in our own everyday lives the people of Pakistan have done so too. Example: So many times i hear people complain about garbage on the street yet no one cares to do anything about it.....but they will waste all day talking about it. Doesn't Pakistan belong to all of us?

What Pakistan needs is the determination to break a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself....but i hardly doubt that will happen.

Anonymous said...


I find myself in concurrence with AAS – and to reiterate a point I had made earlier on this blog: One thing is unfortunately certain; the folks in Pakistan are in deep slumbers with the disenfranchised and “sub chulta haey” apathy.

Furthermore, to clarify, when we speak of the army, we are talking about the hierarchy – mostly generals like Musharraf. The average Joe in the army unfortunately gets a bad rap because of the bigwigs like Musharraf.

The incentive to change the status quo has to come from the “silent majority” of people of Pakistan. The “silent majority” must get up from its clumsy slumbers and get its act together. It is high time for spring-cleaning in Pakistan – let’s get our house in order.

Anonymous said...

Some of us are trying to rouse people from their slumber...not the poor who have gone from meat and daal and vegetables twenty years ago to only daal and roti - when they are lucky - they barely have the energy to get through a day. So, please let us not blame them for not knowing about basic hygiene and garbage disposal!!

It is people like aas who are constantly protecting and apologizing for the army who need to rise up from their brainwashed states and throw away their security blankets.

We cannot put pols, justices and industrialists in the same place and postion as the top army brass as they have all been removed, jailed and punished whenever they step out of line with the top generals - when has that ever happened to a top general - except with a crate of mangos perhaps.

I agree with justathot that not all members of the military are to blame - not at all....just the bigshots. MAHI

AAS said...

I really tire of playing games with MAHI. I doubt he ever reads anything i have written with an open mind....something he clearly accuses me of sorely lacking.

Another example of corruption that WE ALL ARE RESPONSIBLE for even the POOR.

To get things done instead of follwoing the rules we try to go to someone we know "Aur Admi" and basically go ahead in line.

Yes, i understand that in many ways its the only way to get anything done...but if all of us started to follow the rules Pakistan could be better. For example driving or operataing a vehicle or using animal transport.

To claim that all poor people are just victims and are not capable of doing anything that is being rather NAIVE of you Mahi. Did you just become an idealist thinking only the poor are truly blameless?

Anonymous said...


My humble suggestion to both AAS & MAHI: It is not enough to denounce the inequities between the haves & and have-nots, or between one group v/s another – it is necessary to understand the connections between Power & Money. We need to address the root causes of injustices & inequalities & poverty & polarization & fragmentation, and that is: CORRUPTION & BAD LEADERSHIP.

So whether it is Musharraf, or NS or BB – the poor Pakistanis – they all suffer from the negative aspects of the elitist power and the divide-and-rule strategies. Let’s not use exaggeration and descriptions for our own narrow self-interest. Let us all unite towards that desirability of a new, humane and truly democratic Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Justathot: I agree with you on this - "Let us all unite towards that desirability of a new, humane and truly democratic Pakistan".
However I do not feel you have the right to try and censor how any of us want to get there..That is what blogs are for I thought? MAHI

Anonymous said...

Pak Army can not be left out of responsibility for current mess. The days of singing the patriotic songs is over when you see the khaki appratus used to crush its own people. While intelligence agencies are pampering and promoting the bigot mullahs its no fun to see that just Musharraf is responsible. If we do then we will be inviting another tin-pot paid servant of state to rape the nation for another decade. In simple the army need to chew its shoes and be subservient to the elected elements of society. I hope the current judges has balls to show Musharraf he has done enough damage to society in general and army in particular. After seeing helpless journalists and lawyers beaten and roughed up I think they should show some moral courage.

Pakistani Awam Zindabad

AAS said...

As usual i have to state things again.

I am not JUST accusing the army or saying that the army is not at fault for the shape our nation.

Also, i am not saying that every one assosciated with army is at fault or for that matter any of the other sectors of the nation like industrial, feudal etc... are to blame.

What i am saying is that the elites of all these sections all have had a hand in keeping Pakistan backward. And not all the elites JUST most of them.

But this does not mean that the "common" person has not had a hand in also keeping our nation backward.

There is enough blame to go around.

Even though having explained this again...Mahi will attack me as usual. And no one especially me wants to see you muzzled. Speak as much as you like.

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