KARACHI, April 30: Supreme Court Bar Association President and member of the Pakistan People’s Party Aitzaz Ahsan has said the direction of the movement for the restoration of the pre-November 3, 2007 judiciary will depend on what emerges from the Asif Zardari-Nawaz Sharif parleys in Dubai.
“Today is the last day of the countdown. Our eyes are on Dubai, where the two leaders are present. Both have signed the Murree Declaration,” Ahsan said at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, where he was conferred the Habib Jalib Peace award. Retired acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Rana Bhagwandas presented the award – named Sar-i-Maqtal after one of the late poet’s collections – to Mr Ahsan.
Talking to the media after the ceremony, which was peppered with ‘go, Musharraf, go’ slogans, Aitzaz Ahsan said it was very significant that Pakistan Muslim League chief Mian Nawaz Sharif proceeded to Dubai, where PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had been staying for the past few days.
“We are waiting for news from Dubai. We will have consultations regarding the outcome. No movement will be launched at midnight tonight,” said the barrister. “We want all the deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, restored. We will not accept a ‘minus one’ formula. Asif Zardari is also a signatory to the Murree Declaration and is conscious” of what it contains, he added.
During his earlier speech, Aitzaz Ahsan said there could not be a strong parliament without an independent judiciary.
“It’s a great thing the elections took place. We want a strong parliament. But a strong parliament cannot be raised on the ruins of the judiciary. The judiciary strengthens parliament and democracy. If there is no judiciary, there will be no democracy,” he said.
Referring to one of Habib Jalib’s poems, he said in the country’s judicial history – from the M.T. Khan case to the Zafar Ali Khan case – “most of the justices have remained prisoners.” He claimed it was only in the past two or three years that the judiciary had begun to take an independent stand, which was unacceptable to President Pervez Musharraf. He said Justice Chaudhry’s “single no” had changed the destiny of the nation.
Calling retired Justice Bhagwandas “a hero,” he said unlike 17 of the 60 removed judges, Justice Bhagwandas and others like him “did not go to the court of the dictator.” He had harsh words for Mr Musharraf as he claimed Justice Chaudhry and his family’s house arrest was “not a constitutional or legal matter, but a criminal matter.”
Ending his speech on a defiant note, Aitzaz Ahsan said “we are ready for a struggle if our hopes are dashed.”
He also praised Habib Jalib for his resistance to military rulers from Ayub Khan to Ziaul Haq and read out one of his own lengthy poems.
‘Why I took oath on the PCO’
Rana Bhagwandas, who presided over the function, explained to the audience why he took the oath on the earlier Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), as many opponents of the current judicial movement have constantly attacked this Achilles heel.
“We thought that if the honest judges did not take the oath, the field would have been wide open for fauji jawans to take over the bench. I consulted some senior Supreme Court colleagues and they told me to take the oath but not to sell my conscience. Despite taking the oath, I feel I have not done anything shameful,” he said.
Responding to the praise that was earlier showered on him, Justice Bhagwandas said he was simply doing his job by not bowing to illegitimate demands of the powers that be and that he had done nothing special.
He said the movement over the past year-and-a-half spearheaded by the lawyers, civil society, media and workers was a “ray of hope.” Comparing Jalib with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and Josh Maleehabadi, the former acting chief justice said it was a pity Habib Jalib was not celebrated when he was alive.
Pakistan National Workers’ Party General-Secretary Akhtar Hussain, leader of the opposition in the City Council Saeed Ghani, Habib Jalib’s son Nasir Jalib, Sarwar Jawaid, poet Zahida Hina, Sibghatullah Qadri, Karachi Bar Association President Mahmoodul Hasan, poet Sabir Zafar, Karachi Union of Journalists President Khursheed Tanvir, KPC President Najib Ahmed, journalist Abdul Hameed Chhapra and others also spoke.
The idea for the Habib Jalib Peace award was first floated five years ago by a committee headed by the late veteran journalist Hasan Abidi, while the first recipient of the award last year was prominent leftist thinker ‘Comrade’ Sobho Gianchandani.