Bring the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan back

Here is another story of the farcical de facto chief justice (CJ) who has occupied the highest seat of Judiciary unconstitutionally in Pakistan and the collusion of the PPP government to manipulate the education board (an independent institution) to get CJ’s daughter a higher grade …..   read on!

what a shame!!!

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The PPP government on Thursday aggressively blocked the parliamentary probe into the chief justice’s daughter case amid an uproar in the National Assembly committee meeting that witnessed a walkout by the government members, including the minister of state for education.

The chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Education, Abid Sher Ali, of the PML-N was not allowed to proceed as the state minister consistently pressed that the inclusion of the CJ’s daughter case in the meeting’s agenda was a violation of the rules. The State Minister, Ghulam Farid Kathia, also strongly objected to the presence of not only media persons covering the event but also that of Ansar Abbasi, Editor Investigations, The News, who was invited by the committee as a special guest to take part in the proceedings.

The whole proceedings, which included the suspension of the noisy sitting for 15 minutes and followed by walkout of the government members and even the Education Ministry mandarins, turned out to be a joke when the chairperson of the Federal Board for Intermediate and Secondary Education, Ms. Shaheen Khan, refused to brief the committee on the issue despite repeated requests by the committee chairman.

Every time she was given the floor, she said that she would not utter a word unless allowed by her secretary and the minister, who kept on pressing that the issue could not be included in the agenda of the meeting without his consultation. At her response to the committee, the chairman told her: “You are answerable to the committee and if you do not talk on the issue, then you may leave.”

The angry chairman even once announced to postpone the meeting against what he said the negative attitude of the government side but the members intervened and requested him to continue the meeting. He again asked the FBISE chairperson to tell the committee about the issue but time and again the minister interrupted him and did not let him proceed.

Chairman Abid conducted short census among the eight members of the committee out of whom four said the proceedings on this issue of public interest be maintained. The chairman, while using his discretionary power, resumed the proceedings.

State Minister for Education Ghulam Farid Kathia refused to brief the committee, saying it was not on the agenda of the committee’s meeting. However, he was of the view that the issue should be discussed in camera, not in the presence of newsmen. This irritated the chairman who observed that the issue was of immense public interest and must be discussed in the presence of the press.

The committee witnessed some rowdy scenes and exchange of harsh words between Abid Sher Ali and Ghulam Farid Kathia as well as the FBISE Chairperson Shaheen Khan, who also declined to speak without the minister’s permission.

“You are trying to sabotage this meeting by interrupting me again and again … you may leave,” Ali repeatedly told the state minister for education who argued that the issue of CJ’s daughter could not be discussed, as it was not on the committee’s agenda.

The situation remained tense, as the government side insisted that the issue be taken up some other day. Kathia was of the view that the committee chairman had not consulted him on the issue and, therefore, he was going against the rules and regulations. However, Abid Sher Ali said he had written letters to all the concerned officials, including the FBISE chairperson, to appear before the committee with all the required record.

He said the issue was of serious nature in which the top government officials were involved in misuse of powers. “But nobody is ready on this issue,” Kathia argued followed by Abid Sher Ali’s remarks: “If you are not ready, then you can leave.” However, the minister refused to do so.

The chairman of the committee said: “You are trying to block the committee to proceed in the case of high public importance and defending the corrupt. You and the government are against the voiceless students who are tens of thousands in number.” Abid Sher Ali also said that the minister was defending those who indulged in abuse of power.

On the minister’s signal, four MNAs left the proceedings and staged a walkout. One of the National Assembly’s senior officials told the minister that under such rules, the committee could not discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, sources told The News that the meeting of the committee, scheduled to continue on Friday, was postponed by the speaker National Assembly. The sources said it was an attempt to strangulate the voice of truth.

Source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=18652

Chief Justice – will he get justice?

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has so far been a great champion of the restoration of the judiciary through parliament, is considering the option of a Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry-specific constitutional amendment, slashing his tenure from June 2013 to 2010.

Though no decision has been taken by the party leadership as yet on this highly controversial issue, there are certain PML-N leaders arguing that this compromise solution is being deliberated upon to save the PPP-PML-N coalition. The PPP leadership is adamant that it would not allow Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to continue till June 2013.

The PML-N finds itself in a tight corner as it is being made to concede to slashing the tenure of the deposed chief justice in exchange for the PPP’s willingness to table the resolution in the National Assembly for the restoration of the deposed judges to their Nov 2, 2007 position.

Interestingly tenures of judges of the superior judiciary are not fixed either in Britain or India whereas in the United States the judges of the Supreme Court and those of the federal courts are appointed for life. However, there is a tradition in the United States where superior judiciary judges get voluntary retirement when they reach the age of 70-75.

If finally approved and agreed between the two parties, the PML-N might consider this formula a “compromise” to achieve the greater goal of the judges’ restoration and to save the PPP-PML-N-ANP coalition from possible demise. However, it is believed that such a solution might not be acceptable to the lawyers’ fraternity and the civil society, which had struggled relentlessly after March 9, 2007 for the cause of the independence of the judiciary.

While Asif Ali Zardari is also facing a great fall in his overall popularity among these quarters after dithering on his commitment to restore the judges within 30 days of the formation of the federal government, there is a realisation within the PML-N that the fate of Nawaz Sharif and his party could also be no different if such a compromise solution is reached. Perhaps, it would be more damaging in the case of the PML-N.

A party source believed that getting the PML-N to back off from its clear stance on the judges’ issue might be a trap set by the PPP to politically damage the Nawaz-League, which has so far been attaining more and more popularity for speaking out on the judges’ issue. The PML-N was the only political party which had contested the Feb 18 elections on the slogan of getting the deposed judges restored.

As in the world’s leading democracies, Pakistan has traditionally been setting the maximum age limit for the retirement of the superior judiciary judges without fixing any tenure for the chief justices of the Supreme Court or high courts. However, it was only during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when, in 1976, a constitutional amendment was passed to fix the tenure of the high court chief justices to four years and that of the chief justice of Pakistan to five years.

Bhutto got this amendment through because he was not happy with the then chief justices of the Lahore High Court Justice Sardar Muhammad Iqbal and the Peshawar High Court Justice Justice Safdar Shah. In the case of Justice Safdar Shah, Bhutto got annoyed after this highly respected judge had dismissed from service political appointees in the police department besides accepting bail of some workers of the then National Awami Party, now Awami National Party.

These constitutional amendments were undone by the martial law of General Ziaul Haq, who reverted to the system of getting the judges, including the chief justices, retired on their set age of retirement.

The retirement age for high court judges remained 62 years whereas in the case of the Supreme Court it has been 65. In his legal framework order, Musharraf had enhanced the retirement age of SC judges to 68 and that of the HC judges to 65 but the 17th Constitutional Amendment reverted to the original retirement age.

In a strange coincidence, it is almost after 32 years of not so appreciable 6th Amendment of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that his son-in-law, Asif Zardari, is determined to introduce a person-specific constitutional amendment targeting Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Pakistan’s irony is that the Constitution has been repeatedly amended to the advantage or disadvantage of personalities instead of strengthening the system and institutions.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has given a new hope for the independence of the judiciary in the country. Because of what he did on March 9 and later on Nov 3 and for the kind of decisions the Supreme Court handed down during his tenure as chief justice, he has become a symbol of the independence of the judiciary. Cutting his tenure only because a powerful soul is allergic to him would mean making a mockery of the dreams of the people of Pakistan.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=14282

End note: It is clear from the outset that the PPP has been ambiguous on this issue since time immemorial. The people of Pakistan must take a clear stand whether they want an independent proactive judiciary, a key founding pillar of a strong and progressive democracy which is ready to deliver speedy justice and keep the executive in check or a mock judiciary as we have seen in the past. It is all about do we still want to live in the regressive past or move ahead towards a brighter and progressive future.

Tyrant’s party eats the dust – a resounding defeat!

In what political pundits can term as pure revolutionary, the people of Pakistan have rejected the King’s party across the country with important puppet leaders ending up licking their wounds and some trying to flee to hypocritic West.

Even the threat of violence did not stop people show their full and total rejection of the despicable tyranny that ruled? this nation.

The demand to reinstate the nation’s independent judiciary is louder than ever!  The demand that the nation’s servants go back to serve it … not rules it!

So here goes the prediction!…

PML-Q or the King’s party is wiped out off history…….. full stop!

Punjab: PML-N i.e. Nawaz Sharif’s (the ex-Prime Minister who was shown the exit door by the will of might rather than the will of vote) party wins the largest province and takes the provincial assembly

Sind: PPP i.e. Benazir Bhutto’s party (Late ex-Prime Minister) wins most seats and forms majority

NWFP: ANP i.e. the socialist party rules the day and will probably form the government

Baluchistan: The only province in the country where the turnout was so low that the will of the people could not prevail (they really did not accept the farce elections under Tyranny) hence the King’s party PML-Q may take the majority with their ghost voters.

And what about the big prize… The National Assembly (Parliament)

The trend shows King’s party is almost wiped out to oblivion. PPP (Benazir’s party) and PML-N (Nawaz Sharif’s party) will split the vote and probably will be in a position to form a coalition government. There is also a possibility that alongwith ANP they’d take 2/3rd majority  ……… enough to impeach the Tyrant.

Civil and Religious Law in England

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has stirred a heated debate with his lecture on 7th February –  Some of the criticism against his view has obscured his fundamental argument which is that human beings have multiple allegiances and all of them can be complementary which is not given due consideration by the current legal structure –

Full text of his lecture is reproduced below:

The title of this series of lectures signals the existence of what is very widely felt to be a growing challenge in our society – that is, the presence of communities which, while no less ‘law-abiding’ than the rest of the population, relate to something other than the British legal system alone. But, as I hope to suggest, the issues that arise around what level of public or legal recognition, if any, might be allowed to the legal provisions of a religious group, are not peculiar to Islam: we might recall that, while the law of the Church of England is the law of the land, its daily operation is in the hands of authorities to whom considerable independence is granted. And beyond the specific issues that arise in relation to the practicalities of recognition or delegation, there are large questions in the background about what we understand by and expect from the law, questions that are more sharply focused than ever in a largely secular social environment. I shall therefore be concentrating on certain issues around Islamic law to begin with, in order to open up some of these wider matters.
Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law. And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; just a few days ago, it was reported that a ‘forced marriage’ involving a young woman with learning difficulties had been ‘sanctioned under sharia law’ – the kind of story that, in its assumption that we all ‘really’ know what is involved in the practice of sharia, powerfully reinforces the image of – at best – a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role. The problem is freely admitted by Muslim scholars. ‘In the West’, writes Tariq Ramadan in his groundbreaking Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, ‘the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam…It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word’ (p.31). Even when some of the more dramatic fears are set aside, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what degree of accommodation the law of the land can and should give to minority communities with their own strongly entrenched legal and moral codes. As such, this is not only an issue about Islam but about other faith groups, including Orthodox Judaism; and indeed it spills over into some of the questions which have surfaced sharply in the last twelve months about the right of religious believers in general to opt out of certain legal provisions – as in the problems around Roman Catholic adoption agencies which emerged in relation to the Sexual Orientation Regulations last spring.
This lecture will not attempt a detailed discussion of the nature of sharia, which would be far beyond my competence; my aim is only, as I have said, to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thought about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom. But it is important to begin by dispelling one or two myths about sharia; so far from being a monolithic system of detailed enactments, sharia designates primarily – to quote Ramadan again – ‘the expression of the universal principles of Islam [and] the framework and the thinking that makes for their actualization in human history’ (32). Universal principles: as any Muslim commentator will insist, what is in view is the eternal and absolute will of God for the universe and for its human inhabitants in particular; but also something that has to be ‘actualized’, not a ready-made system. If shar’ designates the essence of the revealed Law, sharia is the practice of actualizing and applying it; while certain elements of the sharia are specified fairly exactly in the Qur’an and Sunna and in the hadith recognised as authoritative in this respect, there is no single code that can be identified as ‘the’ sharia. And when certain states
impose what they refer to as sharia or when certain Muslim activists demand its recognition alongside secular jurisdictions, they are usually referring not to a universal and fixed code established once for all but to some particular concretisation of it at the hands of a tradition of jurists. In the hands of contemporary legal traditionalists, this means simply that the application of sharia must be governed by the judgements of representatives of the classical schools of legal interpretation. But there are a good many voices arguing for an extension of the liberty of ijtihad – basically reasoning from first principles rather than simply the collation of traditional judgements (see for example Louis Gardet, ‘Un prealable aux questions soulevees par les droits de l’homme: l’actualisation de la Loi religieuse musulmane aujourd’hui’, Islamochristiana 9, 1983, 1-12, and Abdullah Saeed, ‘Trends in Contemporary Islam: a Preliminary Attempt at a Classification’, The Muslim World, 97:3, 2007, 395-404, esp. 401-2).
Thus, in contrast to what is sometimes assumed, we do not simply have a standoff between two rival legal systems when we discuss Islamic and British law. On the one hand, sharia depends for its legitimacy not on any human decision, not on votes or preferences, but on the conviction that it represents the mind of God; on the other, it is to some extent unfinished business so far as codified and precise provisions are concerned. To recognise sharia is to recognise a method of jurisprudence governed by revealed texts rather than a single system. In a discussion based on a paper from Mona Siddiqui at a conference last year at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, the point was made by one or two Muslim scholars that an excessively narrow understanding sharia as simply codified rules can have the effect of actually undermining the universal claims of the Qur’an.
But while such universal claims are not open for renegotiation, they also assume the voluntary consent or submission of the believer, the free decision to be and to continue a member of the umma. Sharia is not, in that sense, intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim dominance over non-Muslims. Both historically and in the contemporary context, Muslim states have acknowledged that membership of the umma is not coterminous with membership in a particular political society: in modern times, the clearest articulation of this was in the foundation of the Pakistani state under Jinnah; but other examples (Morocco, Jordan) could be cited of societies where there is a concept of citizenship that is not identical with belonging to the umma. Such societies, while not compromising or weakening the possibility of unqualified belief in the authority and universality of sharia, or even the privileged status of Islam in a nation, recognise that there can be no guarantee that the state is religiously homogeneous and that the relationships in which the individual stands and which define him or her are not exclusively with other Muslims. There has therefore to be some concept of common good that is not prescribed solely in terms of revealed Law, however provisional or imperfect such a situation is thought to be. And this implies in turn that the Muslim, even in a predominantly Muslim state, has something of a dual identity, as citizen and as believer within the community of the faithful.
It is true that this account would be hotly contested by some committed Islamic primitivists, by followers of Sayyid Qutb and similar polemicists; but it is fair to say that the great body of serious jurists in the Islamic world would recognise this degree of political plurality as consistent with Muslim integrity. In this sense, while (as I have said) we are not talking about two rival systems on the same level, there is some community of understanding between Islamic social thinking and the categories we might turn to in the non-Muslim world for the understanding of law in the most general context. There is a recognition that our social identities are not constituted by one exclusive set of relations or mode of belonging – even if one of those sets is regarded as relating to the most fundamental and non-negotiable level of reality, as established by a ‘covenant’ between the divine and the human (as in Jewish and Christian thinking; once again, we are not talking about an exclusively Muslim problem). The danger arises not only when there is an assumption on the religious side that membership of the community (belonging to the umma or the Church or whatever) is the only significant category, so that participation in other kinds of socio-political arrangement is a kind of betrayal. It also occurs when secular government assumes a monopoly in terms of defining public and political identity. There is a position – not at all unfamiliar in contemporary discussion – which says that to be a citizen is essentially and simply to be under the rule of the uniform law of a sovereign state, in such a way that any other relations, commitments or protocols of behaviour belong exclusively to the realm of the private
and of individual choice. As I have maintained in several other contexts, this is a very unsatisfactory account of political reality in modern societies; but it is also a problematic basis for thinking of the legal category of citizenship and the nature of human interdependence. Maleiha Malik, following Alasdair MacIntyre, argues in an essay on ‘Faith and the State of Jurisprudence’ (Faith in Law: Essays in Legal Theory, ed. Peter Oliver, Sionaidh Douglas Scott and Victor Tadros, 2000, pp.129-49) that there is a risk of assuming that ‘mainstreram’ jurisprudence should routinely and unquestioningly bypass the variety of ways in which actions are as a matter of fact understood by agents in the light of the diverse sorts of communal belonging they are involved in. If that is the assumption, ‘the appropriate temporal unit for analysis tends to be the basic action. Instead of concentrating on the history of the individual or the origins of the social practice which provides the context within which the act is performed, conduct tends to be studied as an isolated and one-off act’ (139-40). And another essay in the same collection, Anthony Bradney’s ‘Faced by Faith’ (89-105) offers some examples of legal rulings which have disregarded the account offered by religious believers of the motives for their own decisions, on the grounds that the court alone is competent to assess the coherence or even sincerity of their claims. And when courts attempt to do this on the grounds of what is ‘generally acceptable’ behaviour in a society, they are open, Bradney claims (102-3) to the accusation of undermining the principle of liberal pluralism by denying someone the right to speak in their own voice. The distinguished ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Mark Hill, has also underlined in a number of recent papers the degree of confusion that has bedevilled recent essays in adjudicating disputes with a religious element, stressing the need for better definition of the kind of protection for religious conscience that the law intends (see particularly his essay with Russell Sandberg, ‘Is Nothing Sacred? Clashing Symbols in a Secular World’, Public Law 3, 2007, pp.488-506).
I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour – for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief – it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.
The implications are twofold. There is a plain procedural question – and neither Bradney nor Malik goes much beyond this – about how existing courts function and what weight is properly give to the issues we have been discussing. But there is a larger theoretical and practical issue about what it is to live under more than one jurisdiction., which takes us back to the question we began with – the role of sharia (or indeed Orthodox Jewish practice) in relation to the routine jurisdiction of the British courts. In general, when there is a robust affirmation that the law of the land should protect individuals on the grounds of their corporate religious identity and secure their freedom to fulfil religious duties, a number of queries are regularly raised. I want to look at three such difficulties briefly. They relate both to the question of whether there should be a higher level of attention to religious identity and communal rights in the practice of the law, and to the larger issue I mentioned of something like a delegation of certain legal functions to the religious courts of a community; and this latter question, it should be remembered, is relevant not only to Islamic law but also to areas of Orthodox Jewish practice.
The first objection to a higher level of public legal regard being paid to communal identity is that it leaves legal process (including ordinary disciplinary process within organisations) at the mercy of what might be called vexatious appeals to religious scruple. A recent example might be the reported refusal of a Muslim woman employed by Marks and Spencer to handle a book of Bible stories. Or we might think of the rather more serious cluster of questions around forced marriages, where again it is crucial to distinguish between cultural and strictly religious dimensions. While Bradney rightly cautions against the simple dismissal of alleged scruple by
judicial authorities who have made no attempt to understand its workings in the construction of people’s social identities, it should be clear also that any recognition of the need for such sensitivity must also have a recognised means of deciding the relative seriousness of conscience-related claims, a way of distinguishing purely cultural habits from seriously-rooted matters of faith and discipline, and distinguishing uninformed prejudice from religious prescription. There needs to be access to recognised authority acting for a religious group: there is already, of course, an Islamic Shari’a Council, much in demand for rulings on marital questions in the UK; and if we were to see more latitude given in law to rights and scruples rooted in religious identity, we should need a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition, so that ‘vexatious’ claims could be summarily dealt with. The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. There can be no blank cheques given to unexamined scruples.
The second issue, a very serious one, is that recognition of ‘supplementary jurisdiction’ in some areas, especially family law, could have the effect of reinforcing in minority communities some of the most repressive or retrograde elements in them, with particularly serious consequences for the role and liberties of women. The ‘forced marriage’ question is the one most often referred to here, and it is at the moment undoubtedly a very serious and scandalous one; but precisely because it has to do with custom and culture rather than directly binding enactments by religious authority, I shall refer to another issue. It is argued that the provision for the inheritance of widows under a strict application of sharia has the effect of disadvantaging them in what the majority community might regard as unacceptable ways. A legal (in fact Qur’anic) provision which in its time served very clearly to secure a widow’s position at a time when this was practically unknown in the culture becomes, if taken absolutely literally, a generator of relative insecurity in a new context (see, for example, Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights. Tradition and Politics, 1999, p.111). The problem here is that recognising the authority of a communal religious court to decide finally and authoritatively about such a question would in effect not merely allow an additional layer of legal routes for resolving conflicts and ordering behaviour but would actually deprive members of the minority community of rights and liberties that they were entitled to enjoy as citizens; and while a legal system might properly admit structures or protocols that embody the diversity of moral reasoning in a plural society by allowing scope for a minority group to administer its affairs according to its own convictions, it can hardly admit or ‘license’ protocols that effectively take away the rights it acknowledges as generally valid.
To put the question like that is already to see where an answer might lie, though it is not an answer that will remove the possibility of some conflict. If any kind of plural jurisdiction is recognised, it would presumably have to be under the rubric that no ‘supplementary’ jurisdiction could have the power to deny access to the rights granted to other citizens or to punish its members for claiming those rights. This is in effect to mirror what a minority might themselves be requesting – that the situation should not arise where membership of one group restricted the freedom to live also as a member of an overlapping group, that (in this case) citizenship in a secular society should not necessitate the abandoning of religious discipline, any more than religious discipline should deprive one of access to liberties secured by the law of the land, to the common benefits of secular citizenship – or, better, to recognise that citizenship itself is a complex phenomenon not bound up with any one level of communal belonging but involving them all.
But this does not guarantee an absence of conflict. In the particular case we have mentioned, the inheritance rights of widows, it is already true that some Islamic societies have themselves proved flexible (Malaysia is a case in point). But let us take a more neuralgic matter still: what about the historic Islamic prohibition against apostasy, and the draconian penalties entailed? In a society where freedom of religion is secured by law, it is obviously impossible for any group to claim that conversion to another faith is simply disallowed or to claim the right to inflict punishment on a convert. We touch here on one of the most sensitive areas not only in thinking about legal practice but also in interfaith relations. A significant number of contemporary Islamic jurists and scholars would say that the Qur’anic pronouncements on apostasy which have been regarded as the ground for extreme penalties reflect a situation in which abandoning Islam was
equivalent to adopting an active stance of violent hostility to the community, so that extreme penalties could be compared to provisions in other jurisdictions for punishing spies or traitors in wartime; but that this cannot be regarded as bearing on the conditions now existing in the world. Of course such a reading is wholly unacceptable to ‘primitivists’ in Islam, for whom this would be an example of a rationalising strategy, a style of interpretation (ijtihad) uncontrolled by proper traditional norms. But, to use again the terminology suggested a moment ago, as soon as it is granted that – even in a dominantly Islamic society – citizens have more than one set of defining relationships under the law of the state, it becomes hard to justify enactments that take it for granted that the only mode of contact between these sets of relationships is open enmity; in which case, the appropriateness of extreme penalties for conversion is not obvious even within a fairly strict Muslim frame of reference. Conversely, where the dominant legal culture is non-Islamic, but there is a level of serious recognition of the corporate reality and rights of the umma, there can be no assumption that outside the umma the goal of any other jurisdiction is its destruction. Once again, there has to be a recognition that difference of conviction is not automatically a lethal threat.
As I have said, this is a delicate and complex matter involving what is mostly a fairly muted but nonetheless real debate among Muslim scholars in various contexts. I mention it partly because of its gravity as an issue in interfaith relations and in discussions of human rights and the treatment of minorities, partly to illustrate how the recognition of what I have been calling membership in different but overlapping sets of social relationship (what others have called ‘multiple affiliations’) can provide a framework for thinking about these neuralgic questions of the status of women and converts. Recognising a supplementary jurisdiction cannot mean recognising a liberty to exert a sort of local monopoly in some areas. The Jewish legal theorist Ayelet Shachar, in a highly original and significant monograph on Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women’s Rights (2001), explores the risks of any model that ends up ‘franchising’ a non-state jurisdiction so as to reinforce its most problematic features and further disadvantage its weakest members: ‘we must be alert’, she writes, ‘to the potentially injurious effects of well-meaning external protections upon different categories of group members here – effects which may unwittingly exacerbate preexisting internal power hierarchies’ (113). She argues that if we are serious in trying to move away from a model that treats one jurisdiction as having a monopoly of socially defining roles and relations, we do not solve any problems by a purely uncritical endorsement of a communal legal structure which can only be avoided by deciding to leave the community altogether. We need, according to Shachar, to ‘work to overcome the ultimatum of “either your culture or your rights”’ (114).
So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction. Once again, there are no blank cheques. I shall return to some of the details of Shachar’s positive proposal; but I want to move on to the third objection, which grows precisely out of the complexities of clarifying the relations between jurisdictions. Is it not both theoretically and practically mistaken to qualify our commitment to legal monopoly? So much of our thinking in the modern world, dominated by European assumptions about universal rights, rests, surely, on the basis that the law is the law; that everyone stands before the public tribunal on exactly equal terms, so that recognition of corporate identities or, more seriously, of supplementary jurisdictions is simply incoherent if we want to preserve the great political and social advances of Western legality.
There is a bit of a risk here in the way we sometimes talk about the universal vision of post-Enlightenment politics. The great protest of the Enlightenment was against authority that appealed only to tradition and refused to justify itself by other criteria – by open reasoned argument or by standards of successful provision of goods and liberties for the greatest number. Its claim to override traditional forms of governance and custom by looking towards a universal tribunal was entirely intelligible against the background of despotism and uncritical inherited privilege which prevailed in so much of early modern Europe. The most positive aspect of this moment in our cultural history was its focus on equal levels of accountability for all and equal
levels of access for all to legal process. In this respect, it was in fact largely the foregrounding and confirming of what was already encoded in longstanding legal tradition, Roman and mediaeval, which had consistently affirmed the universality and primacy of law (even over the person of the monarch). But this set of considerations alone is not adequate to deal with the realities of complex societies: it is not enough to say that citizenship as an abstract form of equal access and equal accountability is either the basis or the entirety of social identity and personal motivation. Where this has been enforced, it has proved a weak vehicle for the life of a society and has often brought violent injustice in its wake (think of the various attempts to reduce citizenship to rational equality in the France of the 1790’s or the China of the 1970’s). Societies that are in fact ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse are societies in which identity is formed, as we have noted by different modes and contexts of belonging, ‘multiple affiliation’. The danger is in acting as if the authority that managed the abstract level of equal citizenship represented a sovereign order which then allowed other levels to exist. But if the reality of society is plural – as many political theorists have pointed out – this is a damagingly inadequate account of common life, in which certain kinds of affiliation are marginalised or privatised to the extent that what is produced is a ghettoised pattern of social life, in which particular sorts of interest and of reasoning are tolerated as private matters but never granted legitimacy in public as part of a continuing debate about shared goods and priorities.
But this means that we have to think a little harder about the role and rule of law in a plural society of overlapping identities. Perhaps it helps to see the universalist vision of law as guaranteeing equal accountability and access primarily in a negative rather than a positive sense – that is, to see it as a mechanism whereby any human participant in a society is protected against the loss of certain elementary liberties of self-determination and guaranteed the freedom to demand reasons for any actions on the part of others for actions and policies that infringe self-determination. This is a slightly more gentle or tactful way of expressing what some legal theorists will describe as the ‘monopoly of legitimate violence’ by the law of a state, the absolute restriction of powers of forcible restraint to those who administer statutory law. This is not to reduce society itself primarily to an uneasy alliance of self-determining individuals arguing about the degree to which their freedom is limited by one another and needing forcible restraint in a war of all against all – though that is increasingly the model which a narrowly rights-based culture fosters, producing a manically litigious atmosphere and a conviction of the inadequacy of customary ethical restraints and traditions – of what was once called ‘civility’. The picture will not be unfamiliar, and there is a modern legal culture which loves to have it so. But the point of defining legal universalism as a negative thing is that it allows us to assume, as I think we should, that the important springs of moral vision in a society will be in those areas which a systematic abstract universalism regards as ‘private’ – in religion above all, but also in custom and habit. The role of ‘secular’ law is not the dissolution of these things in the name of universalism but the monitoring of such affiliations to prevent the creation of mutually isolated communities in which human liberties are seen in incompatible ways and individual persons are subjected to restraints or injustices for which there is no public redress.
The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity – and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of ‘human dignity as such’ – a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group. It is not to claim that specific community understandings are ‘superseded’ by this universal principle, rather to claim that they all need to be undergirded by it. The rule of law is – and this may sound rather counterintuitive – a way of honouring what in the human constitution is not captured by any one form of corporate belonging or any particular history, even though the human constitution never exists without those other determinations. Our need, as Raymond Plant has well expressed it, is for the construction of ‘a moral framework which could expand outside the boundaries of
particular narratives while, at the same time, respecting the narratives as the cultural contexts in which the language [of common dignity and mutually intelligible commitments to work for certain common moral priorities] is learned and taught’ (Politics, Theology and History, 2001, pp.357-8).
I’d add in passing that this is arguably a place where more reflection is needed about the theology of law; if my analysis is right, the sort of foundation I have sketched for a universal principle of legal right requires both a certain valuation of the human as such and a conviction that the human subject is always endowed with some degree of freedom over against any and every actual system of human social life; both of these things are historically rooted in Christian theology, even when they have acquired a life of their own in isolation from that theology. It never does any harm to be reminded that without certain themes consistently and strongly emphasised by the ‘Abrahamic’ faiths, themes to do with the unconditional possibility for every human subject to live in conscious relation with God and in free and constructive collaboration with others, there is no guarantee that a ‘universalist’ account of human dignity would ever have seemed plausible or even emerged with clarity. Slave societies and assumptions about innate racial superiority are as widespread a feature as any in human history (and they have persistently infected even Abrahamic communities, which is perhaps why the Enlightenment was a necessary wake-up call to religion…).
But to return to our main theme: I have been arguing that a defence of an unqualified secular legal monopoly in terms of the need for a universalist doctrine of human right or dignity is to misunderstand the circumstances in which that doctrine emerged, and that the essential liberating (and religiously informed) vision it represents is not imperilled by a loosening of the monopolistic framework. At the moment, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the most frequently noted problems in the law in this area is the reluctance of a dominant rights-based philosophy to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious opting-out from collaboration in procedures or practices that are in tension with the demands of particular religious groups: the assumption, in rather misleading shorthand, that if a right or liberty is granted there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to ‘activate’ this whenever called upon. Earlier on, I proposed that the criterion for recognising and collaborating with communal religious discipline should be connected with whether a communal jurisdiction actively interfered with liberties guaranteed by the wider society in such a way as definitively to block access to the exercise of those liberties; clearly the refusal of a religious believer to act upon the legal recognition of a right is not, given the plural character of society, a denial to anyone inside or outside the community of access to that right. The point has been granted in respect of medical professionals who may be asked to perform or co-operate in performing abortions – a perfectly reasonable example of the law doing what I earlier defined as its job, securing space for those aspects of human motivation and behaviour that cannot be finally determined by any corporate or social system. It is difficult to see quite why the principle cannot be extended in other areas. But it is undeniable that there is pressure from some quarters to insist that conscientious disagreement should always be overruled by a monopolistic understanding of jurisdiction.
I labour the point because what at first seems to be a somewhat narrow point about how Islamic law and Islamic identity should or might be regarded in our legal system in fact opens up a very wide range of current issues, and requires some general thinking about the character of law. It would be a pity if the immense advances in the recognition of human rights led, because of a misconception about legal universality, to a situation where a person was defined primarily as the possessor of a set of abstract liberties and the law’s function was accordingly seen as nothing but the securing of those liberties irrespective of the custom and conscience of those groups which concretely compose a plural modern society. Certainly, no-one is likely to suppose that a scheme allowing for supplementary jurisdiction will be simple, and the history of experiments in this direction amply illustrates the problems. But if one approaches it along the lines sketched by Shachar in the monograph quoted earlier, it might be possible to think in terms of what she calls ‘transformative accommodation’: a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that ‘power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents’ (122). This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution – the main areas that have been in question where
supplementary jurisdictions have been tried, with native American communities in Canada as well as with religious groups like Islamic minority communities in certain contexts. In such schemes, both jurisdictional stakeholders may need to examine the way they operate; a communal/religious nomos, to borrow Shachar’s vocabulary, has to think through the risks of alienating its people by inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law, and a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. Hence ‘transformative accommodation’: both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.
It is uncomfortably true that this introduces into our thinking about law what some would see as a ‘market’ element, a competition for loyalty as Shachar admits. But if what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of divers and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable. In other settings, I have spoken about the idea of ‘interactive pluralism’ as a political desideratum; this seems to be one manifestation of such an ideal, comparable to the arrangements that allow for shared responsibility in education: the best argument for faith schools from the point of view of any aspiration towards social harmony and understanding is that they bring communal loyalties into direct relation with the wider society and inevitably lead to mutual questioning and sometimes mutual influence towards change, without compromising the distinctiveness of the essential elements of those communal loyalties.
In conclusion, it seems that if we are to think intelligently about the relations between Islam and British law, we need a fair amount of ‘deconstruction’ of crude oppositions and mythologies, whether of the nature of sharia or the nature of the Enlightenment. But as I have hinted, I do not believe this can be done without some thinking also about the very nature of law. It is always easy to take refuge in some form of positivism; and what I have called legal universalism, when divorced from a serious theoretical (and, I would argue, religious) underpinning, can turn into a positivism as sterile as any other variety. If the paradoxical idea which I have sketched is true – that universal law and universal right are a way of recognising what is least fathomable and controllable in the human subject – theology still waits for us around the corner of these debates, however hard our culture may try to keep it out. And, as you can imagine, I am not going to complain about that.
Copyright 2008 – Dr. Rowan Williams

Letter from Pakistan’s Dejure Chief Justice

AN OPEN LETTER TO:

His Excellency The President of the European Parliament, Brussels.

His Excellency The President of France, Paris.

His Excellency The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, London.

Her Excellency Ms. Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State, United States of America, Washington D.C.

Professor Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum, Geneva.

All through their respective Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives.

Excellency,

I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.

I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during his recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document) entitled: “PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN”. I might have let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.

In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced his views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.

At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words “claiming to be the head of state”. That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf’s constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench of eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to “validate” whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.

Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are also detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and one a special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot even step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is occupied by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego my office, which is what I am not prepared to do.

I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of my detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High Commissioner/representative in Pakistan. You will get a report of such circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these are conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government that you support.

Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision for its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can it be amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions taken by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra vires the Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as the Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by the state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that as a consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the lawyers and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.

However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a vigorous initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing abdication he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this feverish drive.

Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General first ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had been prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained all the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster before the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously struck down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was honourably reinstated.

The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained therein trashed. These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt of the Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no less a person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind consideration in rebuttal thereof:

The Document is divided into several heads but the allegations contained in it can essentially be divided into two categories: those allegations that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.

Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no water as these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the ink they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but an unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed, faced with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against me, the Government’s attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the Supreme Court and disowned the Government’s Reference, and stated they had not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They then filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence, and tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and false documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first time in Pakistan’s history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military ruler and reinstated me honorably to my post.

Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be slandered with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?

There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained in the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every opportunity.

I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of these “new” allegations can be judged from the fact that they all ostensibly date to the period before the reference was filed against me last March, yet none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.

If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government should have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after a 3 month open trial.

The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General Musharraf’s regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the charges in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy nature of the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to actually refute them.

Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum or in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond. Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But he has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than half of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all — together with me. They have also been arrested and detained.

What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and arrested if I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November 3. Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys collapsed as a result of prison torture.

Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations described as “Post-Reference Conduct” that is attributed to me under various heads. This would mean only those allegedly ‘illegal’ actions claimed to have been taken by me after March 9, 2007. These are under the heads given below and replied to as under:

1. “Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings”:

(a) Retaining ‘political lawyers’: Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:

It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples’ Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.

I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan. For that reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners Global. Such is his respect in Pakistan’s legal landscape that he was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of the widest margins in the Association’s history.

All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents. He has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate (against Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan, former Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also the internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only a few.

Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known to withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in enaging an attorney when one’s prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.

Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of the Lawyers’ Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has bravely faced all threats and vilification.

Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of the General.

(b) “Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)’s car”:

How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation that I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali’s car for the first hearing of the case against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the circumstances that forced me to take that ride.

Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my vehicles were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to walk the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed, established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car. Instead of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!

(c) “Creating a political atmosphere”:

Never did I instigate or invite any “political atmosphere”. I never addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even under extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were reviling me on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned the Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.

2. “Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue”:

The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout Pakistan. How can this then be a complaint?

By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of “forced leave”. I could neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but also from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).

The only function as ‘a judge on forced leave’ that I could perform was to address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted their invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan. I had to drive to these towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of Pakistan did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to dusk or from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when they insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my vehicle without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys were covered by the media live and throughout.

I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional issues to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my addresses are available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms to the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the Chief Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even mention my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the Council or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.

All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and were members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar Associations.

3. Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:

It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It is on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was detained after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me were those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader. None else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?

Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process for my reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and straight contest. That is my only fault.

4. “Conclusion”:

Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved against me ‘beyond doubt’ is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide off the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal action of firing and arresting judges of superior courts under the garb of an Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was ‘suspended’ and then ‘restored’ later with drastic and illegal ‘amendments’ grafted into it.

The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of Parliament and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the law. How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?

Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I refrain from using the word ‘lies’) when he says that the charges against me were ‘investigated and verified beyond doubt’. As explained above, these had in fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against which judgment the government filed no application for review.

What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and nothing else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If civilized norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will, inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the world seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of the General are making way for.

Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in any case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?

Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full franchise by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can be independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own Chief Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What is the children’s crime, after all?

There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up. Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter without the General’s unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify although, as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also have his say. And if the General’s hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of ‘habeas corpus’ these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.

Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon. Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan’s four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports.

I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.

I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon prevail.

Yours truly,

Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Presently: imprisoned in the Chief Justice’s House, Islamabad.