MORALITY OF DISSENT
Mohammad Akram Sheikh
The morality of my dissent with PML government’s policy on the issue of ‘judges strength’ is being questioned by some Ministers and Mr. Siddiqu-al-Farooq. The important question which arises for answer is as to dissent with whom is immoral. Dissent with the party; its constitution; the manifesto and avowed policy or a capricious hallucination about a possible misuse of the institution like judiciary against someone being nurtured by a couple of representatives of the government would be immoral. While a dissent from the party, constitution, manifesto and declared policy may be considered as questionable, the dissent or disagreement with the individuals inclusive of the party leadership may not have the same status.
I will quote a consistent practice followed by the distinguished companions of the Prophet (SOAS). When the Prophet (SOAS) would announce some decision it was invariably asked “oh ye Prophet (SOAS) is it the command of Allah or is it your opinion?. “If it be the Command of Allah we bow our heads in submission, but if be your personal opinion then we may have to express our suggestions or advices”.
The Saturday late night revocation of notification appointing me as Pakistan’s Ambassador-at-Large, with the status of a “full” Federal Minister has not come to me as any surprise. On 14th of September, 1997 during my visit to Rai Wind Farm House of the honourable Prime Minister, I categorically told Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif that it was not possible for me to take a U-turn from the consistent stand on Judicial Independence taken by me over years and since I joined the legal profession. The policy violation which apparently is given as a reason for my impeachment in fact, forms part of the manifesto of the PML(N) framed by a Committee of which I was also a Member. The PML (N) Constitution also emphasizes the necessity and compulsion of an “independent judiciary”, from executive control at all times. The honourable Prime Minister was clearly informed that I was not announcing my resignation publicly as I wish to continue to be committed to the PML, its ideology and politics as also high esteem and respect for its leadership but if he ever wanted to withdraw the “meaningless” notification of Pakistan’s Ambassador-at-Large, he was at liberty to do so.
Miss Mariana Babar has written a long story without proper investigation and journalistic input. She has given out that I could not have “best of the both worlds”. The fact is that I have always lived in only one world, and while sticking to my philosophy and ideology of judicial independence I was not enjoying and perks and privileges.
Concoction of a ‘soft corner’ for Indians in Geneva has already been vigorously denied by the delegates of Kashmiries from both sides who were present in Geneva. If anybody could be declared as soft for Kashmiries it was Pakistan’s permanent Mission which was responsible for framing the whole policy and not myself. During my first visit to the Permanent Mission I had offered to the Permanent Mission in Geneva that I was happy to have a Resolution of Miss Clare Pelly passed against Pakistan if there was a possibility of a similar Resolution persuaded by us to be moved against India could also be passed. This again betray the ignorance of Mariana Babar and her illustrious colleague Mr. Kamran Khan who had joined issue with such softness after Indian Express wrote on this but let us just come to the point.
The privileges and perks enjoyed by me as Ambassador-at-Large have not exceeded one return passage from Pakistan to Geneva and a ‘forced one’ way ticket from Loss Angeles to Geneva when it was told that I have to be put on the first plane for Geneva where Pakistan’s Permanent Mission was panicking after threats from Miss Clare Pelly of her Resolution. Besides this during the few months that the notification remained in existence I have not availed myself of any privileges or perks whatsoever. House NO. 15 in Minister’s Enclave was allotted to me which I returned without moving in there. A Car was sent to me by the Cabinet Division and I also had to regret my inability in availing of this facility as I had my personal vehicle and a rented accommodation in Islamabad.
In my letter to the Prime Minister I expressed my gratitude for his very kind considerations and thoughtfulness of sending me above referred nice things but as I always intended continuing my legal practice I considered it improper of availing myself of any such concessions. Mariana Babar has written about enjoying “best of the both worlds” which again betrays her ignorance. I am enjoying and have always enjoyed best of only one world. If I had any capability of this duelty of character I could have continued my “lip service” on many fronts. I have not done it ever and feel myself incapable.
I have been and shall continue to be a well wisher of Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and his government. To tell the readers the ‘whole truth’ it is my own government. I worked for this government and fought for it on front foot. During the last three and half years I handled legal assignments helping the party or the party workers/leaders over my personal professional gains or my family commitments I left my mother in hospital to attend to urgent calls by the party leadership. During the days of Mian Mohammad Sharif’s arrest when the Prime Minister was in great distress and needed me. My mother was very serious and was admitted in Ittefaq Hospital. I prayed to God for her recovery and long life but stood around Prime Minister as he needed my support in 1989. He sent me to Peshawar to fight General Fazal-e-Haq’s case in the murder of Allama Arif-al-Hussaini. Aqa Sadiq Ganji Shaheed advised me to decline the brief as it could endanger my security. I went to Peshawar undeterred by any such threats. Dr. Pervaiz Hassan asked me “you must have received few millions” ? but the fact was that after the case was over I just had my lunch of “Peshawari Chappal Kababs” at General Sahib’s house in Peshawar.
During my 12 year’s association in the legal pursuits of PML(N) my office which has conducted hundreds of cases for the party and its leadership has not received one single penny towards professional fee. In such matters though legal costs like court fee and travelling was reimbursed but that is not the issue. Nobody wishes to receive the price of his input or his struggle for the parties. I was notified as Pakistan’s Ambassador-at-Large with the status of a Federal Minister without my request. I was reluctant even to accept it and did not assume charge for more than 10 weeks when I was summoned by the Prime Minister again and asked to take over with a very challenging assignment to perform in the interest of the country i.e. (1) to look after the overall image of the country with special emphasis to its human rights records and represent the country before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, (2) to work for the continued cooperation of the OIC countries and help organize professional bodies within the OIC Region.
More than the office of “Ambassador-at-large” the opportunity to work for this assignment intrigued me and I accepted. Immediately after taking over I started collecting statistics to make a move in these two directions and in the meantime my summer vacations started. I left Pakistan on 14th of July and before leaving the country wrote a letter to the Prime Minister that I was in a position to arrange a formal call on him by the American Bar Association’s delegation during his then proposed visit to the United States. ABA is one of the powerful bodies in the United States. Its membership exceeds hundreds of thousands and scores of Senators and Congressmen are its members. I tried to materialize the proposal for the PM with the newly elected President of ABA Jerome J. Shestack. This offer was not considered worth response. It was in the midst of this Conference when the Foreign Office contacted me to proceed to Geneva. I left my family in San Fransisco and immediately responded to the call to represent my country. Besides this one and the only visit I deny having received any perks and privileges and would invite all government departments to contradict me if they can.
REAL ISSUES. The first issue was promulgation of 14th Constitutional Amendment initially aimed at setting up courts under administrative controls. I did my necessary lobby in the government and amongst the legislators. I felt it was not moving the decision makers and then an Article was written on 15th of May, 1997 captioned “Fighting Terrorism with Constitution”. This annoyed the government, the Prime Minister and the Law Minister squarely. On the question of reduction of number of judges in the Supreme Court I could not afford to be inconsistent. The reduction of Supreme Court strength was structural damage to the apex court. It could not have been countenanced or ignored. I could not even close my eyes from such a disaster. This is part of my faith that a strong, independent and free from executive judiciary is the only guarantee for prosperous and dynamic future of this great nation. I owe this to my next generations to stand by this commitment undauntedly and uncompromisingly. This commitment has also found way in the PML Constitution and Manifesto. This is what I have been telling people holding reigns of power, who are so dear to me, that it was in their best interest to realize this which they did not and which they are not prepared to listen even now.
The notification or its revocation for any office has no significance in comparison to the commitment for a cause. My stance on independence of judiciary is neither new nor prompted.
On promulgation of 4th Constitutional Amendment by ZAB a Conference in YMCA hall chaired by Mian Mehmood Ali Qasuri adopted my proposal that Lawyer Legislators signing this amendment be proceeded against for professional misconduct and ousted from the Bar Associations. In 1989 I fought for ouster of 42 judges from the superior judiciary. The renowned verdict on judges case cost me a “contempt charge” by the apex court which still is undischarged. The process of implementation of that judgment annoyed many learned judges sitting on the bench and now the consistent pursuit of my commitment has annoyed my friends in power. The power politics has only one culture, it expects unquestioned obedience. It expects a pet’s loyalty. I can only offer a friends loyalty and a sincere friend’s loyalty to friends which would definitely stop them even at the cost of their annoyance from suicidal actions.