Barrister Amjad Malik

My March visit to Pakistan was welcomed by news of a lawyer slapping the civil court judge in my home town Faisalabad, which was an indication of the attitude which is condemnable and disgusting. In any court litigation lawyers for and against appear, put their case and respect the judgement announced, and go home. Professionalism dictates that they advise their clients to appeal at higher courts if unhappy with its contents. It is beyond imagination taking law in their own hands and using violence let alone foul language which is against the sanctity and code of any professional body.

Federal Govt by using its legal actors than top legal brains available has spoiled the case of federation in Supreme Court on ‘NRO’. They have locked horns on the procedural issue whether letters should go or not to Swiss Authorities and their 3rd chief law officer (Attorney General) is on the run and it has become like Nehru’s pyjamas.

During my visit I felt Chief Minister Punjab with his god gifted ability wish to do something, but looking at illegal possession complaints and the land mAafia’s grass root hold, he is confronted with an uphill task where unemployment, lack of education and basic amenities are increasing law and order situation two fold.  I must appreciate his efforts though of ‘Danish Schools’ where it will foster talent hunt and groom those young kids who otherwise will never have access to basic education. His revolutionary ideas about health reforms and road links will be remembered once he is gone

Overall, Pakistan has become like a ‘market stall’, people come put their stalls, sell their goods, make money and run, though the nexus is at the breakage point due to robust media and pro active judiciary which has its plus and minuses too. The country is marred with economic disability whereby water shortage is creating havoc. I experienced two nights sleeping in the open air due to load shedding of almost 18 hours where normal daily life is impossible let alone industry or running factories. Pakistan is in dire need of Water storage Dams and ‘Kalabagh’ could solve half the problems before the lands go barren if the politicians do not think higher than their individual or party stakes.

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War on terror has contributed heavily in increasing common man’s miseries in Pakistan costing billions to economy and losing thousands of its army men and normality in daily life. If they are not struck by the suicidal attack news, then ‘drone attacks’ sing like music and make headlines. 3 D’s (development, deterrent and dialogue) though commendable govt policy has confined to academic exercise. Foreign elements are experimenting on Pakistani lands on whole sale basis, and black water has many names on the soil and they have sown seeds inside govt. Foreign Govts and well wishers of Pakistan must open flood gates of aid package with trade and quota free zones in tribal belt with political party and national criminal justice system access to those areas if they ever wish to tackle radicalisation and extremism in that part of land. Mere hollow slogans will not avoid breeding die hard whose houses are burnt, elders dead, children without houses and they are confronted with a threat by Taliban, ‘either you are with us or against.’ That threat can only be met by economic progress and snatching the sting by giving something tangible with far reaching long term commitments.   Winning hearts and minds to defeat international criminals who are threatening world peace must be a joint effort and can be won collectively not by regime change.  Bottom line is Osama Bin laden is still at large without a trial and we have countless bodies as evidence of a collateral damage.

In the end 18th amendment was the talk of town and was being played like a sport in intellectual circles. It reminded me the day of 12 Oct 99 coup, when outgoing premier Sharif had all those powers for which this nine months exercise was initiated as chartered in London Charter of Democracy in 2006. The true exam will start after passing that enactment as govt has already lost 2 years and people are struck with price hike, shortage of basic food, hygiene, and water. Gas, electricity and water are nearly becoming extinct. If politicians wish to avert martial laws, then as a clan they must vow to respect the rule of the game and must pledge not to side by the military coup by  supporting with defection groups like Q league or Parliamentarians PPP. They must also bring corruption free good governance and remain answerable to parliament and in return public, and peacefully address the public anxiety. It’s that public unrest which the military use to foster army-public nexus where people feel at ease as they think public representative have failed to perform their duty. It’s a long term process and needs untiring effort as there is no hard and fast rule to beat the opponent but could be by engaging and taming it.

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Finally, I drew the attention of the authorities towards the case of 10 Pakistani students who are  caught in a rock and hard place in Manchester and are without jobs, degrees, careers  after losing thousands of pounds with a label of ‘Islamic extremists’ without any charge and all because of weakness of Pakistani Govt. On 8 April 2009 UK premier Gordon Brown claimed to have foiled a big terrorist plot when these ten were arrested in Manchester and Pak premier Gillani claimed that they are innocent. Pak High Commissioner claimed it’s a ‘hoax’. I reminded interior minister that 2 of the students are in UK jails without a charge in a category ‘A’ prison and in a very dire situation and needs Pakistani attention. Pakistan must come forward to save its citizens from the wrath of western hardships where one is presumed innocence until proven guilty by a court of law. These students must get a treatment like UK treats Sahil Naqash (a 5 years old kidnapped child) or Mirza Tahir Hussain (a UK citizen who was sentenced to death for murder in self defence) both of whom are back in UK after huge publicity and UK Govt’s attention.

I reminded them that at National honour and prestige is higher at cost, our ambassador is strip searched when he visits these children in prison in UK and when any UK consulate staff visits Adila jail, he is escorted by superintendent jail like a prince, and situation desire a respect reciprocally.

Trade relations and aid packages are fancy laurels but not at the cost of human dignity and national honour. We could not save national dignity in case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s  hand over & trial, and we are losing battleground in these 10 Pakistani students too, as Pakistani Govt’s efforts are too little to count.  Pakistani govt claims that these students are innocent , same rhetoric like Dr Aafia Siddiqui but does not move an inch to fight their corner? Hollow slogans, empty claims and mere excuses that’s all Pakistanis have as a gift of advice from their current day rulers. 18th amendment, immunity, and Swiss cases is their priority, common man and their needs is far below on their ‘things to do’ list.

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Amjad Malik is a chair of Association of Pakistani lawyers (UK)