Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Musharraf : Told Ya ! - Lawyers rough up Former Parliamentary Minister Sher Afghan

Musharraf : Told Ya !

- Lawyers rough up Former Parliamentary Minister Sher Afghan
- ‘Black coats’ or ‘Blackshirts’!
- Third Act of assult by Lawyers is an eye opener. Writer Naeem Bokhari and
Former Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad were the first ones

IF Monday’s incident inside the Sindh assembly was despicable, the treatment meted out to veteran politician Sher Afgan Niazi by a group of ‘lawyers’ in Lahore yesterday has perhaps put the entire nation to shame.The images of Arbab Ghulam Rahim being thrashed by an unruly band of PPP activists in Karachi were still fresh in the minds of most people, when the television screens started to flash some of the most disturbing images of people in black coats beating, abusing and humiliating a former minister. Sher Afgan’s only crime was that he didn’t agree with the lawyers’ movement, sided with President Musharraf on the issue of proclamation of emergency, and even lost his seat in the elections after being dumped by the then ruling PML-Q.Perhaps in civilised societies even criminals are not treated the way some of the people treated Sher Afgan outside a lawyer’s chamber.

During the chaotic situation in Lahore on Tuesday, when this group of lawyers refused to listen even to their leader Aitzaz Ahsan, there were clear signs that if not checked at this stage the ‘black coats’ may soon be replaced by what were once known in Europe as the ‘Blackshirts’.Indeed, what was being dubbed as a movement for restoration of democracy and rule of law was clearly showing signs of fascism.Sher Afgan Niazi has always been a controversial person, and the way he had taken upon himself the task to defend all of the President’s actions earned him the reputation of being more loyal than the king.At a time when most leaders of the previous governments were clearly avoiding taking a position on President Musharraf’s move to impose emergency, Sher Afgan was perhaps the only minister in the previous cabinet to publicly support or justify the presidential action. Of course, it made many people in the country quite angry. But could that justify such uncivilised behaviour? Certainly not.One can argue about the real causes for this kind of intolerance in the society, and there is every reason to believe that because of repeated disruptions in the democratic process, many people have adopted violent means to voice their grievances.

Still, there can be no justification for the way senior politicians and lawyers have failed to control their supporters, who are bent upon settling scores the way they feel is the right way.Perhaps the first signs of such ‘fascist’ trends were seen when after the restoration of Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry the first time a group of lawyers in Rawalpindi took upon itself the task of enforcing their style of justice system.

During this period, at least one pro-Musharraf writer, and a lawyer, Naeem Bukhari, who was author of a controversial letter against the chief justice, were badly thrashed by this group.

Former Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad was roughed up at the Supreme Court, and at one point some lawyer activists burnt the copy of an apex court verdict simply because it was not acceptable to them. One can always argue these were aberrations in what had come to be known as one of the most forceful lawyers’ movement for restoration of the judges and rule of law. Had these incidents been condemned at that stage, those who took the law in their own hands in Lahore on Tuesday wouldn’t have dared to do so.

Ironically, most of those linked to the lawyers’ movement, and the opposition parties of that time, preferred to recognise and condemn such fascist trends.The result is that today those who in the past had been directly responsible for supporting and promoting military rule, dictatorial actions and dismantling the rule of law in the country, are now coming forward to present themselves as better democrats. They are certainly not democrats. If anything, they are the people who are directly responsible for destroying everything that is democratic in the country.

Most observers of democratic struggle in this country are of the view that these incidents, serious as they are, should prove to be a wake-up call for both the democracy-loving politicians and lawyers. And if one can dare say, also for the media, especially the independent television networks, to take a step back and think how the name of freedom and democracy is being used by some to damage or destroy the very basis on which these lofty ideals are set.Pakistan’s chequered political history is witness to the fact that the opponents of democracy have always used such incidents to their advantage to disrupt the efforts for the establishment of rule of law in the country. Until two days ago the whole nation was in an upbeat mood, celebrating the restoration of democracy, and hoping for a better future.

These incidents have somehow disturbed them, if not dashed their hopes outright.However, there is still hope. It’s mainly because there exists in the country a very strong coalition of political forces who have suffered in the past at the hands of dictators. But these seasoned politicians and leaders of the lawyers’ movement need to rise to the occasion and instead of getting involved in petty issues and score-settling, deliver democracy and rule of law.They are quite capable of delivering, provided there is realisation about the gravity of situation, and a will to do so. If they fail, the real loser will be democracy, and the people of Pakistan.