Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letter from Judge's Colony

I have been asked to forward this letter in "public interest"...consider it sadqa jaariya if you will...each one forward one so there is a more "just" picture of the situation (contrary to what our President has been trying to depict while he continues to build on his frequent flyer miles) many more flights till that Gold Card converts to a Platinum, eh?

Text of the Letter follows:

His Excellency
The President of the European Parliament,
His Excellency
The President of France,
His Excellency
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
Her Excellency
Ms. Condaleeza Rice,
Secretary of State,
United States of America,
Washington D.C.
Professor Klaus Schwab,
World Economic Forum,
All through their respective Ambassodors, High Commissioners and representatives.
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 vigourous 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,
Imprisoned in the Chief Justice's House,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Give me Grey

So the writer's strike goes on...I discovered the following for Grey's Anatomy junkies as myself...perhaps someone out there thinks they can serve as Nicorette in such dark days.
I want my days to be GREY asap!!

1. "We're adults. When did that happen? And how do we make it stop?" ~ Meredith

2. "I live with these women and every time you guys don't meet their expectations I have to hear about it. So it is my business." ~ George

3. Boundaries don't keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy. That's how we're made. So, you can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them. ~ Meredith

4. "I know you all have your messy love lives and your secrets and your silliness, but I want more. I need something to hold on to. I need a reason to believe that medicine can do more than stitch you up and send you away. I need to believe that medicine can not only save lives, but change lives! I need... I need... to believe in something the way I used to believe in you all. Sign the papers! Sign the papers." ~ Dr. Bailey

5. "Why don't you pick a floor and stay on it and I'll pick a floor and stay on that because I really need a moment or two without you. Your face pops up in my head and your panties show up in my husband's pocket, really, you're everywhere, and I need a moment or two without you." ~ Addison

6. "I dunno... it's just... Meredith always makes me think screwed up people have a chance." ~ Alex

7. "Dr. Bailey. You need those clowns to sign off on your proposal because one of them may be Chief of Surgery in a month. It's hard to imagine, for me more than anyone, but since you're not ready for the job, one of them has got to do it for the next few years." ~ Richard

8. "Four years of high school, four years of college, four years of med school. By the time we graduate we're in our late 20s and we've never done anything except go to school and think about science. Time stops. We're socially retarded." ~ Callie

9. "Could you stop looking at me like that? It's creepy and it makes me feel like you haven't been fed." ~ Cristina

10. "I'm both. I'm a surgeon and I am a person who becomes emotionally involved. I will never again cross the line like I did with Denny. I have learned my lesson. But I'm still both, and I'm not going to give up either part of me. And I am not going to apologize for it." ~ Izzie

Thursday, January 17, 2008

After Bhutto

Published in Dawn (Jan 17, 2008) as A Contested Legacy

As the elegies to Benazir Bhutto pour in, one can tell from the tone of the requiems how debatable her legacy and memory will remain in the public imagination. In life she continued to be a deeply conflicted personality, straddling the liberal progressive and the deeply feudal worlds without a murmur of a conflict of interest. She challenged stereotypes of what ‘good’ Pakistani women of her class and generation could do and contested the public/private space divide but kowtowed to the constant personal theatre of the dupatta and the prayer beads. In death she ever becomes the elusive Salome of the seven veils in our popular imagination, with her obituaries giving tantalizing hints to was her real self. From a flighty young woman who consumes paperback romances and speeds past us in her yellow MG searching for the closest Baskin Robbins she turns into a thorn in the side of a military dictator, a serious foe indulging in a decade long struggle to keep her father’s name and political legacy alive. She is at times the workaholic campaigning long hours through pregnancies, a diligent politician surviving on four hour’s sleep and then a much-maligned name with corruption and nepotism cases brought up against her and her coterie. Every day the international press busies itself bringing in a whiff of intrigue and scandal, tears and laughter to the tale.

She came in at a time when the Pakistani military high command held control on women’s mobility, their choices, and legal freedoms. This ranged from the repressive laws passed by their regimes to the ‘instructions’ given from time to time by the military elite (as compared to now when they gloat over how they have singlehandedly ‘empowered women’ through the Women’s Protection Bill blatantly ignoring the long years of struggle, protest and lobbying that women group’s in Pakistan went through. And now their attempts to stay in power has impeded the mobility, physical and otherwise, of so many women working for civil liberties in Pakistan). So even with Zia dead and buried the life worlds and images of the ‘immoral’ and ‘good’ women remained in public perception. The Jamat-i-Islami then explained their verbal gymnastics, (of Fatima Jinnah yes, Benazir Bhutto no) as the need of the (then) times “based on time-bound temporary needs and involuntary conditions...that they accepted (Fatima Jinnah) under the demand of collective need and as an ‘acceptable evil’. And while none of us went as far ahead as buying a gun ala the later Maulvi Sarwar and the unfortunate Zille Huma, didn’t we all contribute to the evil by allowing our clerics, friends and family to question whether Islam allowed Benazir Bhutto to be the head of state? Didn’t we all keep a close eye on her hairline and whether her dupatta slipped off or not?

So Benazir too redefined herself with her “dramatic entry into motherhood” as Sohail Inayutullah puts it. For as Inayutullah explains as a single woman Bhutto would always be situated by the critics in the land of female archetypes, that of the Amazon or hero, and later as the daughter of a Great Man, her father Zulfiqar Bhutto. It was as a mother that she finally found political success, for this because in a nation afraid of female sexuality, of sexuality as such, an Amazon could never last.

And now with her contested legacy and the unexpected “political will” it is as quite possible that she is reduced to the mother-figure who has encouraged a new chapter of dynastic politics. And is this how the Pakistani populace will be finally comfortable with her legacy? A brave mother who lays down her life trying to bring democracy to her electorate family and offers her first-born to carry on? A dutiful daughter who only stepped out of home to avenge her father’s death?
There is many a ubiquitous query regarding what her assassination means for young Pakistani women trying to access the political arena. But in the seeds of this question and the guiding spirit of her political will lies a political commentary of the state of affairs for the Pakistani citizen in 2008. In Pakistan today—and the way our society functions who can survive, irrespective of gender and generation, as an individual? Is the political field giving us the assurance that every individual can have an equal opportunity to excel? There is something twisted about the whole structure that prejudices against young, energetic political aspirants and more important individuals who have “unblemished” personal histories where financial and public conduct is concerned. What has happened to the populist People’s Party that it has set to create a dichotomy of an “elite” groomed to lead and those that do not have the birth right to have such aspirations? This is something that cuts across gender lines and one has to realise this before evaluating the state of (women) affairs in our country in the days after Bhutto.

It is about time that we petition of our political parties to respect and acknowledge capable individuals who want to bring about change. It is about time that they assure and respect a process of accountability. And I ask this not of the PPP alone, there is a blatant disregard to a Pakistani citizen’s struggle for realization when it comes to the convoluted party politics in any of the political groups. And an Abdul Rashid Ghazi of the ill-fated Red Mosque has to announce to William Dalrymple that his is an agenda of bringing about social justice. “We want our rulers to be honest people”—perhaps a thought shared by many silent spectators in Pakistan who lean towards the far-right and the militant after seeing what those professing to be left and secular did for the populace. For once there has to be some across the board mechanism that political parties start awarding and commending public service rather than political gymnastics; of finally bidding goodbye the seasonal and the fair weather party member. Why is it that we are asking the same questions in the sixth decade of our existence; by now our political parties should have long outgrown the existential angst of their early years.

However at this point in history we are asking of the PPP to do so, for it stands at a political juncture where it can restructure itself afresh to weed out nepotism. And this can be done in no other way than to start respecting and rewarding personal accomplishments rather than genealogy; to recognize an individual’s contributions to society rather than their family lineage. We bear the young Bhutto-Zardari no ill will and his time will come. But let it be a time when he can tell us not what his grand father did for the country, and his mother for the nation, but what he can do for Pakistan and Pakistanis.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Requiem (Part One)

My dear friends, it is time once again to bring out our Ghalib. I confess that as we try to make sense of the spiralling series of events that threaten to disintegrate our nation (Pakistan on brink of civil war scream the newspaper headlines when I wake up this morning) it is only Ghalib who manages to put into words our combined heart ache

Dard-e- dil likhoo kab tak jaoon un ko dikhlaoo Ungliyan figar apnee khama-khoon-chuka apna (Ghalib).

Translated as, and very loosely translated as, by me “When do I stop writing of the pain that wrenches my heart. Should I show my Beloved these bruised fingers of mine—the writing-reed that drips of my blood?”

So I ask of you how much blood has to flow in this long night of ours, for how long do the blood-shot eyes of my compatriots beseech of the heavens for dawn to come for them? Others in this era of globalization have articulated it in the very New York words of “Today we are all Bhuttos”. Or borrowing from the People Party’s jiyalas rallying cry of Zinda Hai Bhutto (Bhutto is alive, Bibi is alive).

We all remain conflicted on the issue of how we viewed her over the years, as one can conclude from the tone of obits and elegies appearing in the global media; hopefully history will judge her with fewer contradictions. Benazir, may her soul rest in peace, was a complicated person therefore making it not so simple a task to explain what she meant for us in the end. But undoubtedly, united we stand in our immense grief regarding her untimely demise.

Others can explain it as perhaps her mercurial personality, for she seems to shift form in my memory of her. I remember her sedate self as she called on the then President (Ghulam Ishaq Khan) to be finally invited upon to form government in 1988 and then the youthful exuberance as she literally bounded up the steps to be sworn in. Perhaps it could be that this period overlapped with my generation getting into our teens, a time of high spirits. And that this period of youthful enthusiasm coincided with the shedding of the dark clouds of the dour Zia era and the promise of a better tomorrow made us cry tears of happiness as we saw someone young, female, and fearless representing us on the global scene. Over the years when there were high points and low in her liaison with the Pakistani public, it is this moment that I used to come back to. I would rant and rave at her image as I cried at you, how could you let our generation down, let me down. Yeats-like I would implore of her the memory of a period when loyal devotees like me would have mused

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
And it was the spectre of these dreams being trampled that infuriated us so, our disillusionment of her perhaps coinciding again of our generation reaching an age when the world asked of us to be more pragmatic and to forget the romanticism of our youth. But even then, amongst these entire allegations, I have to admit that we were idealistic enough to consider her till the very end the only hope for secular politics in our country. And as some write there was still the romance of the old liberal progressive PPP ideas when we heard her speak. And for all that we criticized her of, we know that she would never have been guilty of furthering extremism and violence as others who profess to be enlightened and moderate have been. We all have had our problems with her and hers but we have to admit that a lot that we cherish today, to be comfortable with our own understanding of religion, our personal lifestyles and life choices, and the fact that we find certain actors on the political scene and on the streets problematic are in somehow linked to her. We all know very well the horrors her detractors unleased on us!

What irked her adversaries so? Amongst the other tensions between her foes and her, one relates to the particular class politics at place, all adding further dimensions to what irked her enemies as their perceived subordination. The question of class has been subtly raised by Bhutto in her interviews and confidences to the press and her colleagues, therefore, there needs to be some kind of understanding of the influence it had on her adversaries.

One could see a constant refrain in her interviews when questioned on her alleged financial misdemeanours or of her turning a blind eye towards when it came to certain members of her family and coterie. She would subtly refer to her “bloodline” (more recently in the Geo program “ek din”) and financial well being (it was very God of Small Things..Loved From the Beginning, Moneyed from the Beginning).She was very tactfully distinguishing herself from others in her country and particularly those benefiting from MilBus and other earlier adventures. In her interview there was a clear definition of a difference that she wanted to draw attention to between the urbane, sophisticated, well brought-up, educated background (that was hers) from that of her critics who had raised these allegations. The disparity and level of in the “lesser” social class (as in nouveau riche, unexposed to the outside world) that was her rivals’ (whether from the military or the foes turned friends), each life world with its own aesthetics and ethics. I feel this is what made her adversaries envious of her. Yes I admit that there was animosity because of the oppositional political struggle they were involved in, but at some level there was a class resentment at place which translated in a love/hate relationship where Bhutto was involved. The poor had no such problems, for them she was the Lady Benefactress, the Deliverer of the blight of their poverty, jobs for their children, food in their bellies. Her political enemies envied her of her grace, her innate confidence, and knowledge of her place in the world, a self-assurance that came naturally to her. A level of articulation and effective communication (the kind of skills that do not come after years of English language training and public speaking tutorials living in exile or at the PMA). They wanted to emulate her which would mirror in their aspiration towards being seen as foreign educated (hence sending their progeny to certain institutions where colleagues tell me their famous fathers would come with cheque books trying to buy their sons’ way in), of acquiring and building family estates amongst an illusion of a family manor ala Naudero, desires of faux ancestral homes which seem pretty fantastic now that I write these words.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I returned to Melbourne to find that Gman succumbed to the zillion hints and FINALLY our household is plus 2...householder plus kitten...Ive raised and encountered cats big and small but Ive yet to meet one with so much attitude and border-line disapproval of me...could be that she met in my post-BB depression so cannot fathom why this crazy female has been bawling ever could be that being the only Aussie citizen in a South Asian household she wants to set a pecking order...definitely that Gman has loaded her with the moniker Pesho, and a well a Pashtun nick isnt going down well with her Anglo soul...but Im glad to report that ever since Australia lost Ponting's wicket yesterday afternoon she is losing a bit of her swagger and has stopped sniping at my toes...and this morning she did make space for me on the TV couch...and doesnt glare when I shift from BBC (her fave) to Geo.