Tag Archives: judiciary

Interview with Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir marching against the first invasion of Iraq, 1991
Asma at a Women Action Forum protest, 1983









So I met up with the famous human rights activist and asked her a few questions at her campaign office. She took me campaigning with her to various offices on Fane Road including climbing up four stories of broken stairs and avoiding the pot holes on Fane Road. Here are a few questions I asked her about her election campaign for the office of the President, Supreme Court Bar Association. This is an election where political leanings and group politics cannot be ignored. Asma Jahangir’s campaign has been called partisan and she has also been described by certain sections of lawyers and media as ‘pro-Zardari’. On the other hand, her opponent has been called pro-judiciary and anti-democracy (In The Friday Times, 15th October, 2010).

Why is contesting this election important? What is your motivation?
This is important because the bar has to be independent. The pressure that the lawyers are subservient to judges is a veiled threat to the lawyers and has affected the integrity and honesty of the legal system. My aim is to work towards ensuring the dignity of the bar and its independence.

Where does the support of the leaders of the 2007 Lawyers Movement lie?
I have their support, except for Hamid Khan.

What about Aitzaz Ahsan?
He has remained neutral, but he will probably vote for me.

Will the support from lawyers belonging to the PPP be a large part of your success?
Though I have the support of many of these lawyers, it cannot alone help me win the election. The votes from PPP supporting lawyers will probably be near 100 to 200 out of 2200 votes. The issue of the PPP supporting me has been given too much attention, in fact not all pro-PPP lawyers will be voting for me. I am supported also by lawyers who belong to the Awami National Party, Jamaat-e-Islami, PML-N and other parties who have said they will vote for me. I do not have a specific group that is behind me but individuals who support my stance. Continue reading Interview with Asma Jahangir


Raising the bar

My article on the politics behind the upcoming Supreme Court bar elections. Published in The Friday Times, 15th October, 2010

Otherwise a regular election of a professional body, this contest is being perceived as a political battle between the country’s power-centres

On October 27, the legendary advocate and human rights’ activist, Asma Jehangir will face Ahmad Awais in the electoral contest for the President, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). Awais is a senior lawyer at the Supreme Court who is being backed by powerful groups within the lawyers’ community. Otherwise a regular election of a professional body, this election is being perceived as a political contest between the country’s power-centres: the hyper-active judiciary and the pro-democracy forces which support the ascendancy of the elected institutions in national affairs.

Asma Jehangir’s campaign has been supported by lawyers like Munir A. Malik, Salman Raja, Abid Minto, Khawaja Sultan, Justice Tariq Mehmood (r) and Ali Ahmed Kurd (who is spearheading her campaign in Baluchistan). The PPP lawyers’ support of Ms. Jehangir has created unintended problems for her campaign, which have been especially highlighted in the media. It is true that the PPP offers a sizeable vote bank but this affiliation has caused the human-rights activist’s campaign to be labeled as being “pro-Zardari”.

Jehangir is adamant to keep the Supreme Court Bar Association free from politics once she’s elected as president. Asad Jamal, a human rights lawyer, has remarked that the lawyers affiliated with the PPP are supporting her willingly. They cannot be told to conceal their support and just come out to vote in her favor at the time of the election. Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood is of the same view and has clarified that the election does not and should not have anything to do with party alliances. He went on to say that personally everyone has political views, and this does not reflect on Asma being a partisan candidate.

If fingers are being pointed at Asma due to PPP support, Ahmed Awais’s campaign may be even more embroiled in party allegiances since he is former Vice President of Pakistan Tekreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Justice Mehmood was of the view that this was worse than any support that Asma has from lawyers sympathizing with the PPP. In fact, when pro-PTI lawyers were approached to vote for her campaign, they clearly stated that they were under orders to vote for their party and their opinion would not be swayed. Another issue is that of biradari voting where lawyers have been arguing on the lineages of the candidates.

Ahmed Awais has claimed that the current triangular faceoff between the executive, the judiciary and lawyers has been created by Law Minister Babar Awan and that “the present situation is the result of massive funds which he gave to selected people.” The key figures of the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement are split over their support of the three candidates. The stance of Aitzaz Ashan has been especially ambivalent, with the Daily Dawn (14 September, 2010) asserting that he is supporting Ms Jehangir. However, Ejaz Haider in his piece published by the Express Tribune (October 4, 2010) has claimed that Ahsan is in reality supporting Awais, with lawyers close to Asma’s own campaign stating that he has not shown any open support for Ms. Jehangir, even though she has supported him openly and vocally in the past. Continue reading Raising the bar

Summarising Corruption in Pakistan

The Friday Times, June 18th

Perceptions of Corruption

The National Corruption Perception Survey 2010 published by Transparency International (TI) reports that corruption has increased from Rs 195 billion in 2009 to Rs 223 billion in 2010.

The Police retained the title of the most corrupt departments of the Pakistani government for the fourth time. It has topped the list of the ten most corrupt departments and sectors in all of the four such surveys conducted by TI Pakistan in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2010.

Continue reading Summarising Corruption in Pakistan

The web on trial

The Friday Times, May 28-June 4, 2010

Who knew a social networking could cause so much trouble. Below is a chronicle of how events unfolded in the last two weeks.

It all started in April, when Molly Norris from Seattle, suggested that May 20 be “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” and drew a cartoon for this purpose. According to her apology last week, this was a satirical suggestion made in response to the threats received by producers of the show “South Park” when they offensively depicted of the Prophet (PBUH) on the show. Her idea was to “water down the pool of targets” by having people draw their own images. She even posted a link to the “Against Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Facebook page on her webpage.
Continue reading The web on trial