He seems like any other ordinary mortal. Talk to him and you will know that he has not been fortunate enough to attend some prestigious school or college. His clothing reveals that he belongs to a middle class family. His â€˜khataraâ€™ byke confirms his middle class back ground. If he is not wearing black coat and pant, no one will believe that he is a lawyer.
So what made TIME magazine print his photograph back in November 2007?
His courage and his defiance.
Back on 5th November, 2007, when the Lahore High Court was stormed by the police, where hundreds of lawyers and dozens of students and faculty members from LUMS & FAST were peacefully protesting against the unconstitutional steps by then-President Pervez Musharraf, Afaq did something no sane person could have imagined.
When the Police started firing tear gas shells on the protestors (extensive baton charging not being an effective lesson), he started throwing those shells back at the police. A photographer captured the image which was to appear at the title of TIME. Seeing the image, Ralph Nader pointed out that US lawyers should learn a lesson in resistance from Pakistani lawyers.
Afaq, like hundreds of his colleagues at Lahore and thousands at other cities of the country, was detained that day and sent to a prison outside Lahore. He was released after a few days but he didnâ€™t learn the lesson the establishment wanted him to learn.
He took part in all lawyersâ€™ protests afterwards and was one of the â€˜vigil keepersâ€™ who were arrested from the official residence of Justice Shahid Siddiqi on 6th December. Afaq was at Aiwan-e-Adal on 10th January, 2008, when the GPO was rocked with a suicide attack. Afaq, like thousands of his colleagues from around Pakistan, participated in the boycott of the PCO judges, which meant loss of income.
Let me come to the point lest it seems that I am writing an obituary.
Afaq is an ordinary person, a mediocre being. What differentiates him from the rest of us is his belief in struggle. A struggle which is not necessarily waged in the air conditioned court rooms, or in the ivory towers of academia (or, for that matter, at the online discussion boards and email lists). He, and his fellows (students, doctors, faculty members, civil society activists) believe that protesting on roads is a question of philosophy â€“ of asserting oneâ€™s being â€“ and not necessarily of strategy.
The most important dividend of Afaqâ€™s struggle (ignoring the tear gas shells and detention at prisons) is the satisfaction â€“ that he tried his best when something blatantly wrong was being done to his country. And he, and thousands of brave and determined lawyers of Pakistan, has done us a favor that can never be forgotten.
I disagree with the utilitarian angle of looking at things (lawyers helped bring CJ back and the CJ is helping the poor by reducing the price of sugar and the cases are being disposed of quickly these days!!) or, to be precise, attribute more importance to the less-utilitarian (more philosophical??) angle of looking at things. Lawyers helped this nation in witnessing a moment which I label as â€˜indigenous audacity of hopeâ€™. We, the â€˜Sofa Bolsheviksâ€™ and others, owe a lot to them for this favor.
Hope that we had lost; hope that we were desperately seeking. A lesson to be learned from the struggle that spanned two years: issues donâ€™t survive on their intrinsic academic or ethical importance alone, their survival, and the possibility of some solution down the road, is dependent on the extent of the determination of their takers.