A.K. Brohi: Insights Into a Legal Mind

Posted on August 10, 2007
Filed Under >Ghulam Nabi Kazi, History, People, Politics
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Guest Post by Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

The mention of the late Mr A K Brohi’s name brings to mind a rush of memories. Pakistan has seen only a few members of the legal fraternity of his competence. He belonged to an exclusive set including eminent jurists like A R. Cornelius, Manzur Qadir, M R Kayani, Dorab F Patel, Mian Mahmud Ali Kasuri, Tufail Ali Abdul Rehman, Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada. Ever since I was a student at the Dow Medical College I had the opportunity of listening to his ‘elaborate’ speeches.

In the historical photo above A.K. brohi (center) is flanked by Syed Hashim Raza (left) who later became Chief Secretary of East Pakistan and Hakeem Mohammad Saeed (right) who besides ‘Hamdard’ fame also became Governer of Sindh later on. Photo is circa 1960s

Photo to the right shows A K Brohi in his study.

In particular there was the memorable lecture on comparative religion he gave in a Sandspit hut overlooking the Arabian Sea to a relatively select gathering. It was a Sunday afternoon and the late Hatim A Alavi, a trusted lieutenant of the Quaid-i-Azam and former Mayor of Karachi had invited a few people to Mr Brohi’s lecture in the winter of 1975. Amongst those present were the late Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan (later President of Pakistan) and his family, the late Mr A R Faridi, my late father Mr Ahmed Hussain A Kazi and the Alavi family. Mr. Khan was then Governor State Bank of Pakistan while the late Mr Faridi and my late father headed the Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation and Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, respectively.

The photo to the left shows A.K Brohi (right) sitting along with Zia-ul-Haq (center) and a smoking Ghulam Ishaq Khan (left).

Mr Brohi delivered an excellent lecture although my father sometimes felt that he was too liberal in his use of words and needed to be more economical. At the end, perhaps being the youngest person around, I posed him a question and he replied in a manner, which I am sure not sixteen in our population of one hundred and sixty million could do. Actually he had stated in his lecture that prophets having been sent by Allah could do no wrong and were devoid of the capability to err. I reminded him that though the finest of God’s creation, the prophets were yet human. Mr Brohi, a true disciple of Allama I I Kazi, very patiently heard me out and remarked that there were two aspects in the life of every prophet; one was the role assigned to them by Allah of spreading the Divine message, while they carried out this duty in the human form. In the first role, he contended, the prophets could do no harm, while they were indeed somewhat vulnerable in their second aspect.

“I cry, you cry, the Prophet cried—that was his human aspect.”

The point was made. In retrospect, I am sure he used finer language than the one mentioned above; after all thirty two years have passed by since then. After the lecture, we moved outside the hut and admired the sea on that pleasant afternoon. The late Mr Hatim Alavi asked me if I had ever rode on a camel’s back for a long ride, and on my replying in the negative, he remarked that I was not a bonafide Sindhi!

The historical photo to the right shows Zia-ul-Haq’s cabinet. People from the left are Mr Mustafa Gokal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Lt Gen Faiz Ali Chishti Minister for Establishment, Mr A K Brohi Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs and Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs.

There was a general consensus that our host had set a great precedent, as talk on religion could not be restricted to mosques or other places of worship alone. Furthermore, the atmosphere was most informal with few people realizing that one of those present would occupy the top most slot in the land within 12 years or so.

Photo the left shows Mr Brohi at an international conference of the Rotary Club in New Delhi in 1981 chatting with District Governor of the Rotary Club Mr Kassim Dada.

On the way back we drove to the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) as Mr Brohi had to meet his friend the late Mr Munir Ahmed Khan Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission at that time. Mr Brohi handed me his copy of the Holy Quran with the Pickthall translation in the car. He told me to treat it simply like a book more to be read than revered. When I met him three years later (he had Cabinet rank then) in his personal office, he advised me to read Arberry’s translation of the Holy Quran although he felt Pickthall was pretty objective too.

I vividly remember his funeral and burial at the Army Graveyard in Karachi during 1987. He had died during an angiography abroad. I was caught up at the Civil Hospital Karachi, prompting Prof S H Rahimtoola to remark upon my arrival,

“GN you are late, you are late—.”

I reached before the President though.

Photo to the left shows Mr. A K Brohi in the library of Karachi Grammar School. Photo is circa late 1960s.

Many years later, while going through some of my father’s old papers, I found a letter written by Mr Brohi to my father in 1940. It struck me that he called my father ‘Ashoo’ a nickname used only in the family or very close friends and acquaintances. Incidentally at that time my father had retired from active service and was working with Mr Brohi, a desire alluded to in the letter itself. He left Mr Brohi’s firm in 1984 to take over as Chairman Public Accounts Committee Sindh and avoid any possible conflict of interest.

The letter makes references to my great-uncle Allama I I Kazi who would later assume the role of Founder and Vice Chancellor of the Sindh University, my uncle Mr A G N Kazi who joined the Indian Civil Service and held several pivotal positions in the economic ministries, and his younger brother the late Justice B G N Kazi who was a Judge of the Sindh High Court and Federal Shariat Court prior to his death in 1986.

Mr Brohi himself was first inducted in Pakistan’s so-called ‘Cabinet of Talent’ as Law Minister under Prime Minister Muhammed Ali Bogra in 1954 at a relatively young age, and later served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to India in the early sixties. In the latter position he was instrumental in getting the Indus Waters Treaty signed. He was re-appointed as Law Minister in the late seventies, and was Ambassador-at-Large and/or Rector of the Islamic University at the time of his death.

Shortly after his death, Rotary Club in Karachi arranged a dinner meeting in his memory and both the distinguished speakers that night viz., Justice Dorab Patel and Syed Hashim Raza have since passed away. The learned gentlemen spoke of their memories concerning Mr Brohi and we dispersed after the usual pleasantries. The photo to the right shows the first mayor of Karachi after Independece, Hakim Ahsan (center) and Syed Hashim Raza (right) in the Rotary Club dinner hosted in memory of A K Brohi.

Justice Dorab Patel, a gentleman par excellence, not wishing to detain his driver at that late hour had let him go. So a friend and I escorted the great man to his Clifton residence. On the way, Justice Patel quietly remarked,

“I wonder what made Mr. Brohi support the suspension of the constitution at the end of his career.”

Either in awe of Mr. Justice Patel’s personality or rightly assuming that he was putting the question to himself rather than to comparative youngsters like us, we both remained silent. He was perhaps thinking how champions of civil liberties sometimes act in an inexplicable manner, while sincerely believing that they are doing the right thing.

The letter that I have preserved and reproduced below makes a highly interesting reading. It reflects the innermost conflicts in the mind of a student of philosophy during the course of the Second World War.

It also appears that the writer is in need of sharing his deep-rooted anxieties, frustrations and cautious optimism with someone close to him. Apparently quite unwittingly, in the very first paragraph of the letter, he in fact provides an irrefutable argument supporting the creation of Pakistan. The fact that he was editor of the Sindh Madressah Chronicle must have helped in refining his writing skills, because nobody could afford to adopt a casual attitude towards journalism in those days. Writing letters was apparently an art in those days and not treated lightly even when the communication was to an old friend.

More than 67 years later, the Leslie Wilson Moslem Hostel where the letter was written and where Allama Kazi delivered his Friday sermons was re-named as Jinnah Courts after 1947, and now houses the headquarters of the Pakistan Rangers. My father passed away in January 2007 traversing the path followed by his old friend nearly 20 years earlier. On reading the letter one is immediately transported into an era that will never come back again neither in Sindh nor yet anywhere else, and we are reminded of Dicken’s words:

“Such are the changes that a few years bring about and so do things pass away like a tale that is told!”

The Sindh Madressah Chronicle

Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi, MA, LL.B.,

30 Leslie Wilson Moslem Hostel,
Karachi, 17th June 1940

My dear Ashoo,

How I wish I could tell you the extent of my delight at having received your poetic letter: your decision to take up law course has contributed much more to my happiness than you could possibly imagine. It may be that we live together to practice law! And that is no small thing to long for. Your law college starts working on 20th June or thereabouts. You may leave Hyderabad for Karachi after having heard your result. I hope to send you a wire. And I know what its contents are to be. As for my becoming a Professor of Law it is an impossibility – despite what Napoleon happened to say about its existence. I know some Hindu chap will be called up to join the college staff. They asked some questions about my knowledge of law in the interview and like a frank soul I told them that I did not remember Law at the tips of my fingers and all I contended was that I was a competent teacher of Law. I do not know if that could be palatable for a prejudiced taste. I am positive I am not slipping into the job.

I had arranged to start my law practice at Sukkur in the beginning of July 1940 but when I acquainted Mr I I Kazi with this plan of mine with a view to elicit his permission he dissuaded me from being so very hasty in taking up that momentous decision – in particular when War in Europe may vitally affect the Indian body-politic so very vehemently that such professions may cease to be the lucrative concerns which they are supposed at present to be. I could not oppose him and I have been convinced about the wisdom of his advice.

So it comes about! I am compelled to wait for a couple of months more. During all these days that I have been endeavoring to take this decision I have often been reminded of an observation by Goethe which I am now quoting for your perusal,

“Child! Child! No more! The coursers of time, lashed by invisible spirits hurry on the light little car of our Destiny: and all we can do is to sit in self-possession to hold the reins with a firm hand, guide the horses and the wheels now to the left, now to the right, avoid a stone here and a precipice there. Whither it is hurrying who can tell! And who indeed can remember the point from where it started”.

The roaring mechanism of the universe goes on heedless of our petty wishes and faint desires.

“Is there no economy in Nature?”

I often ask myself this question. Why has she given me so many talents, gifts, abilities and ideals if she has not made an adequate provision for an opportunity wherein I may use them for the benefit of mankind. But the old answer returns on me again and again. It is to wait and watch – yes it is to wait and watch until I am called on by my Destiny to do my bit: or who knows, if I will be allowed to do that bit at all? But then, I take refuge in the oft-quoted line from Milton:

“They also serve who stand and wait”.

O’ but it is a painful waiting. The moments of our youth wear an evanescent character and the youthful period is only too fleeting to be trusted. I long to do something to advance the cause of spirit on Earth. I know by my temperament and training I am quite competent to become the missionary of that cause. I do not find any meaning in this painful period of waiting.

But I am not competent to judge my life in its middle course: it is a work of art and must be judged as a whole. We must wait to see the curtain drop before we can pronounce any judgment as to the charm of the play. Have we not been struck by the indescribable sweetness even of a tragic end, of a faultless flow of unfortunate events to a swift and yet eternal end! Our life with all its bitterness may yet have a significant end. Again we must wait! We must submit before that stupendous enigma – whose solution eludes all efforts to grasp it.

My mind has thus become a battlefield for these conflicting forces of faith and despair to play their part upon. At times I side with one, at times with another. Thus do the days of my life pass. It is an endless struggle. But I know all this suffering is to end in a richer fulfillment. God only tries us: this is but a test! I know I am going to emerge out as a successful servant of His. Already I find the dawn of hope, which is to induce me into continuing my weary search like a chartered metaphysician. How strangely do I feel above all the conflicts that rage within me: I feel so much above my circumstances.

You will forgive me, my sweet Ashoo, if I have offended me with my letter: there are very few souls who understand me and even from those there are a few indeed with whom I can at all share my inward pangs and sighs. I feel you are the only one with whom I can occasionally allow myself a little communion. I am conscious of the fact that nothing comes out of this sort of melancholy expression of one’s deep-seated tortures. But then that is probably all we can do to relieve ourselves of the fullness of our heart. How very different is your style of life from mine. I know that you have enjoyed this vacation period to your heart’s content. It is a joy to reflect that at least you have been spared.

Aftab comes to me at times: We also meet at Kazi Sahib’s. Yesterday he was a bit offended against the existing government, as the latter had refused to provide its subjects with rifles to protect themselves against any internal insurrection. I found in him a buoyant spirit. He is completely transformed. Who would say that he is a mere scholar. He has become so militaristic in his outlook that it is difficult to reconcile his reverence for Gandhiji’s non-violence with his radical and reactionary doctrinaire. How swiftly people change! Not so with me, I am quite conservative and steady in my outlook.

God be thanked that Bashir has passed out. I was confident of his success, as even I am confident about your first class. I did my best with him and in doing that I only was doing my duty. Do what I may I cannot pay off even an iota of those favors, which Kazi families have been lavishing on me.

Kindly convey my respects to your father and mother.

With inexpressible feelings of devotion
I am yours

Allah Bukhsh Karim Bukhsh Brohi
M.A., LL.B.

Credits: The photo in sepia showing A.K. Brohi in Karachi Grammar School library is courtesy of Prof. Qamaruddin Isa Daudpota.

About the Author: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi works with World Health Organization in Islamabad.

53 responses to “A.K. Brohi: Insights Into a Legal Mind”

  1. Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi says:

    Rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric — Please let me remind you I didn’t drag in Cornelius in the discussion – you did. So what if the whole of Pakistan thinks Cornelius is a saint, I dont and I am mandated only to give my views. 95% of our countrymen probably think he was a Britisher so am I supposed to think so too.

    I stand by every word I have said. Yes I am Doc Kazi and I do not hide my identity or show that I am the only patriot in Pakistan. I see no sense in prologing this discussion as you are getting rather personal and confounding issues introduced by you in the first place.

  2. Watan Aziz says:


    {Standing Ovations}

    To preserve the memory of your beloved Brohi, you accused the 160 Million consisting of bus driver, the tangay walla, the sepahai, the chai walla and everyone in between as criminals of the 3rd tier. I suppose the section officers, subedars, asi s’ and up are 2nd tier. And secretaries of departments and command officers and up are 1st tier in your books. (These are you tiers not mine. You gave the definition to the tiers by adding up the 160M.)

    But that was not enough, then you relentlessly went after Justice Cornelius and accused him of things that no one else has said about him. Google it, Dr Kazi, if you may please. You stand alone on the net in maligning Justice A. R. Cornelius. And this post is not even about him. I suppose, given an opportunity to write about him, you will cite the Sindhi snake story, the Yahya constitution story and the how the judges of Sindh deserve more than he does because of sodomy charges against them. (A certain Doc Kazi (yourself?) has mentioned this elsewhere too.) Three sentence, slam dunk.

    Well, this is what a certain Ralph Brainbatti wrote about Justice Cornelius:

    Cornelius developed a profound admiration for Islam which deepened towards the end of his life. He died in 1991 at the age of 88. As a self-described ‘Neo-Thomist’ he synthesized Christian and Islamic values through the medium of natural law. This synthesis is a case study in the compatibility of Islam and Christianity developed not on theological grounds but within the context of jurisprudence. It negates the contention that Islam and the West are necessarily at odds and that their interaction will result in a ‘clash of civilizations’.

    But this post is about A. K. Brohi and this is what Doc Kazi wrote about Brohi in another setting:

    ‘So the onus of the doctrine is really on Munir and Anwarul Haq with Pirzada being Master of Ceremonies and Brohi silently nodding away in 1978 ostensibly due to personal animosity with ZAB.’

    Saving Brohi again? Silent? Tsk-tsk.

    Dr. Kazi, respectfully, I will not be able to convince you, we are not even on the same planet. But Ghulam Muhammad, Ayub and Yahya and Sultan Mushraff’s combined sin pale when compare to Zia’s. Whatever the first three did, Pakistanis took the hits and have moved along. There are Bengalis who will painfully remember about the ‘butcher of Dhaka’ but I think they too have moved along in their lives as well. Bangladesh is certainly better without Pakistan. As for Sultan Musharaf, well, he did the good, the bad and the ugly (and in that order).

    But what Zia did, with his ‘mid-night advisor‘ every Pakistani knows all too well. Yes, it will be a struggle for Pakistanis, but they will wash this sin away, in time and with patience.

    Bear with me. Every time I hear someone begins with

  3. Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi says:

    Please try to understand what you are yourself saying. If anyone is associated or supports anyone who ruled Pakistan from Liaquat Ali Khan onwards is a criminal. I have demonstrated to you that you cannot enforce selective accountability like Ziaul Haq or GIK. Cornelius was a first tier criminal associate of Yahya Khan – one of his four principal advisers, his ‘legal’ brain. I could say the same for all legal luminaries of Pakistan. They have provided brains to one or more of the leaders you name. Lets simply agree to disagree.

  4. Watan Aziz says:

    ~~From the time of the passing away of the Founder of the Nation, these people will approximately be 160 million. ~~

    Are you are suggesting that these many people acquired unquestioned power at the behest of the criminal who broke the constitutional process?

    In Pakistan?

    A criminal enterprise of Pakistanis? Wow! This is a new one for me.

    ~~The remaining 10 million would be the poorest of the poor who probably dont know or dont care who is ruling them.~~

    Maybe a page from Zia’s book? Something to the effect, “the 1973 Constitution is a slim volume, I could rip to shreds whenever”. It may be nice to remain above judgement herein and in the present, but there is another Judgement to reckon with and a minor problem of collective judgement of history.

    Neither very hospitable to those who break laws, support those break laws and with the ultimate aim to deny justice and equity.

    And some of us who cannot do much but to speak up, will never shut up. Zia was a criminal; A.K. Brohi was his 2nd tier criminal associate. Q.E.D.

    We agree that we disagree.

  5. Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi says:

    “And the 2nd and the 3rd tier mini-criminals, their co-conspirators, collaborators and active supporter, they too were good people before their adventures with reckless conduct. They too acquired unquestioned power at the behest of the usurpers. It was their reward to support the criminal act, the breaking of the constitutional process.”

    From the time of the passing away of the Founder of the Nation, these people will approximately be 160 million. The remaining 10 million would be the poorest of the poor who probably dont know or dont care who is ruling them.

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