Afaq’s Struggles for Justice

Posted on November 5, 2009
Filed Under >Hassan Rehman, Law & Justice, Society
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Hassan Rehman

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 ‘khatara’ 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 didn’t learn the lesson the establishment wanted him to learn.

He took part in all lawyers’ protests afterwards and was one of the ‘vigil keepers’ 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 – of asserting one’s being – and not necessarily of strategy.

The most important dividend of Afaq’s struggle (ignoring the tear gas shells and detention at prisons) is the satisfaction – 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 ‘indigenous audacity of hope’. We, the ‘Sofa Bolsheviks’ 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 don’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.

15 responses to “Afaq’s Struggles for Justice”

  1. Khawar says:

    Not bad!

  2. munib says:

    ” ‘indigenous audacity of hope ” yeah !! that pretty much summarize it

  3. Shirjeel says:

    While many are commenting and commending the valour of Afaq for picking the live shell and throwing back to its source, I would also like to praise the photographer for his expert and timely capturing of this ‘telling’ moment in our history.

    Yes, we cannot ignore, downplay or minimize the importance of the “lawyers” protest which on the final day transformed into a potent people’s movement sending shockwaves all the way to Islamabad, to the corridors of power and then ultimately to the Presidency. It was the sheer size of the crowd on that day which forced the people at helm to agree to the restoration of judiciary.

    I can understand the reasoning behind the comments of Asad about our protests being violent. And I would agree with Nirma that there is a fine line between courage and violence. I wish that our people when protesting on streets can remember this distinction and do not resort to ‘violence’ and destruction of public and private property.

    Yes, restoration of judiciary is a great thing which is happen in our country. However, still one of the biggest ailment afflicting our country is the absence of rule of law. Like elsewhere, corruption is rampant in our courts and legal system thus denying and delaying justice to the common man. The real test of the restored judiciary would be how it can purge this corruption, dispense justice without any fear or favour, and thus bring smile to the millions of hapless and beleagured Pakistanis.

  4. Aamir Al says:

    What exactly positive resulted from the lawyer movement of 2007 ? That Zardari the crook is President, or that Nawaz Sharif, another crook is a leader, or that hypocrite PCO judges like Iftikhar Chaudhry are sitting on the bench ? I don’t see any real democracy, or justice being delivered to Pakistani nation today because of this lawyer movement and judges.

    The emotional Pakistani nation were taken for a ride by political parties who showed them the usual “grass is greener on other side”, with the result that political parties are enjoying the fruits while legal systems remains as corrupt, slow and dysfunctional as before.

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