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. AdeelJ says:

    Well said.

    Indeed this was one of the few developments in our history that made me feel proud as a Pakistani.

  2. Nimra says:

    Very refreshing article sir!

    I believe we should always consider the fine line between violence and ‘Courage’!!! And being courageous enough – like the one in this picture – needs what only few of us have: Courage!!! Afaq didn’t fire that tear gas shell! He was supposed to be the victim or the target of the shell!! And at least I don’t expect a sweet smile or a hello from him in response to the tear gas or laathi-charge!!!

    Commenting (as you and I both are!) by hitting some keys on the keyboard or discussing the philosophy of peace and violence or calmness and wildness AND struggling on the roads ‘actually’ by picking the tear gas shells in our hands or visiting jails are 2 very different things if we calculate the courage behind them! We don’t even know how many guts are needed to pick the tear gas shells in our own hands and throwing them back to the place from where they were fired!!!

    The person, the picture isn’t violent – It’s valiant!!!

    Moreover, the piece of writing is not to nominate ‘real’ heroes and ‘fack’ heroes of that movement! It’s just to remember that struggle and the picture truly represents that!!!

    I’m stunned to read this:
    “It’s year 2009 and we are still bragging on incident that happened two years ago.”

    Do you know that we, as nation, have very few ‘incidents’ for which we can feel proud or brag about? The writing is about that struggle, that journey!!! It is to refresh one of those ‘few’ incidents of our nation’s history (other than cricket world cup championships or 20-20 final matches!!) for which we are at least not ashamed!!

    Quote: “Will the media stop portraying from the past and stressful stuff” What’s ‘stressful’ here?? You don’t need to get stressed about all this honey. And I guess that the incidents that break the sleeps of sleeping nations are always bit stressful!! And luckily it resulted in something positive! All this isn’t – at all – ‘stressful’! It’s stimulating! It’s motivating! And it’s nothing but inspiring!!!

  3. MQ says:


    It’s good to see you back after ages, it seems.

    Faiz will never get dated in Pakistan. Aitaz Ahsan was here in the US reciting his now famous poem in private gatherings: ‘Fauj lage gi sab ko achi, jab sarhad kay paas rahai gi’. I wish someone had also recited Faiz:

    Yeh woh sahar tau nahin, jis ki aarzoo lay kar
    Chalay thay yaar, keh mil jaye gi kahin na kaheeN
    KaheeN tau jaa kay rukay ga safeena-i- gham-dil

    And, again, in Faiz’s words:

    Nadyeea bhi wohi hai, naau wohi
    Ab tum hi kaho kiya karna hai
    Aur kaisay paar utarna hai?

  4. Hira Mir says:

    “Back on 5th November, 2007” It’s year 2009 and we are still bragging on incident that happened two years ago. Will the media stop portraying from the past and stressful stuff so that Pakistan can get out of this deep hole? I blame the media partial for the situation that Pakistan is in today. If media wants I believe they can change everything in a very short period of time only if they start being loyal to out nation for ONCE!

  5. Aamir Ali says:

    What was so blantantly wrong when Musharraf removed PCO judges like Iftikhar Chaudhry and his gang ? I don’t buy the logic of these lawyer-movement fellows that PCO 1 was Ok for so and so reason but PCO 2 or 3 is bad for so and so reason. What nonsense.

    Looking back, the lawyer movement destabilized Pakistan and re-instated hypocrite judges who have done nothing so far to improve judiciary or deliver justice to the people. They have however delivered for Nawaz Sharif.

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