Rejoinder to The News story: Asma Jehangir says she is no party’s candidate
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
LAHORE: A news report appearing on the front page of the Peshawar edition of The News and in other editions of this paper on the next day, titled “Zardari camp hopes Asma will confront SC judges,” is mischievous and deliberate in its attempt to dis-inform public opinion on my candidacy for the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
Such campaigns will not in any way deter me from contesting this election. On the contrary, it hardens my resolve to ensure that this position remains independent and non-partisan.
At the outset I want to clarify that I had received no telephone calls from this scribe and even if I had, I may well have not entertained his calls due to his behaviour. I had made it absolutely clear to the senior management at The News that I would only respond to his queries in writing because of his misreporting in the past. In the present news report he has made several allegations and assumptions against me to jeopardise my campaign and therefore, I am now compelled to respond to him.
Firstly, he has painted me as a person who is opposed to the independence of the judiciary, whereas my struggle for judicial independence precedes even the lawyers’ movement, of which I was an active participant. Any criticism of judicial performance that I have expressed has also been a part of the same commitment.
I believe that the Bar is an equal stakeholder in judicial independence. Its role is to ensure that the judiciary can function without fear or favour and at the same time it serves as the best watchdog of judicial performance. My struggle for judicial independence started much before the recent lawyers’ movement in which I was also actively involved. I suffered imprisonment during Ziaul Haq’s period and have constantly participated in the lawyers’ struggle for democracy and the rule of law.
Even during the last lawyers’ movement I was under house arrest and was willing to sacrifice much more. Nevertheless, my struggle is based on the principle of democracy and rule of law rather than to protect or hound any person or institution. As such it is not my intention to “confront” judges but to remain consistent in upholding the values of justice.
The allegation that I am a candidate of the Zardari camp is simply malicious. I am no admirer of any such camp and my criticism of nepotism, corruption and mis-governance by governments has been consistent throughout. To remind this scribe I would like to draw his attention to my article published in an English newspaper on 19 December 2009. “Another aspect of the judgment” in which I have criticized some aspects of the NRO judgment, where I have stated, “While the NRO can never be defended even on the plea of keeping the system intact the Supreme Court judgment has wider political implications.”
I believe that my criticism of using Article 62(f) as a touchstone for striking down laws was correct. Later, the detailed judgment also bore out this view. I expect that no political faction or other pressure groups will presume to think that my just criticism of any negative trends will not endure despite this candidacy to the Supreme Court Bar Presidency. My views on all important issues are in the public domain and are well-known including my statement on Mr Zardari’s candidacy to the Presidency which was published in newspapers on 26 August 2008.
It has been reported that the Law Ministry is handing out money to certain bar associations. This may well be but has no connection with me. It is between the Law Ministry and the bar associations. Nevertheless, the next allegation that “some members of the lawyers’ community” have been doled out funds in order to convince them to vote for me casts a serious aspersion on the integrity of the members of the Supreme Court Bar Association. I am certain that no lawyer of the Supreme Court Bar will be convinced to vote one way or another through any such alleged tactics. I have always denounced any such malpractices.
Next, Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmud is quoted to have said that if the People’s Party was supporting me there was nothing wrong with it. In the next paragraph, the scribe contradicts himself by clarifying that Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmud said that lawyers with different political affiliations support various candidates. I believe, as a candidate anyone would seek support of all members of the Supreme Court Bar regardless of their political affiliations, caste or beliefs.
This scribe has also quoted SCBA President Qazi Anwar, who he claims has confirmed that resources in connection with the government are being used to get me elected. I am amazed that such irresponsible statements are being attributed to Mr Anwar. When I met him after I had announced my intention to contest these elections, he expressed no such apprehensions to me. On the contrary, he promised to remain neutral, as is appropriate, for any person holding his position.
The malice of this report is most apparent from the allegation made against me that I have been in any way defensive of the Musharraf coup. I am on record of having denounced the Musharraf coup, when few spoke up. I made several public statements to this effect. My position is well known and my criticism of political leadership has never been presented as a justification for a military takeover. My struggle goes as far back as when I was a student. Let me remind the scribe that I was a petitioner in the Asma Jilani case and participated in all major protests against authoritarianism. My independence has never been compromised and will remain as such. My election, too, will be won on this premise and therefore a desperate attempt is being made to malign and demoralise me. It will not work.
Source: The News, 15 June 2010