On Athar Minallah and the betrayal of the unsung heroes – by Fawad Manzoor

Update: Mr Minallah’s response to the LUBP post

This is with reference to a recent op-ed by Mr. Athar Minallah (ex-spokesman for the SC Chief Justice) which appeared in The News on 16 June 2010. In his sobbing column, Mr Minallah is crying foul against “yellow journalism”. He is saddened by the reporting of the media that he and former heroes have switched sides and are now against the “independent judiciary”.

The yellow journalism he is talking about is the same which was wrongfully reporting the lawyers movement as a milestone in Pakistan’s history. The conservative lobby dominant in Pakistani media never wants any democratic government to succeed. Their ideological (and personal) vengeance against the PPP is quite apparent. In their hatred for PPP, they even have overstepped their professional conduct such as Dr. Shahid Masood, Shaheen Sebahi and Ansar Abbasi.

There are many more journalists who are jumping on this band wagon. It is now a fashion to just talk against the present government. Just imagine PML-Q too is criticizing PPP.

The much hyped long march in 2009 was nothing at all but media made it look like that there are millions and millions of people marching towards Islamabad where as there were not even thousands. Nawaz Sharif who had won all seats from Lahore couldnt even gather more than a few thousand protesters at the GPO Chowk in Lahore.

So my dear respected Mr. Athar Minallah, just sit back and relax. The successes you are counting about the Lawyers Movement were nothing but just a small movement financed by Nawaz Sharif, run by lawyers and marketed by the media which made it look like movement of credible people where as it was the movement of lawyers whose credibility lies at the bottom of all professions in Pakistan. This movement was nothing more than a movement of discredited people to bring discredited people to the bench. Media had some other ulterior motives. All I can say is that “chickens have come home to roost”.

Mr. Minallah, with all due respect, what Lawyers Movement did in connivance with media has come home to harm you. This ugliness of media has started to write against the very same people who made a discredited three time PCO CJ and his lackeys hero. May be it is turn of the unsung heroes to be taken to task by the media. All others have gone through this arduous task. The lawyers movement along the way made these shoe shining journalists into high profile journalists.

Fawad Manzoor

Who are betraying the unsung heroes of the lawyers’ movement?

The News, June 16, 2010
By Athar Minallah

ISLAMABAD: This is with reference to the news item published on the front page in the daily, ‘The News’ on June 14, 2010, titled “Zardari camp pins hopes on Asma as next SCBA chief”. An Urdu translation was also printed in the daily Jang.

Quoting some ‘insiders’ it has been asserted that amongst others, I will be supporting Asma Jahangir in the next SCBA election ‘for my own reasons’. The correspondent has attempted to give an impression that I and others named in the report have switched sides and are now anti-independent judiciary. The unwarranted and deliberate assertions relating to me is the most recent attempt on the part of a faction of journalists working for your paper to malign me and mislead the readers. I have had an excellent relationship with the entire team of both the dailies. The phone calls made to Asma Jehangir and Tariq Mahmood are mentioned, yet no one bothered to verify the purported ‘insider information’ from me. Notwithstanding Asma Jehangir’s brilliant record as a courageous defender of human rights, in her recent interviews she named those who supported her. Except for one name, the news report is contrary to her statements. The question is not about who supports who, it is about professional ethics and integrity. Unethical practices, whether in my profession or journalism, are the worst form of corruption.

A malicious campaign has been initiated against a few lawyers, merely because this faction does not subscribe to their independent thinking. When my comments or views regarding the 18th Amendment, democracy or my interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution did not find favour with this group, news items appeared alleging that I had become pro-government and anti-independent judiciary. I have been quoted out of context and the stories about me were given misleading titles. Starting with the news report “From Heroes to Zeros”, “Four lawyers support the government without a reason”, “Athar threatens the Supreme Court” and the latest news item, all of them form a series of biased and unethical reporting.

I admit that I have made blunders in the past, and through my acts and omissions may have contributed to the mutilation of the Constitution. But March 9, 2007 was a turning point. The act of defiance aimed at upholding the sanctity of the Constitution by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on that day made me vow to always defend the only defence my beloved motherland has. The chief justice was not known to me, but he gave me the direction to commit myself to this struggle.

In the following months and till the restoration of the chief justice on March 16, 2009, I saw the real Pakistan. I saw the idealism of young lawyers, students, members of civil society and young media persons. I witnessed the downtrodden people and abject poverty. They stood on the roadside for hours, to shower flowers on the marching young lawyers. I saw the hope in their eyes that the success of the movement would change their lives for the better. How can we ever forget the lawyers who were burnt alive, or the brutal murder of the young dedicated Deputy Registrar Hammad Raza, whose only crime was that he had been appointed purely on merit and was close to the chief justice. It was for this reason that I did not resume my law practice with the restoration of the judges. I accepted my first brief and appeared in court after the implementation of the judgment of July 31, whereby all those judges appointed by Dogar were removed. I cannot let down those who made sacrifices or betray them, and I will speak my mind no matter what price I may have to pay.

Today, I have become a villain for some because I have no political agenda, or rather do not share an agenda with them. My commitment to upholding the Constitution and the honour and dignity of the courts seems to be an irritant for some. For me the goals of the lawyers movement will be achieved when the lower judiciary becomes effective and independent. My biggest fault is that I condemn any form of ‘law of necessity’ for removing elected governments unconstitutionally or undermining the parliament. We need to empower the people of Pakistan by allowing even the worst democracy to continue. If, as a nation we could tolerate Ayub khan, Zial ul Haq and Musharraf for forty out of sixty-three years of Pakistan’s history, then why not tolerate democracy?

So coming back to the issue of who has changed sides, I stand where I stood on 9th March 2009. I made it clear then that the movement was a struggle for democracy, for upholding the Constitution, and for the independence of the judiciary. I was often accused of focusing on personalities, in other words that the movement was for the restoration of the CJP. My reply then was the same as it is now, that individuals become symbols or catalysts for a revolution. They sow the seeds which future generations must nurture. Kindly dig out any interview of mine on the topic during the movement. The irony is that those lawyers who opposed the movement, who appeared before Dogar and who tried their utmost to sabotage our struggle are now the heroes. And it is journalists such as the group I mentioned who give them that status, because now they are playing to their tune. Now supporting the Constitution means supporting Zardari; supporting the new process for recruiting judges in the 18thamendment means turning against an independent judiciary. Why ? Because there is a strong anti-democratic mindset which is bent upon undermining the parliament and pitching it against the Supreme Court so as to achieve results which are not possible to realize through democratic and constitutional means. This mindset has ravaged institutions and brought Pakistan to the brink of devastation which we face today. This myopic vision is a curse from which we need to rid ourselves of. I have never minded people disagreeing with my views and I have never tried to defend my stance to anyone. But when baseless lies are attributed to me then I most certainly will speak up, since I owe it to posterity to set the record straight and to expose such underhand yellow journalism.

Lastly, I would like to mention that I have never been associated with Bar politics nor have I any interest whatsoever. Moreover, I have no role whatsoever in the elections of SCBA. However, for a candidate such as Anwar Kamal, I would have worked for his success as a worker because through his conduct he had established that he stood for principles and truly believed in the rule of law as despite his financial constraints he did not bow to the Dogar courts till the restoration on March 16, 2009. With Mr Anwar Kamal not being in the field anymore, it is unfair to attribute my support to any other candidate. I wish all the candidates well and expect that unlike the present leadership they would strive to fulfill the goals of the historic movement rather than undermining the will of the people of Pakistan. It is my faith that truth and principles ultimately prevails.

Email: atharminallah@gmail.com



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