By Abbas Zaidi
If possession of liquor, and not its consumption, is a crime, Odho should face justice. The question is: is possessing two bottles of liquor such a big crime that the Chief Justice of Pakistan feels forced to take a suo motu action?
In March 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke to the people of Lahore for the last time. National elections were only days away. He spoke to the people in the backdrop of a vicious one-point propaganda that his Islamist-opponents of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) had been spreading against him day and night: “Bhutto drinks alcohol!” His God-fearing opponents, backed by the equally God-fearing US, had been saying that the people of Pakistan must not vote for the party led by a sharaabi (drinker).
On that particular day in Lahore, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who watched Bhutto. He said to the people: “They [the mullahs] say that I drink alcohol. Yes I drink alcohol, but I do not drink the people’s blood!” At that, the people of Lahore gave him a very long and thunderous ovation. They had accepted Bhutto, the alcohol drinker, because they did not want a bloodthirsty ruler to replace him. But they were proved wrong within weeks. Little did they realise, including Bhutto himself, that within months an army-judiciary axis will legitimise, sanctify, and Islamise bloodletting and slaughtering, and wage a jihad against minor crimes like possessing liquor, just possessing, not its consumption, and saying, just saying, that the generals should be held accountable for spending billions from the exchequer.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has used his judicial prerogative and got Attiqa Odho in deep trouble for carrying two bottles of liquor. If possession of liquor, and not its consumption, is a crime, Odho should face justice. The question is: is possessing two bottles of liquor such a big crime that the Chief Justice of Pakistan feels forced to take a suo motu action? Can any legal luminary come up with just one instance where such a minor crime (is it a crime or an offence, by the why?) compelled a suo motu action from the highest judicial authority of a country? What is the nature of suo motu? Why is the power of suo motu exercised in the first place? Had the government of Pakistan, the executive, failed to tackle a stupendous crime (possession of liquor by a woman) that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had to intervene?
Anyone who has a modicum of humanity left in him or her will cry to see the brutality of the law enforcing and security forces of our ‘sacred institutions’. The chief justice took only hours to take suo motu against Odho. It has been more than two weeks since our ‘brave law enforcers’ kicked a young man to death in Karachi, just because he was one of a few dozens who were protesting against the electricity outage in his area. This violent murder of a ‘bloody civilian’ was reported only on one channel. What about the Kharotabad bloodbath carried out by the soldiers of the paramilitary Frontier Corps? It has been more than three weeks, but the Chief Justice has not done anything. No suo motu.
And what about Syed Saleem Shahzad? The way he was tortured and killed is horrible. But no suo motu notice was taken.
Is the blood of those who, within their legal rights, happen to annoy the security forces cheaper than alcohol? Sitting in Bankstown, a suburb of Sydney, I have watched the video of 19-year old Sarfaraz Shah brutally killed by the Rangers and his screams and pleas after having been shot (“Take me to the hospital!”) still echo in my ears. But, like many other Pakistanis, I believe nothing will happen. He will be forgotten just like thousands of people whom the state has killed because they refused to live like nodding donkeys. An ‘inquiry’ will be held. But nothing will happen. No one will be punished. Only a few months before, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear any case, which might involve “our intelligence agencies”. Does an instance in the history of justice and the judiciary exist where the highest court of a state has explicitly said that it would not touch the intelligence agencies? Such a ruling emboldens those who violate the law and cut down civilians with complete impunity.
The writer is the author of Two and a Half Words and Other Stories.
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan