Sunday, 15 June 2008

Just Shoot me Please! I'm a Beast

Written on Tuesday 10/06/08
Taxila, Punjab - Pakistan

I've been working all night, hoping to bring my dossier on Bashir up-to-date online.


My night involved smoking copious amounts of Pine Menthol cigarettes and drinking plenty of mineral water. My brain was slow and jaded, yet my determination, as always, took me through to the morning. Frequent power cuts throughout the night were taken on the chin each time.

My uncle had insisted that I employ a lawyer, so that he may navigate us through the legal minefields that lay before us. That led to me meeting Mr. Younus Bhatti last night, a seasoned lawyer with Supreme Court experience and important victories to his credit. Further to his credit is his stance on the lawyer's issue. He's boycotting the court today as are all lawyers who seek an independent judiciary.

Bashir's lawyer; Ilyas Siddiqui is true to form, in court today. Defending members of the Pakistani 'Mafioso' would hardly incline you towards positive change. Avarice has found many partners throughout history.

The Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court, is situated on a scenic hill at the Southern entrance to Rawalpindi. The 8;00 am air and serenity play their part in injecting some life into my ragged soul.

The foxy Bashir is nowhere to be seen in the court-room and when the court usher announces Bashir vs. the State, a sheepish looking Bashir (akin to a disobedient child dreading punishment) meekily enters the court-room. He is literally cajoled by his lawyer to approach the dock. The so-called public prosecutor enquires as to whether I have a lawyer present, I explain that today is a strike and in any case; as a matter of principle, it's the state's responsibility to represent itself in a criminal case.

"Don't worry, I'm here," he assured. We both gave each other a quizzical look before he asked whether I could come to a compromise on payment. I explained that I couldn't as there was now too much water under the bridge. Subsequently, a nod and a wink between the judge, Sajjaad Ali Shah and Bashir's lawyer was followed by the judge announcing that Bashir had 15 more days to arrange payment. Before he even hit the hammer, Bashir was out in a flash.

I felt mortified......

I quickly composed myself and sternly said to the judge, "May I address the court please?" Before he could answer me, I handed him the letter that I've addressed to the criminal justice system of Pakistan, summarising the current context of Bashir in relation to the judiciary. He took a not so detailed look before handing the letter back to me and suggesting that I deposit it in some unspecified office.

"What a cretin." I thought to myself. Instead of putting Bashir behind bars for habitually flouting the law, he'd given him reprieve!

Bashir's lawyer made an attempt to explain the judges decision, at which I snapped, "I don't recall seeking counsel from you." That somewhat dampened his euphoric demeanour.

I grudgingly retreated back to the public gallery a la Inzamaam and listened intently to subsequent proceedings.

Lo and behold, a young man whose relative had a 50,000 rupees cheque dishonoured, was promptly sent to jail in lieu of his relative, with some verbal bashing from the Judge to boot!

This was too much for me. At the recess, I decided to make an outburst in court, targetting the investigating officer Mr. Gulzar of Waris Khan Police Station. "This is too much humiliation for me to take....I'm a principled beast in a country stinking of corruption....Do me a favour, just shoot me and end my story, else I shall wreak havoc on the corrupted!"

"Why don't you shoot yourself?" Mr. Gulzar helplessly retorted.

"I cannot commit suicide, it's haraam (forbidden in Islamic law)...I'm making a point....Killing me and others like me is the only way you might prolong this 60 year-old fiasco!" I ended.

I asked the judge's assistant to give me instructions on how to object to today's proceedings. This led me to the registrar's office via an extremely irritating clerk, who was hell bent on extracting some money out of me on some pretext or another. He obviously didn't know me, "It ain't happened in 3 years and it ain't gonna happen now mister!"

The registrar's office tried to explain that I hadn't followed procedure, of which I was having none of. I subsequently stormed to the Registrar's office with the clerk in hot pursuit. There I met Mr. Rana who made a determinded effort to appease me. Without success, I hasten to say. I decided to teach him a lesson on justice and gave him a perpective on Pakistan's 60 year long insistence on 'Championing the cause of justice for the people of the Vale of kashmir.'

Do you now understand why you have zero credibility amongst the comity of nations in the world?" I insisted. Changing the subject, he suggested that I should pay some Pathan about 10 lakh rupees and get Bashir kidnapped!

I was flabbergasted....

"That's how low and ineffective you consider your justice system to be, not to mention your stereo-typical perceptions about your Pathan brethren? You should be ashamed of yourself...Next stop, the Supreme Court for me." I concluded.

Driving back from court, I was now feeling sick, physically as well as mentally.

The taxi-driver happened to hail from Muzaffarabad and as we passed countless photos of 'Justice Choudary', he marvelled at the respect that the bona fide chief justice had earnt amongst the nation. This is the apex point of recognition and respect, he thought.

The taxi driver had inspiring words for me too, "You're so fortunate that you do a job that encourages positive change in society, Being a principled writer and unflinching from the truth makes you very rare and worthy of envy".

Those words were more than enough to negate the horrific morning and put the tired 'beast' to sleep.

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