Feisal Naqvi

Archive for December, 2007|Monthly archive page

Serving Justice

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2007 at 4:53 am

There may be different points of view about the CJP and whether he was acting in an appropriate manner prior to November 3. But there are no two views about the fact that prior to that date he was indeed the CJP and had served the cause of justice in Pakistan as a lawyer and as a judge for many years

On June 9, 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy was conducting hearings related to his claim that there were a number of communists and communist sympathisers in the US government and armed forces. As part of his vendetta, McCarthy made a gratuitous assault upon a young lawyer named Fred Fisher, not because Fisher represented a target for him, but because Fisher worked for a law firm whose senior counsel represented the Army in the Congressional hearings.

The senior lawyer made a number of attempts to dissuade McCarthy, but to no avail. Ultimately, when it became clear that McCarthy intended to take steps which would destroy the young lawyer’s career, the senior lawyer was finally goaded into a fitting response.

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough.” And when McCarthy indicated that he would not rest, came the final response: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

I am reminded of these words and of that incident by the headline in today’s newspaper which informs me that a learned justice of the Honourable Lahore High Court has asked Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and Mr Justice Rana Bhagwandas, the senior puisne judge of the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, to appear in person — repeat, in person — to come and explain why they refuse to vacate their official residences.

There are a number of points to note in this regard. The first point is the most obvious: the two learned judges have not vacated their official residences as yet because they are being kept under house arrest in those official residences by a large contingent of armed police officers. This is a known fact and the court may, if it pleases, take judicial notice of it.

The second point is tactical. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the writ in question (that is, the one in which this order seeking the personal attendance of two judges has been passed) is not the product of an individual grievance but has instead been “encouraged” by some well-wishers of the current establishment. If so, my question is this: Are you out of your mind?

This government has with great difficulty and with considerable cost to its self-image managed to incarcerate its chief justice. It doesn’t need telling that this move has not gone down well with lawyers and that the legal community has had to be thrashed and beaten into a sullen silence. If the two learned gentlemen whose presence has been requested in person were to actually appear in person, the hearing would also be attended by every single disgruntled lawyer in person,in which case the riotous consequences would also be predictable.

And what if, a lawyer for the chief justice appears and says that he cannot appear in person because he is under house arrest? Or worse still, what if a lawyer for the chief justice’s lawyer appears and states at the rostrum that neither the chief justice, nor the senior puisne judge, nor their counsel can appear because they are all under house arrest? What then? What will the learned and honourable judge of the Lahore High Court say then? Will he proceed with the case?

If so, the proceedings will be a farce. On the other hand, will the honourable judge of the Lahore High Court have the galls (to use a popular malapropism) to direct the police to produce the two vagabond judges and their lawyer? If so, will the police listen? And if not, why expose yourself in such a cruel manner?

The final point then is moral. Whether one likes it or not, there are different points of view about the Chief Justice of Pakistan and whether he was acting in an appropriate manner prior to November 3, 2007. But there are no two views about the fact that prior to that date he was indeed the CJP and had served the cause of justice in Pakistan as a lawyer and as a judge for many years.

The same applies with equal force to Mr Justice Rana Bhagwandas. It may be that because of the shifting tides of political fortune, these two gentlemen are no longer able to continue as judges till the end of their constitutional tenure but that does not take away from the fact that they certainly were judges of the Supreme Court of this country. And that even as former judges, they are entitled to be treated with a minimum of respect and dignity.

And so I ask: Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

The PPP manifesto

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2007 at 5:21 am

VIEW: The PPP manifesto —Feisal Naqvi

Out of all the political parties out there, it is the Peoples Party that should have some degree of knowledge about labour laws. The fact that the newly launched People’s Party manifesto is conspicuously deficient in this regard does not make me feel good even though labour laws have very little relevance to my life

Do you know about Webcop? No? Well, don’t worry. The People’s Party does not know anything either. The only problem is this; your lack of knowledge is understandable: the PPP’s ignorance is criminal.

Webcop stands for Workers and Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan. In simple terms, Webcop is an organisation in which representatives from workers groups as well as from employers associations sit down and try to hammer out a consensus on law and policy issues before taking their agreed agenda to the government. More importantly, Webcop represents a new way of handling labour issues in Pakistan, one that actually works.

The traditional way to handle labour issues in Pakistan has been for the Government to sign every single international document in sight and then ignore them in practice. At last count, Pakistan’s body of labour laws included more than 160 different laws, regulations and rules, most of which are entirely ignored in real life. The review mechanism of these laws has theoretically been that great bureaucratic monster known as “tripartite” commissions; “tripartite” because the three stakeholders involved in discussions are labour, employers and the government.

In the case of Pakistan, tripartite commissions have conspicuously failed because both the workers and the employers see no incentive to compromise. Instead, both sides stake out extreme positions, leaving the government with the unenviable job of trying to figure out the reasonable middle ground. Or of just letting the whole mess stew around until it becomes somebody else’s headache.

In contrast, Webcop provides a bilateral meeting ground in which the two sides with the most at stake try to come to a common resolution. When they do, they take their common position to the Government, which is then normally quite happy to adopt the consensus position because it knows that all stakeholders will be happy with the proposed change (or at least, happier). And all of this is actually happening in the Land of the Pure where, as we all know, nothing normally ever works.

In the case of the Peoples Party, its apparent ignorance about what is generally considered to be the single most positive development in labour issues over the past decade, if not more, is particularly galling. In the first instance, the Peoples Party has been out of power for more than a decade. If nothing else, the people in its ranks have been afforded ample time to think about what things they would like to fix about this country. Evidently, they spent that time examining real estate opportunities in Dubai.

More significantly, the People’s Party has traded for years on its reputation as the pro-labour party. To the extent that class lines can be drawn, the PPP certainly can make a claim as the standard bearer for the rights of the industrial proletariat. But mouthing platitudes is not enough.

At this point, some readers may be wondering why am I getting all bent out of shape (as the Americans say) about an obscure omission in one part of the PPP’s manifesto? After all, who gives a damn about this stuff?

Nobody, and that is the problem. At this point, our political parties are all united on a single point agenda: anyone but Musharraf. But what is the second point of their agenda? What will happen if some fairy godmother waves her magic wand, sends the army back to the barracks and restores the judiciary? What then?

The point I am trying to make here is that the real hard job of governance is boring stuff, stuff like knowing the difference between trilateral and bilateral negotiations while renegotiating labour laws. If we do not get that stuff right, Pakistan will continue to flounder, irrespective of whether we have a democratically elected leader, irrespective of whether we have an independent judiciary, and irrespective of whether the army goes back to the barracks.

To repeat, out of all the political parties out there, it is the Peoples Party that should have some degree of knowledge about labour laws. The fact that the newly launched People’s Party manifesto is conspicuously deficient in this regard does not make me feel good even though labour laws have very little relevance to my life. Because if the PPP manifesto is useless when it comes to things on which they should have expertise, then it requires a massive leap of faith to believe that the PPP’s intellectual prowess will be more impressive with respect to other issues regarding which they have no historical expertise (as in just about everything else besides labour laws).

At the end of the day, it is the job of our political parties to attract the people with the requisite knowledge about policy issues. Looks like they failed.