Monday, May 31, 2010

Of Judicial Independence and Punjab Politics

There's a bunch of stuff that's we've been meaning to blog about which has been held back because of the outrage in Lahore - it just seemed inappropriate to focus on anything else for the time being. And we will get round to it soon. In the meantime, just wanted to share a couple of things with all of you.

The first is this review today in the Express Tribune by veteran journalist Khaled Ahmed, formerly of The Daily Times and now associated with the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), wherein he subtly takes the mickey out of current Chief Justice Lahore High Court Khwaja Sharif's published book about his travels to the Philippines and the UK in 1995 (when he was merely a lawyer). I'm not exactly sure when this book was actually printed but I had heard about this book only a few days ago from someone who claimed that in it, the venerable judge had spoken about his great admiration and love for the Sharif family. I found the alleged quotes - as related by my source - a bit unbelievable so had asked him to procure me a copy. Am still waiting for it.

Justice Khwaja Sharif (left) with one of the men he apparently admires

Meanwhile, this is what Khaled Ahmed writes about Justice Sharif's travelogue writing style and his moral preoccupations

"The London journey is a linear description of calling on expat Pakistanis at their homes who regaled Khwaja Sahib with food. In fact, the cataloguing of food is so persistent that each page has him eating twice or thrice, which seems abnormal. On page 79, Afzal Butt, of Sheranwala Gate, gave him cold lassi followed by chicken-tikka, daal and chicken curry, taken with extra-large tandoori roti. On page 84, he feels sleepy, and by page 93 he has a tooth ache. By page 152, he is positively ill after eating qima wali roti and has to take pills. On page 191, he is laid low by Khalid Butt’s samosas.
"There are parallels to Ibn Battuta’s “rihla” (travelogue) in which Battuta judges alien societies on the basis of the conduct of their women. In 1826, Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali sent a brilliant scholar Tahtawi to Paris to study government there. Tahtawi wrote up his long “rihla” praising most of what he saw in France but judging its morality on the basis of its women. At least on three different pages, Khwaja Sharif observes and regrets the way the women of England do bos-o-kinar (petting) with men in public."

Far more interesting is the bits he quotes about Justice Sharif's political leanings:

"The climax is Khwaja Sahib’s meetings with Mian Shehbaz Sharif living in exile in London. Khwaja Sahib, who had been president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, had written to him to return and lead the campaign of struggle (Tehreek-e-Nijat) against the PPP government (p.226). On page 121, Shehbaz Sharif got him over to his apartment and, you have guessed it, regaled him to a lavish meal, giving him chun-chun kar botian (selected pieces of meat) with his own hands. Later they had ras-malai and ras-gulla too, with a box of sweets to accompany Khwaja Sahib as he left. Shehbaz Sahib also offered him money, which he declined, but once out of the apartment he realised he had eaten too much (p.122)."

Now, I have no truck with the PPP-walas trying to use all sorts of smoke screens to prevent corruption allegations against their leaders being probed. But doesn't the much-touted 'independence of the judiciary' ring a bit hollow with such judicial self-admissions?

The other bit of information I found fascinating was from a news analysis by Tariq Butt in The News on May 28, about the appointment by the Supreme Court (SC) of former head of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Tariq Khosa as a special investigator into the Bank of Punjab scam currently being probed by the SC...

"[A]n official said that Khosa would work as an “expert” to assist the NAB chief in the probe into the BoP scandal. Khosa enjoys good reputation. He is brother of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who was elevated to the Supreme Court along with Justice Saqib Nisar a few months back, and Punjab Chief Secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa. They are first cousins of Latif Khosa, the adviser to the prime minister on information technology."

Now, taking nothing away from the apparently sterling reputation - from all accounts - of Tariq Khosa, I couldn't help thinking if this family tree did not just encapsulate what Punjab politics is all about.



Alpha Za said...

Completely. messed. up.

Why is Pakistan run like a sardar company perpetually in throes of a hostile takeover from two groups (PPP & PML-N) only to be reprimanded by the SEC (army)....What. The. Hell.

Khwaja Sharifs eating habits and attention to detail towards food is also highly disconcerting. He probably ate enough by himself to feed Raiwind for a month.

Anonymous said...

It's not just punjab politics. The Sindh govt. is chock full of brothers, cousins and the odd sister or two. I don't know why we still act surprised whenever we hear about these extended patriarchal networks running deep into our political circles. As far as Punjab is concerned, the age old principle for every landed family has been that the smartest sits for the CSS or the Provincial Service exam, the less smarter one goes off to a cadet college, and the dumbest one ends up as the politician.

Add to the fact that the racial profiling inculcated by the British with regards to which castes were suited for agriculture, which for office work and which for army recruitment and you have a high degree of path-dependence as far as public office holding is concerned.

Here are a few more interesting 'stats'. Gujjar Khan tehsil has produced more army generals than any other place in Pakistan. The largest number of tehsildars in Punjab are from Gawalmandi, and off the top of my head there are at least 5 such families in Punjab that have politicians representing at least two of the major parties, and have at least one member in the civil bureaucracy.

And for all this, we have the British to thank for!

Anonymous said...

Interesting Blog. Actually I know the Khosa brothers very well. Yes surprising as it may seem although they belong to the same family tree they might have different values and reputations. Tariq Khosa and his brothers are extremely well-reputed and of high caliber. I can't say much about their cousins and extended family. The very fact that Tariq Khosa is apparently disliked by the PM and other corrupt top officials in the current government shows that he is not like them. I have the highest regard for this officer who has been so honest throughout his life and even in this day and age he doesnt own a car nor a house yet. I hope he gets to head the case and expose the scandals of the current and previous governments. And I just wish Pakistan had more like him.

Anonymous said...

Guys and Gals,
Don't say anything nasty about Alhaj, Maulana Khwaja Sharif, the chief carrier of the wrath of God or he'll shut down Pyala faster than his court did Facebook. What's the big deal if Shahbaz Sahab offered the poor judge a lifafa in London.
So, watch it.

XYZ said...

@Anon526: "It's not just punjab politics. The Sindh govt. is chock full of brothers, cousins and the odd sister or two."

Of course family-based politics pervades all of Pakistan, but I was actually referring to the "practice" of covering all "bases", which you yourself allude to later in your comments - politics (even in opposing parties), bureaucracy, military and seemingly now judiciary. I may be wrong of course but it seems to me this particular inter-connectedness exists more in the Punjab than anywhere else. Where kith and kin can be called upon to do legitimate and illegitimate favours for relations from various branches of the establishment. Sindh is far more fractured along ethnic and linguistic lines and while you do find the odd bureaucrat daughter of a chief minister (and certainly almost none in the military), it is usually a rarity.

Of course I am in no way implying any ill-intent on the part of the Khosa family. It's just the way things are.

@Anon656: As I mentioned in the post itself, all accounts of Tariq Khosa indicate integrity and uprightness. Agreed that Pakistan needs more bureaucrats, no, more people, like him.

@Anon243 Haha, yes, the thought had crossed my mind :)