Dawn News

Justice in Uthopia

-Illustration by Eefa Khalid.

In April 2007, one of my favorite cousins who was then a student at the prestigious LUMS in Lahore visited me on the evening of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s “historic” procession in Lahore (during the Lawyers Movement). She said she was joining many of her colleagues who were already at the event.

Knowing my past as a former student activist, she was taken aback when I told her I’m not all enthusiastic about the commotion.

Responding to my lukewarm reception to her youthful idea of “bringing a revolution,” she said the principle behind the tumult is vital.

“What principle?" I asked.

“Justice and democracy,” she said.

“But you don’t even vote!” I smirked. “90 per cent of the middle-class people I’ve heard passionately supporting the cause of the CJP (who was fired by the Musharraf dictatorship on corruption charges), have never bothered to vote. What democracy are you talking about?”

However, I did add that she should go to the rally to learn.

“Learn what?” She asked.

“Learn how the most vivacious leaders are better at hijacking movements than they are at initiating revolutions,” I replied.

“So why were you guys so gung ho about Benazir Bhutto in the 1980s?” She asked.

“Because Benazir inherently represented so many sides that were a natural anathema to whatever Zia’s dictatorship stood for” I said. “First of all, in an era of Hudood laws, chauvinism and mullah politicians, she was a woman; an educated and outspoken woman. Benazir shone brightly like the country’s finest hope for a democratic system.”

“So you guys weren’t expecting a revolution then?”

“Absolutely not!” I laughed. “We learned a long time ago that a revolution in Pakistan can only achieve two things: One, it will most probably initiate the breaking up of the country and second, even if launched by the so-called liberal and democratic forces, it is bound to be hijacked by the religious right. Just like this lawyers’ movement of yours.”

Thinking that her once revolutionary cousin had tumbled over to the “other side,” she complained that apathy was not the solution.

“Apathy?” I asked. “I think compared to your lot I am still the real revolutionary!”

“Really?” Came a cold response.

“Yes, I am!” I announced. “In a country where religion is a destructive weapon in the hands of everyone ranging from the mullahs, jihadis, feudal lords, and politicians all the way to paranoid husbands, office colleagues and ones own grandparents, it is a revolutionary act to advocate and work for the complete separation of religion and politics. It is a revolutionary act to decide to hold back one’s emotions and refuse to jump on bandwagons driven by so-called “forces of justice” most of whom are the Machiavellian back-bone of various disparaging reactionary maneuvers.”

Getting no more than puzzled silence from her, I continued: “It is a revolutionary act deciding not to chase herds followed by television cameras and excitable reporters who fall just short of joining in all the sloganeering instead of merely reporting!”

“Nice speech,” she finally responded. “So is that what you think my generation is doing …  following a mob?”

“A privileged mob, mind you.” I replied.

“So,” my cousin sighed. “You’ve decided to support Mursharraf instead?”

“Absolutely not!” I protested. “I will still vote for the party I have voted for since 1988.”

“The Pakistan Peoples Party, right?”

“Yes, you can say that,” I confessed. “And maybe even the MQM.”

“You know,” said my cousin, rolling her eyes, “You used to be fun.”

“Fun? Why should I be fun when I can have fun watching a tremendous black comedy unfolding on my television screen?”

“Oh, so now you’re also against the freedom of the media?” My cousin groaned.

I laughed: “You really believe all this extensive coverage about the CJP rallies and the Lawyers Movement has a noble motive on the part of the media?”

She was to the point: “Yes!”

“This coverage is simply about the channels being driven by market forces. Market forces now populated by a bludgeoning urban middle-class with the ever growing powers of consumption. It is these middle-classes who seem to be the most excited about this event. So how can the media ignore an event that is so dear to an important section of the market? Believe me the so-called masses have nothing to do with this tamasha!”

“That’s just your point of view,” my cousin shot back.

“It sure is,” said I. “But it is a point of view constructed after talking to my plumber, my neighbor’s driver and my cigarette wallah. Had I just been talking to people of my own class, most probably I too would have been shouting slogans at that CJP rally!”

“Is this what happens to revolutionaries?” My cousin asked. “Do they eventually become cynical like you?”

“Not cynical,” I said. “Most of them just stop becoming disposable fodder for scrupulous ideologues; or worse, mere entertainment and FUN for a bored generation.”

Disappointed, my cousin took leave. The next morning she SMSed me saying she finally did go to the rally. I asked her how the experience was.

She was to the point: “It was fun!”

Well, my point too. And as the Supreme Court and other courts (‘liberated’ by that glorious Lawyers Movement’) today obsess about Prime Ministers not writing a letter; or TV channels telecasting ‘obscene’ shows; or parliamentarians changing the ‘Islamic’ clauses of the constitution; or why the  police are holding  known terrorists ‘without evidence’, the point is, it is still ‘fun.’

Like grown-ups playing a fantasy game called Justicetopia – a game for which one has to let go of a boring impediment called reality. And actual justice.


Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Email feedback and queries to Dawn.com's editorial team, or visit our contact page

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (68) Closed

Intsar Ahmad
Sep 06, 2012 04:23pm
A good article written by NFP, I admire his comments. The movement for the freedom of judiciary and its restoration was spearheaded by stalwarts like Aitazaz ,Kurd Sahib ,Asma Jehangir and many more. Every one wanted an independent judiciary which could benefit the poor masses. The stalwarts now seem to be disappointed and so are the masses. The judiciary instead of going for Zardari sahib. Writing of letter to Swiss court or bringing the prime ministers to supreme court and taking suo motos in such great numbers should have reformed the lower courts at district level. The problems of the people in lower courts are tremendous. The whole system is corrupt and rotting. I wish that the CJ sahib takes steps to eradicate the evils in the lower courts for the benefit of the common man. Any how a very good effort by NFP. Ahmad
Sep 06, 2012 03:29pm
Several people have made the point about NFP not providing any direction. I think, NFP is so good at elaborating the problems and issues which is his job that people expect him to provide the solution and/or direction. It needs to be reminded that NFP is not a leader or a politician. What he is providing to readers is food for their thoughts and at the end of the day each individual has to draw his/her conclusion. And if you read he does provide a direction "Seperation of religion from the business of state". The issue is how to get there and that has to fall upon the leaders of the country where unfortunately there is no HOPE.
Sep 06, 2012 12:36pm
One of the many arguments i\
Cyrus Howell
Sep 06, 2012 10:08am
Not the greatest hope.
Sep 06, 2012 04:00pm
A directionless people doing "self-less actions" to "feel good", and then to fade away with a sense of accomplishment even when no stones have been picked, no boulders moved, no road created. NFP, keep rocking.
Zafar Malik
Sep 06, 2012 06:00pm
In my view Musharraf was the greatest leader this country ever had. Though unelected, he did more for freedom of press,personal liberties and democracy than any elected leader could ever do. Country during his rule was progressing in every field. CJ and the Lawyers deprived the country of a great forward looking, progressive, pragmatic, honest and patriotic leader. May be one day people will realize this.
Sep 06, 2012 11:05am
to add to the list "today obssessed by....................... carrying wine bottles". YOu were right then, you are right now!
Raheel Adnan
Sep 06, 2012 11:06am
What a sore truth.
Sep 06, 2012 01:43pm
For all those who look for a direction in this blog, it is not his responsibility alone to come up with a solution, it would be anticlimactic if he ended his article with a simplistic solution. the objective of this would be to make the reader think and draw their own conclusions on their involvement in the society. Great article. NFP. I am always looking forward to reading your posts.
Sep 07, 2012 02:53pm
Mars are you sure it was not Venus....
Ali S
Sep 06, 2012 12:06pm
Yeah, he is/was a PPP jiyala - you should treat his opinion the same as you would treat a 'Bibi' fanatic from a village in Larkana. NFP fails to realize that he's part of the problem. He votes for the same party that his father voted for and that he supported during his student life because there's too much history attached to it - blind loyalty despite all the PPP's failures and empty promises. This is why democracy, and the PPP in particular, has failed to take off in this country - even so-called progressives like Nadeem vote more or less non-critically.
Saeedullah Saeed
Sep 06, 2012 12:19pm
A disappointing narrative because the writer seems to be unable to see even a friction of benefits the said lawyers may add to the fragile political system of the country and development of standards in the judicial system..
Sep 06, 2012 08:43pm
Interesting thought.....Someone running for office is interested in power politics! See the irony in the statement? I see that you don't understand democracy or leadership aspirations in the subcontinent. As a people, we should be working to strengthen the system. It does not matter who comes to power, the system is not strong enough to stop them from abusing it....which causes a reaction which in turn upsets the system again. In the US, the founders did not trust any one with too much power and so designed it to reflect that. That is why there is a relatively less abuse of power.
Sep 08, 2012 05:36pm
So true.
Sep 06, 2012 03:44pm
Personally I think the only way to 'save the world' is to first engage with it in whatever way you can- there is no truth that can be 'found' in a vacuum!
Asad Shah
Sep 06, 2012 01:00pm
Correction: Shown brightly with a corrupt husband and a great lust for money and power... See NFP, we, the common people, can also be equally cynical ;)
Sep 06, 2012 09:51pm
NFP makes a lot more sense than im the dim....trust me...NFP for President...
Sep 06, 2012 10:11pm
Brilliant job, as usual! Keep up the good work, Nadeem!
Second Born
Sep 06, 2012 09:09pm
Yes, Imran Khan was born on Mars.
Amjad Wyne
Sep 06, 2012 01:05pm
It leaves everyone without a direction because, as you said, it is an extraordinary blog. Direction, purpose, meaning, fairness, balance are minor details that are typically covered in ordinary blogs.
Sep 06, 2012 02:43pm
You, the "common people?" You the PTI sheep, you mean.
Cyrus Howell
Sep 06, 2012 09:53am
Agha Ata
Sep 06, 2012 01:55pm
Sep 06, 2012 11:36pm
I agree with NFP. I too, was once a revolutionary but experience teaches you a lot. During those times whenever I uttered revolution. A friend of mine used to say, "how many revolutions per seconds!!!". As I learned more, I agreed that revolutions is best left as a physical phenomenon not be regarded as political phenomenon. I am opposed to change that leads to chaos and destruction. Look at Mao's cultural revolution or Iranian revolution or for that matter jacobian revolution. They all led to chaos, treachery, and despotism. I know I am a cynic and naturally I like reading NFP's columns.
Sep 06, 2012 12:27pm
NFP never gives direction he lambasts....just like one needs to detonate the hard rock before a mine is sketched. He and hasan nisar are only two honest and patriotic people in the media right now
Karachi Wala
Sep 06, 2012 01:57pm
@gheribaat, Exactly this is what I asked to some of the people who were supporting Ch. Iftikhar. None of the people supporting the movement had an answer nor they wanted to hear about that.
Sep 06, 2012 04:40pm
how can a country whose founding fathers were incapable of understanding that after their deaths only mad men will come to power.may be in inbreeding has made us insane. look back and see if a single politician showed any symptoms of cognitive skills or basic intelligence,a will to self sacrifice .Who has Pakistan produced since 14'august 1947 we can be proud of.All of them disappointed, destroyed,disobeyed the laws, finished off their enemies and themselves to end on the long list of failed men who looked too high and never understood that they lacked the virtues great men have.Paracha is right, its a circus and how can he look for remedies when there are no Federalist papers or the Engish traditions that evolved into a democracy . there is an empty page where one day some one will write a new chapter.
Sep 07, 2012 03:16am
NFP may not be an intellectual but he sure makes a lot of sense, each time! Spot on, in fact!
Sep 07, 2012 12:18pm
very lame megalomaniac! was it a preamble to announcing your own faction of PPP?
Shahid Latif
Sep 07, 2012 12:34pm
Every time NFP mentions, Chief Justice of Pakistan, he inserts in brackets that he was dismissed on corruption charges and does nothing to elaborate the motives of dictator Musharraf. Unfair
Ronnie Dsouza
Sep 07, 2012 02:46am
If ever there is a vote of INTELLECTUALS, I would be the first to vote for NFP. This guy makes sense, man in each n every article of his.
Sep 06, 2012 02:47pm
Well said, Akber. That's exactly what NFP reminds me of as well. A cooler, skeptical and wittier version of Gump. He walks cracking his wit, followed by thousands, only to turn around, scratch his head wondering why he is being followed and then goes home to read a book.
Sep 06, 2012 10:05am
if that was the finest hope, then we certainly have poor standards of good, honest, patriotic leaders.
Sep 06, 2012 10:08am
it is a revolutionary act to advocate and work for the complete separation of religion and politics.--------------------i agree, good luck and try to stay alive:)
Akmal Qabal
Sep 06, 2012 12:02pm
I agree with everything else, but surely NFP was also duped by Benazir in believing that she was something different or better. Maybe she was an idealist in the beginning, but she proved herself to be as interested in power politics as any other politician in Pakistan. We all look at events from our own biased viewpoints.
Sep 06, 2012 10:10am
it is a revolutionary act to advocate and work for the complete separation of religion and politics--------utopia in uthopia:)
Cyrus Howell
Sep 06, 2012 10:13am
The direction is this: People are afraid to stand up and stay "This is not the word of God these men are touting." When Pakistanis speak the words "This is not the word of God" The enemies of humanity will melt away like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. Pakistan is under a spell.
Sep 06, 2012 09:27am
We see something very similar here in India with the anti corruption movement spearheaded by the likes of Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, with backing from BJP/RSS!
Asad Shah
Sep 06, 2012 05:06pm
Lolz@yawar... I have not voted since 2002 and am not a PTI sheep ;)... I am just a common dumb citizen who has been paying up his taxes for the last 12 years regularly... So that people like you could keep getting corrupt people elected :). But then again, since I didn't vote so I can't really complain ;). Cheers mate and have a nice life.
Sep 06, 2012 06:03pm
We as a natian, love to glorify people rather than the cause. We prefer to worship bhuttos, sharifs or Ch iftikhar or anyone else rather than the what are they doing or have done for the country. As long as our mindset will not change we will always be in trouble. If there is PPP then it will be bhutto, if there is PMLN then it will be sharifs, if is MQM it will be Altaf hussain or if there is judiciary it will be ch. Iftikhar.....People are important than party or institutions....thats the delimma!
Sep 06, 2012 11:32am
I think mostly people believe what they stood for in their youth was worth it and now they are and the younger generation is just stupid to believe in something. This i have seen from my grandparents generation and onwards. People of every decade believe in this. The key to not being cynical is to get smaller goals and go for them with full enthusiasm and also give the younger generation some hope and direction. Even though everything seems like a drama there are always people like gems in the media. Certain people completely inspire you. It just takes at time longer time to see them. Direction is simple ''stick with what you believe is right '' even though it does not follow the ongoing trend.
Tariq K Sami
Sep 07, 2012 04:05am
Religion vs Economics. Economics wins every time. Right from day one Islam came as a revolt against the Feudal and Tribal lords. Pakistan too was a struggle for economic freedom. To say it was a battle for Islam is being too naive. I like Imran because he is a fearless captain. I also like Mustafa Kamal. Different background but amazing accomplishments.
Sep 06, 2012 08:54am
A extraordinary blog. However, it still leaves everyone without direction.
Sep 06, 2012 08:02pm
You're a cynical man born out of a cynical nation. Imran Khan was reared elsewhere, which is why he represents hope, while people like you, even in their attempt to think differently, represent the status quo.
Sep 07, 2012 01:28am
Really what are we looking at this joker CJ to really do or bring about. Better belive in one self and keep up the hard work and live your lives out. And if you are really interested to making a real change go and vote for someone who stands for something, rather than looking at which party or which background in comes from. Out here in the so called west it is the personalities that make a difference, sure there are dark sheep here too this is not haven, but the ration is far far lower than what we see in our country.
Goga Nalaik
Sep 06, 2012 08:02am
Waooo, brilliant stuff! You are Unique. Keep it coming ... Your fan
Sep 07, 2012 07:38pm
..So true.
Sep 06, 2012 01:33pm
The direction is to believe in the gradual improvement of democratic system and not blindly following any these neo-revolutionaries who claim that all of Pak problems will be solved in few months.
Cyrus Howell
Sep 06, 2012 09:56am
Al Tair
Sep 06, 2012 09:40am
"Benazir shone brightly like the country
Akhter Husain
Sep 07, 2012 06:15pm
There is no need to be frustrated,accept that we love to worship Idols.,as we do not want to see beyond our noses.
Sep 07, 2012 12:52am
Last paragraph just made me laugh, conspicuous by abscence is supreme court's consistent pursuit of cases ranging from corruption in state entities to kidnapping by state agencies. Cherry picking and accentuation of half truths at its best :) Doesn't NFP contradict himself? Voiceferiously opposing Zia's repression and brutality while condemning the courts for speaking for the rights of people held 'without evidence'?
Sep 07, 2012 01:04am
Brilliantly put:--
Sep 07, 2012 02:41pm
Before reading NFP column you know what he is going to say - only revolution was brought about by ZAB ,BB and AAZ. Throw in the dash of MQM, revolution is complete.
Sep 06, 2012 11:01am
yes NFP is like Forrest Gump, when everybody starts running after Forrest, he says I got to go home, I am tired. Watch the movie if you had not.
Sep 06, 2012 10:45am
Sep 06, 2012 10:47am
May be he just puts the facts and figures to the context(s). The rest is to the audience to determine. and yest alot is mentioned explicitly if only we could stay neutral and give it a thought. its not vague its just broad
Sep 07, 2012 05:00am
Hitting the bull's eye.. but the earlier the youth of Pakistan understands things, the earlier they can bring about some positive change.
Akhter Husain
Sep 06, 2012 02:46pm
What benefit and which judicial system you are talking about?I do not find any difference in working of judiciary before and after the so called "Movement"The number of pending case are increasing every day.The rotting clients must be cursing the time they went to the courts for justice.Only if the judiciary was not working for superiority,then there could have been the relief to people.
Ashfaque Ghouri
Sep 06, 2012 01:21pm
Please name few yourself.
muhammad kazim
Sep 07, 2012 04:56am
No matter politically with whom your soft corners affixed with ,but NFP you really captivate our mind through your writing skills.
Karachi Wala
Sep 06, 2012 12:45pm
i 2nd the opinions expressed by NFP.
Sep 08, 2012 05:24pm
NFP, You are great. Always love reading you.
Sep 07, 2012 11:51am
NFP, you can touch the sensitive nerve at your will. Bravo!
Sep 07, 2012 06:06pm
NFP, in my humble opinion, prevalent market economy & continuous elections will tame the genie of extremism in country. So called revolutionaries of today will not be able to bear the plurality of choices induced by market & democracy in political, economic & social spheres..
Cyrus Howell
Sep 06, 2012 10:06am
Sep 06, 2012 10:06am
nostelgia plus bitter reality.........
AZ khan
Sep 06, 2012 10:07am
good one.............. Justice in pakistan!!!!!!!!!!! just fun