COLUMN: Courtly memoirs

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A lower grade high court servant, a qasid, with no academic qualification, has chosen to record his impressions about the judges; Ali Rahman’s autobiography, published by Siddiqui Publishers, Lahore, Adalat-i-Aliya Ke Qasid Ki Kahani, is not simply a recording of what he saw and felt during his long years in the court of law. It is also a commentary on the behaviour of his superiors.

Though lacking an academic background, not schooled after the fifth grade, Rahman can be categorised as one of those sensitive souls who need not undergo formal education for mental growth. Indeed, life educates them. From his early years Rahman was trained to lead a hard life. He was born in a village in Mansehra, where people relied for their livelihood on the few cattle they possessed. However, living in such conditions he developed an interest in reading and somehow succeeded in finding a job as naib qasid in the Lahore High Court. Possessed with a sensitive soul and an observant eye, he spent his long years of service watching people in distress knocking at the doors of the court for justice and the judges passing their verdicts.

This kind of life should have an educative value for such a soul. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, in his brief foreword to the book, says that Rahman could be seen engaged in writing in his register in moments he could spare from his duties. Thus Rahman was in the habit of observing minutely what was happening before him and noting down things which appeared significant to him.

After retirement, Rahman collected what he had been writing and started writing his autobiography.

While talking about the virtues of others, Rahman turns introspective and starts by judging his own self. He finds faults with himself and discovers so many vices in his character that he, as he tells us, begins hating himself. “In fact,” he says, “I have within me two selves, a noble self and a vicious self, locked in a battle. The vicious self, or Nafs-e-Ammara, tempts me to lead a satanic life, while the noble self, or Nafs-e-Mutmainnna, warns me not to fall into the trap of the vicious self. The worldly life it promises to you will come at the cost of eternal peace of mind.”

Rahman had the good luck of performing his duty in the service of a number of judges, who in general were, as he tells us, good souls. He talks of them one by one and enumerates their good points. He praises them all. But perhaps personally he feels more attached to two esteemed judges, Justice K. M. A. Samadani and Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja.

While talking about Justice Samadani, Rahman is reminded of a parable, wherein Confucius sees a woman sitting by the side of a grave, weeping bitterly. On being asked the reason for crying she replies, “This is the grave of my husband, who was devoured by a man-eating lion. The other graves you see here are the graves of my relatives. The man-eater devoured them all one by one.”

Confucius says, “Then why don’t you shift from here. You too are in danger of being devoured by that man-eater.” “I am staying here” she replied, “just for the reason that the ruler of this land is a kind-hearted man, who loves to do justice by the people.”

In the case of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, Rahman appears to be very sentimental. He tells us about his dream of an ideal personality, a personality without a blemish. The day he found himself in the service of Justice Khwaja says that he intuitively knew that he has met the personality he has been waiting for and has the good fortune to be in his service.

Rahman was the most impressed by Khawaja on the day when Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was forcibly stopped from entering his court. The next day, Ali observed that instead of being in the court, Justice Khwaja was sitting in his office absorbed in studying the Constitution of Pakistan. He also had Diwan-i-Hafiz with him. In reply to an enquiry from Rahman, the esteemed Justice, picking up Diwan-i-Hafiz in his hand, said to him; “Ali Raman, I am under orders not to be here after what has happened with the Chief Justice. I should sit no more in the court and pass judgments. My conscience does not allow it.”

Rahman says that he hesitated for a day or two. Finally he made his decision and tendered his resignation. And, Rahman writes with pride, that of all the judges, his ideal man was the one who had on this historic occasion tendered his resignation in protest.