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The ‘curious case’ of Pak’s ‘rebel’ judge

6 17

By Shaukat Qadir

The election is over. Currently, better minds than mine are commenting on it. Hence it would probably be best if I wrote about another matter.
I am a proud former soldier. But, I am not among those who fails to criticize when someone, including the army, errs. And the army errs frequently. Perhaps that is why I find it irksome and feel compelled to speak up when criticism of the army, which offers its broadside with considerable regularity, might be mala fide. The worthy justice’s most recent comments regarding interference by “agencies” in the judicial process, might fall in that category.
Just as I think it is impossible for Siddiqui to substantiate his accusation; so too do I know it to be impossible for me, or anyone else to prove that his accusation is untrue. That is the beauty of such an accusation. It can be made without evidence and will still find believers. Which is also why the alternative must be stated. To do so, a little background perspective is required.
Siddiqui was a Jamaat-e-Islami activist and, in 2002, contested the election as their candidate. In 2007 he threw in his lot with then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry and, in 2011 was rewarded with a judgeship. He is also the same individual who garlanded MumtazQadri, the foul murderer of Governor Salman Taseer.
Siddiqui is also closely related to Irfan Siddiqui, chief adviser to Nawaz Sharif. During Nawaz’s term as PM, he was elevated to the Islamabad High Court (IHC). When Chaudhry finally retired as CJP, Siddiqui was the judge who ruled that Chaudhry be provided a bullet-proof car for life by the government.
However, a reference against him was made to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) probably for embezzlement and moral turpitude. Perhaps in search of a plausible defence, he decided to espouse Islamic bigotry and made a most unusual request of the SJC, asking for an open-court trial — something that has never happened before but, where he could play to the gallery as the victim of his defence of Islam.
Siddiqui suddenly became the self-appointed champion of Islam. He would seek out acts which he could construe to be blasphemous and pounce on them with fire and brimstone. He ordered contents of media channels to change their content or face his wrath. He even created a phantom case on the social media, and has proceeded to terrorise all and sundry with how he would deal with those whom he viewed as heretics.
Particularly harsh on the Ahmadis, he has gone so far as to rule that they could not be employed by the government or the military; which is under appeal. Can anyone imagine such a ruling in the times of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) or the Righteous Caliphs? Apparently, Siddiqui knows better than they all did. He portrays himself as the sole guardian of Islam. But, if his reference in the SJC is an open trial, I am certain everyone can imagine him painting himself as the martyr to his religious zeal.
There will be no opportunity to discuss charges of embezzlement and moral turpitude, when his espousal of the Holy causes comes under debate.
The agency Justice Siddiqui has accused is the ISI. Technically speaking, the ISI answers to the Prime Minister, not the GHQ. But, the public perception that the ISI serves the interest of the GHQ persists
The reference to the SJC seemed to have gone into the background but recently reemerged. When it did, perhaps the worthy justice thought he needed a fresh defence. Since his ruling on Ahmadis being unfit for government or military employment is under appeal and likely to be set aside, perhaps Siddiqui was conscious that he had gone too far and a pretence to victimisation for his religious zeal might not pan out.
Is it possible that under such circumstances, an accusation of the kind he has last made of “agencies” interfering in judicial matters; one which cannot be disproven and, even if not proven, will find believers; could this constitute a defence? Or could it deter justice directed at him for his wrongdoings?
I must admit here that I don’t know Justice Siddiqui. I have never met him nor seen him in real life. I have written this article based on what is public knowledge. Could one dare attempt to judge an individual whom one has never met? Normally; never. However, I believe there might be exceptions. If an individual has managed to typify him or herself, one perhaps could.
Should I though? And am I qualified to do so? I don’t know the answers to either question. But, I have chosen to do so. Is it out of loyalty to the uniform I have worn? Certainly, the decision to make this attempt is influenced by my loyalty but, I believe this attempt to be without malice or bias. I am certain Siddiqui would say the same; perhaps he too believes his claims to be true. Perhaps my writing this may even be construed as being contemptuous.
I cannot defend myself here; I can only leave it to the reader to judge.
Before concluding, one last comment. The agency Justice Siddiqui has accused is the ISI. Technically speaking, the ISI answers to the Prime Minister, not the GHQ. But, the public perception that the ISI serves the interest of the GHQ persists. One contributory reason for this perception is the army’s rising to its defence. That is the reason why I am of the view that ISPR should not have spoken up in this matter. It should have been left to the government or the judiciary.
(The writer is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)