Why Are We Like This?

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Whenever we commit a collective mistake, it weighs heavily on us, and we repeatedly ponder why we are like this. A joke I heard years ago lightens this heavy mood because sometimes self-criticism helps us understand complex issues, and jokes can also encapsulate the most complex problems.

The joke goes something like this: In hell, there is a specific pit for every nation, and the sinners of each nation suffer in their respective pits, each guarded by formidable angels to prevent any escape attempts.

However, there is one pit in hell that has no guards, reserved for the people of Contradiction Land. When asked why there are no guards at this pit, the warden of hell laughs and replies, “Whenever someone tries to climb out, the others pull them back in, so there’s no need for guards. The occupants of this pit are enough for each other’s destruction.”

Our history aligns well with this joke. When politicians manage to establish a strong government, the powers that be pull them down. When the media became free and influential enough that even foreign media relied on it, powerful societal groups created rifts and pulled the media down.

Similarly, when General Ayub and General Musharraf started on a path of economic progress, political parties united to neutralize it. When a bureaucrat thought outside the box and adopted a populist approach, our system taught that rebel a lesson.

The judiciary deemed the dissolution of assemblies legitimate, and a few narcissistic judges, driven by spite, sent millions of people’s elected Prime Minister home, falsely naming it justice. Nowadays, we all are pulling the legs of judges lest they perform any commendable deeds, so everyone is pulling them back.

Among the six judges whose letter has become very controversial, I personally know two. Both were renowned lawyers and publicly known. As a journalist, I am formally acquainted with both, and now that undue blame is being placed on them, it is necessary that I do not conceal my testimony but declare it openly.

Justice Babar Sattar and Justice Athar Minallah both come from affluent families and were at the top of their law careers. Becoming judges has financially cost them; they accepted judgeships only with the intention of contributing to the betterment of justice in Pakistan.

Before becoming a judge, Babar Sattar used to write articles for newspapers and express his opinions on talk shows. He truly is an authority on law, holding the highest rank of intellect. The position of a judge hasn’t elevated Babar Sattar; instead, his name has elevated the position.

I may disagree with Babar Sattar’s ideas and decisions, but I have no doubt about his integrity, his expertise on law, and his loyalty to the country. He could have stayed abroad and become a billionaire through his law practice, earning millions, but he chose to be a judge.

Such people should be respected by all as they can lead us from a hellish society to one governed by law and justice; their dissent should be tolerated and seen as a step towards reform. What greater testimony could there be for Babar Sattar than even the government’s Attorney General and our friend Malik Haider Usman’s son, Mansoor Awan, has praised his honesty and straightforwardness? Babar Sattar is one of the rare lights for us; even his disagreement carries wisdom.

Justice Athar Minallah comes from a well-known, educated, and bureaucratic family. He has been a major leader of the judiciary independence movement. His straightforward thinking and public and democratic approach can be understood from the fact that he regards the parliament as a superior institution even while sitting among judges who think themselves godlike and have repeatedly trampled democracy by nullifying parliamentary decisions.

In today’s crisis-ridden era, Athar Minallah is a blessing. On this occasion, I remember when Mian Iftikharuddin, the president of Punjab Congress, joined the Muslim League, Mahatma Gandhi wrote him a letter in Urdu (this letter is preserved by the Mian family) stating, “Mian, you are a good man, wherever you are, you will do good.” Despite differences, respect is a sign of human dignity. There should be no difference in our respect for Justice Babar Sattar and Justice Athar Minallah despite our differences.

The famous story goes that when the renowned philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre raised his voice against oppression in Algeria, it was suggested to French President de Gaulle that Sartre be jailed. De Gaulle famously responded, “Sartre is France; how can you jail France?” People like Babar Sattar and Athar Minallah are the conscience of our country, and we need to adopt de Gaulle’s approach in dealing with them.

Finally, I humbly request everyone—supporters of civilian supremacy, the powerful, and their opponents—not to pull down our best minds while we sit in the pit of hell. Bias, hatred, and political enmity aside, do not view judges who have an untarnished past, who have made decisions in favor of democracy, freedom of expression, judiciary independence, and parliamentary supremacy, through a petty lens.

If they make a decision against you, accept their decisions respectfully like Socrates and Bhutto did, saying, “My Lord, my Lord”; history will judge in your favor. And if they make a decision in your favor, being thankful to God is enough.

I have not met Babar Sattar and Athar Minallah since they became judges, but I am certain they are the bright stars of our judiciary. Even though the Attorney General Mansoor Awan is in the opposing camp, he has spoken in their favor; when the nation’s conscience awakens, everyone will speak in their favor, and only then can we escape the pit of hell.

 

Suhail Warraich
Suhail Warraich
The writer is a senior journalist and columnist, who also hosts his famous TV show Aik Din Geo Kay Sath.

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