An Open Letter to Benazir Bhutto from Ghazala Minallah
Dear Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,
I was absolutely shocked and amazed at your latest statement regarding the judiciary. How could you, of all people, say that you believed in an independent judiciary BUT that personalities did not matter? If personalities did not matter then why was Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry removed? Why were some judges locked up whereas others were not? If personalities did not matter then why is Musharraf waging a personal war against the CJ? You do not have to be a genius to figure out the reason. How can you separate the personalities from the institution? What you have on Constitution Avenue right now is a besieged and helpless building. The unfortunate but harsh truth is that right now we are a besieged nation as well.
Ms. Bhutto, I am writing to you because your statement has shocked and disturbed me to the extent that I feel I have no option but to reach out to you in this manner. I would like to remind you, since you seem to have forgotten, that you too were the victim of a corrupt judiciary. If Justice Iftikhar had been the CJ of the Supreme Court at that time then perhaps your father would never have been hanged. Had the entire bench been like the present one then there would have been a unanimous judgment. But the judgment was not unanimous - it was a 4 to 3 split – just one judge too many on the wrong side. One more upright personality on the right side and our history would have been different. So yes, personalities certainly do matter.
Ms. Bhutto, I am writing to you in desperation because I am the daughter of Late Justice Safdar Shah, who was one of the three dissenting judges. When Mr., Bhutto was the Prime Minister my father was CJ of the Peshawar High Court. Both these headstrong personalities did not get on with each other, and because of Safdar Shah’s constant criticism and disagreement regarding the reforms and policies being introduced by the PM, the latter had him prematurely retired by introducing the 5th Amendment. After the coup, when Gen. Zia took over, and Mr. Bhutto was charged and convicted of Conspiracy to murder by the Lahore High Court, he appealed to the Supreme Court. Gen. Zia wanted Mr. Bhutto dead and he did his best to manipulate the bench. It soon became obvious as to WHY Safdar Shah had recently been appointed as judge of the Supreme Court . Having the typical mind-set of a dictator, Zia was sure that he would be vindictive and take revenge. But, he was wrong and the rest is history. WHY? Because three of the judges had the courage to say NO, and did not give in to the threats and pressure exerted on them. So yes Ms Bhutto, personalities do matter. Had Justice (retd) Wajiuddin’s father , the late Hon.Waheeduddin not been prematurely retired on extremely dubious medical grounds , history could have been different, No one can dispute the fact that the judgment was wrong since Justice (retd) Nasim Hassan Shah confessed on a talk show on TV a few years ago that the judges were threatened and pressurized into giving that judgment. Yes Ms. Bhutto, they were, and I am a witness to that fact.
Ms. Bhutto, our paths crossed briefly and both of us were victims of a corrupt judiciary which colluded with a Military Dictator. But I am not writing this letter to lament about our plight, since nothing we went through can possibly compare to the torture and torment you and your family went through .Have you forgotten the times when you visited your father in prison? Have you forgotten the humiliating tactics those heartless tyrants subjected you and your family to? Have you forgotten the last time you went to visit him in prison and were not able to hug him? Whenever I think about that grave injustice, which was nothing but a judicial murder, my heart goes out to you and what you suffered then and have suffered since. That is precisely why I am at my wits end and cannot understand WHY you cannot value the importance of independent judges.
Ms.Bhutto, do you think you are invincible? Are you so blinded that you cannot or will not acknowledge the truth? Does it never occur to you that some day you might have to face those judges in the present Supreme Court.? Well let me please spell it out. With independent judges you get a verdict you deserve, whereas with the present kind of farce you get a judgment dictated by the intelligence agencies or the dictator himself. Do you honestly not know or are you honestly not aware of the grave injustice going on? Does it not send a chill up your spine that if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court can be tossed around by Musharraf it could very well be you as well ?For God’s sake Ms. Bhutto , WAKE UP .You owe it to your father as well as to the nation to defend the judiciary and fight for its independence.
My father continued to be persecuted even after the judgment and we were forced to leave the country. But I will never forgive or forget those responsible for the torment my father went through during his last years. He died an unhappy man and was never able to get over the fact that he was not able to prevent the cold-blooded murder of an innocent man. And that innocent person was your father for God’s sake! I have vowed that I will continue to fight for the independence of the judiciary come what may! I was confident and certain that once you were back you would definitely take up this battle and lead the nation towards sanity.
Ms. Bhutto, is it not obvious to you WHY Musharraf wants Justice Iftikhar out of the way? Ask the families of the ‘missing persons’, who for the first time were being heard and for the first time they could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone knows who is responsible but no one before this CJ had the courage to take up the matter. Ask the countless downtrodden people who had discovered that they could have direct access to the CJ through Suo Moto notices. Ask 2 and 3 yr old Aneela and Tasleem from Naudero Feroze in Sindh , ask 4 yr old Shaneela or 6yr old Munni or 8 yr old Marina from Mardan what this Chief Justice has done for them. These innocent little girls were the victims of jirga decisions according to which they were to be handed over to the enemy as a symbol of truce .It was Justice Iftikhar who took serious notice of this barbaric custom and passed strict orders to the local authorities to prevent this atrocity from carrying on. It was during the tenure of this CJ that serious environmental disasters were averted .Who took notice of the New Muree Project? Who took action in the Dungi ground case? Who prevented Shah Sharabeel from converting a public park in sector F-7 Islamabad into a multi-million commercial project? Ask the poor people living in the adjacent Christian colony what that decision meant to them. Sharabeel has taken up arms against the CJ since this decision because for that class of people the slum dwellers are a low life who do not deserve any special attention. I can go on and on about the cases in which the SILENT CRIES OF THE DOWNTRODDEN of our society were being heard by a sympathetic judge for the first time. Ms. Bhutto, these are the Suo Moto notices which Musharraf said were a waste of time in his speech justifying the emergency. If personalities did not matter then why is Musharraf so threatened by this man? On any and every occasion he gets he attacks and tries to malign the CJ with a vengeance. His abnormal hatred for the man has exposed the truth. He knows very well that this man was the biggest hurdle in his plans to destroy what is left of our country. The coup was against the judiciary, the ‘emergency’ was created to sack the CJ and the other conscientious judges. Musharraf needs to be told that we are not a nation of imbeciles and that everyone is aware of the truth and the depth of the situation. We all know that the ‘crisis ‘ in Swat or the threat of terrorism had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the sacking of the CJ and the locking up of him and the other judges.
Once again Ms Bhutto, I beg you to think very carefully about where you are heading. I beg you not to betray your father or the nation. I beg you not to fall into Musharraf’s trap and to boycott the elections. The rigging has already taken place, so why are you allowing yourself to become a party to this farce? I beg you to realize that you are the one holding the trump card right now. If you boycott the election, THEY lose face. But if YOU participate, you not only lose face, you lose the confidence and the faith the people of Pakistan have in you. Last but not least, you owe it to Bilawal, Bakhtawar, Aseefa and all future generations of our beloved country.
D/O Late Justice Safdar Shah