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First Historical Note by way of Prologue

‘Those who sow should eat’ [Jo kheray so khai] – this was the slogan upon which the radical and revered Sufi poet Shah Inayat set up, in the 18th century, an agrarian commune.  Shah Inayat was born in Multan; in youth he affiliated himself with the Qadiriya order and, for his education, travelled widely, including a long sojourn in Delhi and further into South India, before settling in Mirpur (today Jhok Sharif), in Sindh.

Jagirdars, Kolhoras, and the Mughal governor colluded to arrest and behead Shah Inayat on January 1718.   Since, his death he has been called, ‘the Mansur of Sind’.  Mansur al – Hallaj, of course, was the Sufi, who for uttering in the streets of Baghdad, ‘ana’l haqq’ (‘I am the creative truth’, also translated as, ‘I am God’) was himself beheaded on the orders of an Emperor in March, 922.

Shah Inayat’s commune began life when Shah Inayat set up a system of collective farming on his land and invited peasants to farm with him.  He held that the land belonged to God and that only those who worked to grow the crop were entitled to it.   His thoughts convinced peasants far and wide not to pay tax to either the Empire or the Jagirdars.  As the commune acquired more attendants so too did it attract the wrath of local landlords and the Empire.  Local landlords sponsored armed attacks on the commune and followed this up with a four month siege. Sufis and peasants held onto the commune and the attackers retreated. Shah Inayat protested to Delhi, and the Mughal court, at this stage, outraged that a holy man had been attacked, ordered the attackers’ land to be given to Shah Inayat as compensation.  Seeing this as ‘God’s work’, Shah Inayat allowed the commune to grow. News of Shah Inayat’s social reforms attracted peasants, and oral history suggests that the commune grew to 40,000 strong.  Instinctively, the ‘old granite block’ continued to plot for the commune’s downfall.

The opportunity came in 1716 when Delhi sent a new governor to the area of Thatta, Nawab Azam Khan.  Local jagirdars convinced Azam Khan of the danger from Inayat’s commune, who in turn wrote to Delhi, warning of a rebellion that threatened the Empire.  Alarmed, Delhi promptly sent in troops; upon their arrival in Mirpur began the second siege of the commune.  The commune, fortified after the first attack, resisted for months.  Having failed to archive their goal with force, the ‘granite block’ turned to cunning (its refuge).  Offering peace terms, swearing no less then on the Quran to guarantee Shah Inayat’s safety, they angled him out of the commune, arrested and then be-headed him and duly sent the head to Delhi as a gift to be presented to   the Emperor Furrukh Sher .

Before the beheading, a dialogue is said to have taken place between Shah Inayat and Azam Khan.  I quote a few lines:

Azam Khan:

       Why did you make yourself infamous

       and made yourself a target for the arrows of affliction?

Shah Inayat:

       What shall a lover do if he does not carry the burden of


       No hero possesses a shield against the arrows of fate.

Azam Khan:

       Now since you are going to be killed,

       how can you hope for life?

Shah Inayat:

       Never he dies, whose heart is living through love.

       Thus, my eternal life is fixed in the scroll of the world.

Azam Khan:

       Why did you not come out, obeying the order of the leaders?

Shah Inayat:

       How could we disciples turn our face towards the Kaba

       If our Pir (spiritual leader) turns his face towards the

              wine house?

Azam Khan:

       Are you now sad because your wishes have not been fulfilled?

Shah Inayat:

       From the moment I performed ablutions from the fountain of


       I uttered the funeral prayers over everything existent.


Second Historical Note by way of Prologue

In the 1950s, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, while being lead away from prison in a horse cart in chains, composed the following poem:

The tearful eye, the noisy spirit is not enough, my friends,

the accusation of love is not enough,  my friends,

let’s go today to the bazaar in chains’

The poem went on:

let’s go with hands waving, intoxicated, dancing,

let’s go with dust on our heads,

blood on our sleeves,

let’s  go to the city where our love lives,

everyone is watching –

-the city’s rulers,

– its people,

-the unhappy morning,

-the day with no purpose,

and the arrow of accusation,

the stone of abuse,

Who except us is their intimate friend?

Who now in our beloved’s city is left pure?

Who now is left worthy of the executioner’s hand?

Pick up the burden of the heart, my friends,

let us go, heartbroken ones,

We are the ones who have to be murdered again, my friends.

‘Hands waving, intoxicated, dancing’ – these words recall the habitual activities of Malangs and Qalandars of Pakistan.1   It could well describe Mansur Al Hallaj or our Mansur of Sind being led to execution, ‘hands waving, intoxicated, dancing’, and in love. The last two lines also direct our attention to Sufi lore, ‘let us go, heartbroken ones, we are the ones who have to be murdered again, my friends’.  In tales composed by Shah Latif and Bulleh Shah it is the heartbroken ones who are martyred for their love. For example, Latif in this tale of Sasui and Panhu, has Sasui state:

A thousand thorns do prick my feet;
they cause me endless woe!
Alas, my feet are torn, one toe
meets not the other toe;
And yet, with bare feet I will go
to my beloved one.

Faiz was well aware of Sufi poetic traditions and it is no coincidence that he chooses to create these images.  However, whereas it had been Sufis that had battled the ‘granite block’ in the past, the task now fell on the Progressives (Progressive Writers Association), who had ‘picked up the burden of the heart’.

The Progressive Writers Association [Anjuman Taraqi pasand  Musaniffeen] began life in a Chinese restaurant.  In 1934, in London, Indian intellectuals gathered over dinner where Sajjad Zaheer circulated a draft document that, once polished, was to form the manifesto of the Progressive Writers Association [henceforth, PWA].  Their aim was revolutionary.  The manifesto states that in a time when ‘radical changes are taking place in Indian Society’ and yet ‘the spirit of reaction’ though ‘moribund and doomed to ultimate decay, is still operative and making desperate efforts to prolong itself’, the writers duty is to ‘give expression to the changes taking place in Indian life and to assist in the spirit of progress in the country’.   The PWA wished to ‘rescue literature and other arts from the priestly, academic and decadent classes in whose hands they have degenerated so long; to bring the arts into the closest touch with the people; and to make them the vital organs which will register the actualities of life, as well as lead us to the future’.   The manifesto further states, ‘we believe that the new literature of India [Pakistan] must deal with the basic problems of our existence today – the problems of hunger and poverty, social backwardness and political subjugation’.   These sentiments are well summed up in Premchand’s presidential address to the first meeting of the PWA, where he announced, ‘Hamen Husn ke meyaar badalne honge’ [we will have to change the standard of beauty].  And, one can add, the standard of love.  Whereas decadent Urdu poets (whose descendents today script Bollywood songs) had celebrated the beauty of the beloved and the resultant oppressive desire of the lover without the social or philosophical undertones of Sufi poets, the progressive conceptualized beauty and love as belonging to’anti-colonial’ and ‘class struggle’.    Faiz, Habib Jalib, and Sahir Ludhianvi are some of the progressive writers who took up this challenge and infused the traditional Sufi martyr poetry with a political dimension suited for their time.  Like Mansur and Shah Inayat they suffered the afflictions of love.  Exiled, jailed, tortured, stricken of wealth, they made their way in life as modern ‘wayfarers’.  Faiz was jailed in the 1950s on trumped up charges of treason, and in 1977 he went into exile, returning to his beloved country only two years before his death.  Habib Jalib was imprisoned under Ayub, Bhutto, and Zia, and though he was released by Benazir’s first administration, he saw through its sham and wrote:

The status of the poor is still the same
the days of the ministers have indeed changed
every Bilawal of the country is under debt
while Benazirs (literally the poor) of the country walk without shoes

[Haal ab tak wahi hain ghareeboan kay

Din phiray hain faqat waziroan kay

her Bilawal hai pase ka maqrooz

paoon nangay hain Benazeeroan kay].

Sahir Ludhainvi, though a successful lyricist in Bollywood, remained faithful to progressive ideals.  Sahir, with the progressives, held that, ‘the art that doesn’t reach the poor has not achieved its potential’.  The CIA assassination of P. Lumumba occasioned from Sahir’s pen what is perhaps one of the finest martyr poems ever written, titled, Blood, However, is Blood.  I present it in full:

Tyranny is but tyranny; when it grows, it is vanquished

Blood however is blood; if it spills, it will congeal

It will congeal on the desert sands, on the murderer’s hand

On the brow of justice, and on chained feet

On the unjust sword, on the sacrificial body

Blood is blood; if It spills, it takes root

Let them hide all they want, skulk in their lairs

The tracks of spilled blood will point out the executioners’ abode

Let conspiracies shroud the truth with darkness

Each drop of blood will march out, holding aloft a lamp

Say this to tyranny’s worthless and dishonored Destiny

Say this to Coercion’s manipulative intent

Say this to the Laila, the darling of the assembly (UN)

Blood is wild, it will splatter and stain your garments

It is a rapid flame that will scorch your harvests

That blood which you wished to bury in the killing fields

Has risen today in the streets and courts

Somewhere as a flame, somewhere as a slogan, somewhere else as a flung stone

When blood flows, bayonets cannot contain it

When it raises its defiant head, laws will not restrain it

Tyranny has no caste, no community, no status nor dignity

Tyranny is simply tyranny, from its beginning to its end

Blood however is blood; it becomes a hundred things:

Shapes that cannot be obliterated

Flames that can never be extinguished

Chants that will not be suppressed.


Who are these black coated lawyers?  These dancing, whirling, singing lawyers, who face the stones of abuse, these ‘intoxicated ones’, who are they?  Who are these murdered, tear-gassed, beaten, slandered-against lawyers?  Let me answer simply: they are ‘hope’.  If one were to answer politically, then they are the ‘vanguard’.  If the answer is to be historical, then they are today’s Inayats, today Mansurs, today’s Jalibs, today’s Faizs, today’s Sahirs, today’s ‘lovers’.2

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon tells us, that the post-colonial scenario in the Third World finds the native national bourgeoisie situating its ‘historical role’ as that of an ‘intermediary’.  He writes, ‘its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged…the national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent…and it will play its part…in a most dignified manner’.    The national bourgeoisie will continue the practices of the former colonial masters.  The change is merely in the skin color of the rulers.  Whereas before they were white, now they are brown.  What is not challenged in the post-colonial scenario are the moribund institutions, discourses and traditional oppressive power structures inherited from colonialism – landlordship, feudalism, Pirism, an elite and aloof bureaucracy,  the schism between town and country, sectarianism of all kinds and other obscurantist traditions and customs.  This, enigmatically, Fanon refers to as ‘the old granite block’.

It was for challenging this ‘old granite block’ that Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, has been illegally deposed. His challenge, in the public interest, was sustained and vigorous.  There are many cases in point, let me elaborate on a few.  Famously, he stopped the privatization of Pakistani Steel Mills on the grounds of ‘indecent haste’ and for lack of transparency, which was being manufactured by the then Prime Minister, ‘Shortcut’ Aziz for possible personal benefit.  Further, he took suo moto notice of the violation of wedding meal restrictions against two ministers of Punjab, in another case he restrained the government of Punjab from using government land for the building of a commercial plaza. Likewise, he stopped a mini golf project, which was to be built in a public park. The New Murree project was also taken up as a suo moto case.  The project, sponsored by then Chief Minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi, envisioned using pristine forestland of Partriata, Murree, to set up a tourist enclave for the ‘jet- setting’ rich.  Partriata forest, however, filters the water for the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad; its hasty demolition would have disturbed a unique ecosystem, on which millions rely.  The Chief Justice ordered that the project be stopped until the developers provided proper assurances about the protection of the environment. In a case petitioned by Mohammad Ismail Memon (2007), the Chief Justice, taking notice of the death of a retired professor from starvation due to non-payment of his pension and authored the judgment, which required the finalization of all pending pension matters within two weeks, he further directed that all future pensions be processed before retirement of the claimants and if this was not done the head of concerned departments would be punished for contempt of court.  Munir Malik noted the impact of this judgment, ‘thousands of aged and impoverished retired civil servants have secured a new lease on life’.  But by far the most significant cases, in this regard, are the ones he has taken up with concern to missing persons.

Over 4, 000 persons have ‘disappeared’ across Pakistan.  Some have been taken by the military, a result of its oppression of Baloch and Sindhi lands and the persons who fight against this. Others – and here the role of the national bougeoisie as an ‘intermediary’ is clear — have been picked up under the largesse of ‘The War on Terror’.  The Pakistani military and bourgeoisie have not only opened up Pakistan for logistical support to Nato forces in Afghanistan, allowed drones to shower down missiles on northern parts of Pakistan (both for a handsome commission), but they have also sold their citizens – ‘intermediary’ business agent that they are.  The American ‘Reward for Justice’ program is authorized to give multi-million dollar rewards globally for information that prevents ‘terrorism against US interests worldwide or leads to the arrest or conviction in any country of an individual for the commission of such an act’.3 The important point to note is that money is not given upon successful conviction but merely upon arrest.  Most of the prisoners captured, tortured and rendered (not always in this order) to Guantanamo Bay have come by way of Pakistan.  Pakistani intermediaries would have been handsomely rewarded. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is one case in point.  Arrested, allegedly by Pakistani agency personnel while travelling to Karachi Airport with her three children, she was rendered to Afghanistan, tortured and now awaits trial in a New York court.  Her children are still missing, and one is reported to have died in captivity. In the Sindh High Court, a petition has been filed against her illegal rendering to US authorities and for her and her children’s return to Pakistan.  I estimate that unless the judiciary is restored, we are not likely to see a case that goes against the business interests of our intermediaries judged fairly.  Another case worth mentioning is that of Binyam Mohamed.  Binyam, a British resident who having recently converted to Islam decided to travel through Muslim lands, was picked up in 2002,at Karachi Airport, where he had gone for his return flight to Britain. Pakistani intelligence officers held him in Karachi where, as intermediaries for the British spy agency MI5, they tortured him.  A recent article in the Guardian newspaper explains,

‘A policy governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Pakistan <>  that led to British citizens and residents being tortured was devised by MI5 lawyers and figures in government, according to evidence heard in court. A number of British terrorism suspects who have been detained without trial in Pakistan say they were tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents before being questioned by MI5′.5 Binyam told his lawyers that, ‘before being questioned by MI5 he had been hung from leather straps, beaten and threatened with a firearm by Pakistani intelligence officers’.

Binyam was later rendered to Morocco, Afghanistan and Guant√°namo Bay prison before being released this week after 6 and half years, without charge. Rangzieb Ahmeh, another British resident captured in Pakistan had three of his fingernails pulled out by the ISI during interrogations.  Again, it was Pakistanis who tortured while the British asked the questions.  The ‘old granite block’, playing its dignified part of business agent and intermediary, has not been able to ‘transform’ the country from its colonial set-up nor actively provide law and justice to its citizens. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, by taking up the missing persons cases ,challenged the interests of the ‘old granite block’ and also those of the British and American administrations, who would like to sweep their torture regimes under the rug of history.  Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry began taking up cases of missing persons in late 2006.  By November 2007 the court had 400 missing persons cases registered.  The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had filed a petition with a list of 199 missing persons.  Before being deposed, the Supreme Court judges had forced agencies and government departments to trace 99 of these persons.  Forty-four were released by April 2007.   In the case of Mr. Janjua, who has been abducted by agencies and is said to be held in Azad Kashmir, then Deputy Attorney General Nasir Saeed Sheikh, suggested that the case be disposed of, a suggestion that a pliant judge would no doubt have accepted. Iftikhar Chaudhry’s rebuke, however, will stand in the annals of Pakistani history as an inspiration for future judges, petitioners and lawyers. He replied, ‘Who are you to tell us to dispose of the case? It’s a question of our authority. You are responsible for tracing out the missing people’. In taking up these cases the Chief Justice has defended the constitution of Pakistan6 from the abuse that our business agents had wrought against it.

The fight of the Lawyers movement is for the rule of law to reign in the country, protected and enforced by an independent judiciary. This requires a judiciary and judges that have teeth and administer justice to ordinary citizens and not just for the rich and powerful.  Let me here quote the radical Scottish thinker Henry Brougham: ‘It was the boast of Augustus that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble.  But how much more nobler will be the sovereign’s boast when he shall have it to say that he found law…a sealed book and left it a living letter; found it the patrimony of the rich and left it inheritance of the poor; found it the two-edged sword of the craft and oppression and left it the staff of honest and shield of innocence’.  The lawyers’ movement is well on the way to making that boast. Lahore, March 2009.From: Bol Magazine (Naked Punch Asia) 02, March 2009.  Illustration: Sara Khan. 

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