for Justice and Democracy
By Dr. Mahjabeen Islam
L to R: Aitazaz Ahsan,
Dr. Mohammad Taqi, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Chaudhry, Dr. Amna Buttar and Dr. Ashraf Toor
Toledo, Ohio: Everything
changed for Pakistan after March 9, 2007, when Chief Justice
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was made non-functional. It even
created a transcontinental ripple effect, right to the shores
of the United States.
What is more wondrous is how the love for Pakistan carves
a special little niche in our hearts, and any event of importance
in Pakistan and suddenly that niche enlarges and seems to
take over our lives.
After that fateful day the complacence of a group of American-Pakistani
physicians seemed to metamorphose almost overnight to not
only a passion for Pakistan, but a burning desire to right
this travesty of justice in Pakistan, and most importantly
to institute democracy there. And thus was born APPJD, American-Pakistani
Physicians for Justice and Democracy.
Talk was to place an ad in the major newspapers in Pakistan,
but someone suggested apprising the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, which was to meet on March 16th to confirm Zalmai
Khalilzad as the US representative to the United Nations.
We went on overdrive on March 14th; a three-page letter
detailing our perspective under the headings of events,
issues and resolution was sent to all members of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. It detailed the summons of
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, his manhandling
at the hands of police, his virtual house arrest, and treatment
as though he was a common criminal. Chief Justice Iftikhar
Muhammad Chaudhry’s tenure and the clearing of a large
backlog of cases, his rulings in favor of women’s
and human rights, his inquiry of the missing persons, reversal
of the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills and speech
at a graduation expressing the opinion that the continued
rule of President Musharraf in uniform was unconstitutional,
were all explained.
The use of the mullah as the bogey man for the consumption
of the West was explained as well as the military-mullah
nexus and most importantly, that should the current regime
be removed, it is not the mullah that will gain control
of the nuclear bomb but power would flow to the Vice Chief
of Army Staff and the President of the senate, Muhammadmian
The thrust of the faxed letter was that the non-functionality
of the Chief Justice was an attack on the judiciary and
resolution of the issue was reinstatement of the Chief Justice
and holding of free and fair elections in Pakistan.
Perhaps the detail of the faxes helped in the understanding
of the situation for the next day, Sean McCormack the State
Department spokesman used much of the same verbiage and
in the following week a four man US senatorial delegation
met with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto and went on to
Pakistan, urging the government to uphold Pakistan’s
constitution and return the country to a true democracy.
Perhaps the perseverance of being hunched over a fax machine
till 3a.m. commanded success.
Across the world Pakistan was suddenly in greater turmoil,
with protests from lawyers across the land as well as indignation
about the attack on the offices of GEO television. Members
of APPJD held teleconferences and four members got ready
to go to Pakistan. Drs. Mohammad Taqi, Ashraf Toor, Omar
Atiq landed on April 1st. Dr. Amna Buttar was already there.
Within hours of landing they met with the Chief Justice
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Scintillating conversation ensued
for the next hour, with nary a moment of pause.
Thereafter the delegation divided labor and held press conferences,
met with political leaders and members of the various Bar
Councils and High Court Bar Associations, and conducted
several interviews with the media.
Their visit was marred by the brazen attack by male government
security forces on Dr. Amna Buttar during the protest outside
the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 3rd. 2007. Dr. Buttar
is also president of ANAA, Asian-American Network against
Abuse of Human Rights. She has worked tirelessly to bring
the Mukhtaran Mai and other abuse cases to world consciousness.
The mechanism of her injury speaks eerily of the message
the attackers aimed to convey. She remains intrepid; while
the others have returned to the US, she remains in Pakistan,
protesting daily outside the Supreme Court. I could not
pay her tribute enough.
“I have never felt so welcomed in all my visits to
Pakistan ” said Dr. Toor. Dr Taqi joined in with “we
were able to show solidarity with the people of Pakistan
and to convey that there are American-Pakistani physicians
that care greatly for their homeland and are willing to
sacrifice for it”.
American-Pakistani physicians are fortunate to be sitting
in the highest echelon of potential power: a very educated
and wealthy minority in the sole super power of the world.
Human frailty has taken its toll on this group in the past.
An organization that claims to be a political action committee
has, through all the years, consistently aligned itself
with the government of Pakistan. Historically it’s
been seen that the more dictatorial the government, the
cozier the connection.
members address a press conference in Pakistan
The pathogenesis of
this anomaly is really simple. A dictatorial regime is personality
based and these individuals get publicity perks and ego
And here comes in my pet peeve of the lack of processes
and institution building in anything Pakistani. Ours is
a personality cult oriented system. Whether it is a company,
a mosque or a nation, processes should be so carefully placed,
so template-like and so assiduously protected, that the
show must go on regardless of the individuals that fill
the positions. Until the day we learn this and go to bat
for it, we will stumble and suffer.
Now that the constitutional crisis in Pakistan has given
birth to our movement, we have shot up rather quickly. Being
proud citizens of a nation that is proud of its democratic
tradition, it is our mission to enjoin and promote democracy
the world over. It is disingenuous of America to chest-thump
about invading Iraq to bring in democracy, and then coddle
the dictatorships and monarchies across the world.
Delegations of APPJD members will continue to travel to
Pakistan to provide hope and help to those that look to
us to nudge this democratic movement forward. In a day on
Capitol Hill, we plan to educate members of the US congress
and stage demonstrations in Washington and other cities
decrying the attack on the independence of the Pakistan
judiciary and the absence of democracy in Pakistan.
Our future generations will live and work in the United
States and lobbying efforts for all relevant causes within
the US will continue as well. But it is that heart within
our hearts that will always tip the balance; our soul, our
democracy, our Pakistan.
(Dr. Mahjabeen Islam is a freelance columnist and physician
practicing in Toledo Ohio. Her email is email@example.com)