to make history
of a storyteller
If the Constitution is supreme, the relevant question is can the Supreme Court strike down a constitutional amendment? And then do all the amendments become open to challenge? Why legitimise dictators and strike down an amendment by an elected parliament? These can be embarrassing questions for the Court - but only if enough people ask them
1: Chief Justice of Pakistan makes a statement that it is the Constitution
that is supreme. Read between the lines, some say, and what he said was
this: It is the Constitution that is supreme and not the parliament and
since the Supreme Court has the right to interpret the Constitution…you
get the point.
be fair to Chief Justice Chaudhry, what he stated is a fact of life in many
ways. The Constitution is supreme since it, inter alia, regulates the
conduct of our institutions. But facts are often married to perceptions.
Political rivalry between institutions, like flirting, requires a delicate
balance — innuendos can get the message across but they can also backfire.
To those in power, here is the most important part of the story: yes the
Constitution is supreme but of course parliament can change the Constitution
— and only parliament can do that since it represents the voice of the
the CJ dropping a hint that he might disagree with that view? Now no one
disagrees that the Supreme Court has the power to strike down an ordinary
Act of Parliament/Ordinance if it conflicts with the Constitution. That
tradition is well established. The relevant question is can the Supreme
Court strike down a constitutional amendment? If it does so, then it will
most likely rely on the “basic structure” doctrine. One can trace it to
German constitutional tradition that treats certain features of the
Constitution as immutable, i.e. they cannot be amended. But the Germans
actually wrote it down in the text of their constitution. Indian courts have
devised their own reading of the constitution’s basic structure to strike
down constitutional amendments. Our Supreme Court has never done that and no
Supreme Court judgment’s majority has endorsed the basic structure
doctrine as a benchmark for testing the validity of constitutional
if you like making history, can you resist the temptation? That is the
question for Justice Chaudhry.
their own reasons, and in their own way, both parliament and the Supreme
Court see the Constitution as sacred. Both have blood on their hands when it
comes to protecting the acts of dictators. The latter more so since the
Supreme Court took the first steps to legitimise military coups.
Parliamentarians could argue that they had the power all along to eventually
accept through constitutional amendments what the dictators did. They could
also argue that the Supreme Court invented its powers in the past to help
dictators and is now inventing the basic structure to help itself.
Supreme Court sees itself as pitted against a corrupt and inefficient
government. And it wants to protect the Constitution from being what it sees
as manipulation. Isn’t that a risk every system takes by subscribing to
am also willing to suggest that the reason we don’t see any dissenting
judgments in major cases is not that our judges have lost independence of
mind; it just seems part of a conscious design to put forward a united
front. And, one could argue, that the Supreme Court is doing this precisely
because it is conscious of its notorious past and it wants to correct it. It
wants to make itself and the Constitution relevant to people’s lives.
how far should a court go? There is the danger that it might damage the
constitutional structure with the “basic structure”. Most Pakistani
judgments that refer to basic features of the Constitution derive those from
the Objectives Resolution and/or an individualised world view. Both have
limitations and serious ones at that. The Objectives Resolution (Article
2-A) was made a substantive part of the constitution by a dictator,
Zia-ul-Haq. Even at the time of its adoption in 1949 all legislators
belonging to non-Muslim minorities opposed it. During the 18th
Amendment case, at least one province said that it represented a Punjabi
worldview. And even if one moves beyond the Objectives Resolution, the basic
structure will be based on the reading of our constitution by individuals
who belong to the same profession, are male, do not represent the minorities
and belong to a certain income group. This should worry not just feminists
and minorities but all of us. A constitution reflects our collective voice
through our chosen representatives. If they make choices we do not like we
can vote them out. But what if we do not like the choices that the judges
make? Well, we are kind of stuck with them till they or their successors
change their view.
danger of the basic structure doctrine is that it thrives on rhetoric. You
will hear questions such as, “what if the parliament decides to kill all
blue eyed babies?” or “what if it appoints one man as judge, jury,
executioner?” But these abstract and general propositions cannot be
allowed to decide concrete cases. Parliament has not yet established a
monarchy and it hasn’t decided to engage in the extreme exercises alluded
to above. Mere fears are hardly a basis for overturning the letter and
spirit of the Constitution.
CJ also mentioned that the UK no longer believes in parliamentary supremacy.
I would submit that that is an academic question open to debate. What he did
not say is that even though the UK now has judicial review of parliamentary
legislation, courts there still do not strike down legislation. What they do
is issue a “declaration of incompatibility” which gives the politicians
a timeframe within which they can amend the law if it conflicts with certain
guarantees. If they do not do so, the cost is political. The public, and not
the courts, take them to task at the polls. And the US Supreme Court has
never struck down a constitutional amendment. Congress’s voice is
considered the voice of the people. In a major recent ruling, Chief Justice
John Roberts said that it wasn’t the job of the Supreme Court to protect
the people from the consequences of their political choices.
is nothing about the approach of Indian courts that makes “basic
structure” a desirable doctrine in the Pakistani context. Will our courts
follow Indian courts to the tee? Indian Supreme Court has recently struck
down the criminalisation of sodomy. Why pick and choose then? What is the
rationale? And then do all the amendments, including previous ones, become
open to challenge? Why legitimise dictators and strike down an amendment by
an elected parliament? These can be embarrassing questions for the Court —
but only if enough people ask them.
here is the deal. Both parliament and the Supreme Court have their own
conception of democracy. But in the bargain we made in the 1973 Constitution
we entrusted parliament with amending the Constitution. Should we now allow
the Supreme Court to unilaterally amend the deal? Well this is a gamble. If
the Supreme Court decides that we the people think that the deal has already
gone sour, and that we blame the parliament, then it will strike down a
constitutional amendment. But if we raise our voices then any quiet
dissenters on the bench will gain in strength. Democracy and gambling are
all about having enough odds on your side — and then running with it.
Whether or not you are accountable is a totally different story. Another
major round of tussles is calling out. And so is the temptation to make
history and getting away with it.
The writer is a Barrister and has a
Masters degree from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on Twitter @wordoflaw
Urs of Sufis are
occasions for the ritualistic getting together of common people.
Particularly in the subcontinent, the urs attract people from various creeds
and faiths — and they all seem to coalesce at that meeting point offering
different explanations in keeping with their own understanding of spiritual
Shahbaz Qalandar’s urs
in Sehwan from 18th to 22nd Shaban also offers people, mainly from the rural
areas, a chance to indulge in a number of activities which fall under the
generic definition of being cultural.
One person who has
documented the happenings on these shrines is Jurgen Wasim Frembgen. For all
the years that he has spent in the subcontinent he has been totally
engrossed with the living culture of the people. He has been taken in less
by the normative aspect but more by the manner in which it is practiced.
Squeezed between the needs of daily existence and the conscientious tugs of
religious values, he found the most driven by pragmatism in conducting their
For an experience of the
living reality, he went to the hospices, hamlets, settlements, shrines and
festivals to be one with the cultural practices of the people which were
well-entrenched and not-that-easily erased by the ups and down of
ideological stresses. His favourite haunts were the shrines of Shah Jamal in
Lahore, Imam Gul in the Potohar, Shah Latif in Bhitshah, Baba Farid in
Pakpattan — all under the overarching shadow of Lal Qalandar of Sehwan,
all famous for the patronage of music. The various mystical practices
inextricably associated with music too fulfilled some inner need, some
cravings rising from within.
As in the case of his
other travels he has written about, his journey to the shrine of Shahbaz
Qalandar started from Lahore. He boarded a train for the strict purpose of
sharing the experience of the pilgrims as they travel more than six hundred
miles to participate in the annual urs. He then chose to live with the
pilgrims, as hundred of thousands of them took part in the various
activities that traverse the full expanse from the very mundane to the very
He did not let go of the
various friends that he made on the shrines, the hospices and the musical
gatherings. The shared interest is what kept them together. While the locals
participated in the socio-cultural rituals, he took a step back like an
anthropologist, observed and studied the myriad layers that people lived at.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in
Sehwan seems to be one of the favourites with the musicians because his
kalaam is sung in the length and breadth of Sindh and Balochistan. Despite
the fact that at the urs at Sehwan and otherwise, most singers sing and
chant the kalam of Lal Shahbaz, little is known about him and his
contributions to music. The naubat at the shrine is very conspicuous, as it
is said to resonate the naubat struck at Khyber before the decisive phase of
that battle and then the constant dancing in various forms, the most
characteristic being the dhammal.
The qalandars were deeply
devoted to music and loved to sing the songs eulogising Ali and Ahl-e-bait.
It was however, the khanqah of Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan which until this
day has been radiating the love of Ali and Ahl-e-bait through Persian and
Sindhi songs. He was a Jelali Fakir and according to Richard Burton, Jelali
Fakirs were generally poor who lived from hand to mouth. The Jemali Sufis in
Sindh were a more respectable class than their Jelali brethren. The latter
openly dispensed with the formalities of religious worship, the former did
not except when inward sanctity was felt, known and acknowledged to be
superior to the outward form.
He called dhammal as
bridled unbridledness. On one side was the cautious reference to the
distrust to the power of music and on the other the nourishment of the soul.
His real name was Usman Marwandi because he was born in Marwand (now in
Azerbaijan) and travelled to Mashhad, Khorasan, Baghdad, Makkah, Medina,
Karbala, Makran, Multan, Ajmer, Kashmir before settling down in Siwistan,
the town of Siva. As a qalandar, he was a rigid celibate and left no
children and died in Sehwan in 1274. According to a local tradition, his
grave too is built over a Shavistic Temple and Siwistan is now called Sehwan.
He is known as Lal Shahbaz
because according to a popular legend, he assumed the shape of a falcon in
order to release his friend Shaikh Sadruddin Arif from the hands of an
infidel ruler. Many Hindus who visit the shrine believe he was the
incarnation of Bhartrhari, a shivastic Nath Yogi.
Frembgen went to the
shrine of Bodla Bahar, a disciple who was brought back to life by the
qalandar. As well as other sites located on the hills outside Sehwan such
as, where qalandar prayed, the shrine of Sakhi Jamal Shah, the blessed
throne, the cave from where he took his mysterious pilgrimage straight
through the earth to Makkah, the footprint of Maula Ali’s horse, three
stone pillars like the shaitans in Makkah and the two alams of Hazrat Abbas.
Frembgen was totally
engrossed in the relationship to the other pilgrimages that follow — like
that of Nurani Sharif and Lahut Lamakan. The wondrous tales around this site
as narrated by malangs include Hazrat Ali carrying his own corpse on a
camel, Adam and Eve being taught how to bake bread, its subterranean passage
to Makkah and Medina and Noah’s Ark being tied in the great flood at this
All this may be found in
the book ‘At the Shrine of the Red Sufi’ because Frembgen is interested
in the qalandar’s appeal to the common man known for his capacity to
forgive and a means to access the truly venerated personages of Islam.
Jurgen Wasim Frembgen is
the chief curator of the Oriental Department of the Museumof Ethnology in
Munich as well as professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Munich.
He has also been a visiting professor at the Quaid-e-Azam University,
Islamabad, National College of Arts, Lahore and Ohio State University in
Columbus. He has more than a hundred publications to his credit.
“The question is
the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story
to tell.” (City of Glass) Paul Auster
What is news to everyone
else is actually a story for its makers. Thus an ordinary person is
surprised to hear journalists’ comments like,
“He did a good story today”, “I managed to file a story on this
before anyone else”, “Our reporter did a fullinvestigation for his/her
story”. The word“story” implies that an important event is merely a fable or a textual exercise for its author. The
journalists know it will last only for a day
before the next edition of the newspaper is printed and distributed.
Whatever way it is
described, every aspect and activity of our societal life is documented in
the press, including the art world. The details of
the art community are
communicated to the
general reader of newspapers and magazines
but who are the individualscovering
these art events and
doingprofiles of visual artists? How do they end up doing this beat? What
are their experiences and observations and how
do they perceive the practice of
art in our world? Questions like these intrigue everyone interested in
art.Zeinab Mizrahi, an art journalist working
for a mainstream paper, shares someof
her ideas and opinions about her profession, artists and art world in
Journalists are normally
are not very keen on covering visual arts. What made her take up this beat?
“Actually mybeat was livestock and agriculture
but once, it so happened
that,our regular art reporter was on medical (maternity) leave, so I was picked asher replacement,” says Mizrahi.
She says she immediately
developed a liking for it. Earlier on, she used to hate art because “I
always thought artists were pompous and pretentious people, so remote from
reality; they existed in a different
and imaginary world. When I go to exhibitions, I realise artists are just
like everybody else. They are very keen and inquisitive on what I write
and if I write about them, whether
theirown picture will accompany the text
“Often they do
everything to get a good and big coverage,” she adds shyly.
What is that ‘everything’, I ask. “For instance,playing hard to
get and posing to be inaccessible; or
in their exhibitions, pretending
as if they have not seen me. A
few try to allure me by offering some gift like a dress, book, or even one
of their drawings or a smaller work. Occasionally
I get invitations to join them for a drink or to go to meal with others
after the inauguration, even though I hardly know them or have
met them for first time.”
So does she accept these
offers and items? Mizrahi
tries to be honest about it. “Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I
like to own artworks but there is a
problem; only artists who are not established or who are not going to make
big— in my opinion
— are prepared to part with
their canvases as bribes. I think someone should advise them to use money
instead. Earlier on I used to feel shy
about getting things from them, but not anymore. Besides, all my fellow
reporters are milking politicians,
self-styled reformers, businessmen,
showbiz personalities and civil servants.”
she says,art is too low in the list of priorities of our public and
press, especially Urdu dailies. “So
we have to be content with small fortunes, like
a pirated print of Paulo Coelho
novel, a pair of socks from a local store or a meal at some fast food
restaurant,” Says Zeinab Mizrahi.
What is the experience
like of talking to artists about their work? “There are many artists who can not
about their own work. There
are several who do not listen to your questions. They have their own
philosophy which is often incomprehensible. I
remember asking a famous sculptor about his work during his retrospective
and he went on to give a labyrinthine monologue
on creativity, essence of art and what not. On the other hand,
when a minister who was visiting his show asked the same question,
thesculptor responded in one line “it is about materials and processes”.
Also one of the most favourite themes for many artists is their childhood
experience without realizing that no
one is interested in their past and how it was spent.”
People come to see their art.
Mizrahi holds forth on a
recurring topic in the artists’
conversation — their international
success. She claims to have heard this phrase so often: “I showed my work
in Dubai, in Dublin and in Detroit, and people really admired my art”.
And this, she says,is notjust the case with contemporary artwhich one
assumes is more understood abroad than at its place of production, “but it is more surprising or rather depressing when I come across
these claims made byartists who are doing commercial art— the art that is
madeonly to match with
the colour of sofas and the shades of walls in their buyers’
proliferation and performance of galleries, she says: “I believe
the large number of galleries is better for artists and artbecause these
provide more venues and create space for diversity. But,
lately, I have observed that
some galleries are just shops or upgraded framer joints, which treat and
trade art as if it is a piece of furniture or any other commodity. For them
selling is the main purpose. But if a person like me
comments in a critical tone, they get offended.
Once, after a bad review, a
gallery director threatened to
shoot me but the gallery is now closed
down since the owner of the property was unfortunately killed in a road
accident. Thedirectoris selling shoes
for a local designer. Another gallery owner, a reformed framer, sent me the
message not to enter his gallerybut, like
a shameless creature, I go there again
and again only to find plagiarised
versions of paintings proudly displayed; or nomadic women in tiny tops
rendered in innumerable quantity, sold
for incredible prices.”
This kind of work, she
says, is highly praised by our writers and reporters, usually in their
incomprehensible diction, and is widely collected. “This shows how ignorant our
public is towards art; so are our
artists, galleries, collectors, critics
and reporters, includingyours truly!” she concludes.
Rose Okada, a
65-year-old American musician living in Portland, Oregon loves eastern
classical instruments especially sarangi which is considered to be the
toughest instrument to learn. She plays seven musical instruments including
four eastern, sarangi, tabla, tambura and violin.
She earned a degree in
music with a major in classical guitar and violin from Wayne State
University, Detroit. In 1980, Rose went to Japan to acquire advanced
knowledge of Suzuki method of Guitar and Violin. In Japan she studied violin
and teacher training with Shigetoshi Yamada. She became a registered Suzuki
Method teacher of violin and guitar in 1983. In the summer of 1986, she went
to Matsumoto, Japan to study with the founder of the Suzuki Method, Dr
Currently, Okada is a
freelance musician and the director of the Fir Grove School for Strings and
Kirana West, teaching over 50 students on Suzuki method guitar, violin,
piano, and Kirana Gharana sarangi, vocals and tabla.
"My taste for eastern
music developed in 1990, when violin maestro Dr L Subramaniam performed in
Portland. It was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I took some
lessons on eastern violin from Subramaniam and that's how my new journey
towards eastern music began," Okada tells TNS.
She then became disciple
of Ustad Hafizullah Khan and through him she found her real home, Kirana
Gharana. Ustad Hafizullah earned name as a sarangi player, he was the son of
Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan of Kirana Gharana. He was hearing-impaired but was a
talented player. Improvisations in classical singing were invented by Kirana
Gharana. Kirana Gharana is also known as "Tunt Kariyon Ka Gharana",
which means 'house of strings'.
"Earlier, it was
really difficult for me to grasp eastern music because I was only trained in
Western music. My love for eastern music deepened when I went to India in
1992 to explore the depth of eastern genres. I started taking violin classes
from D.K. Datar in India followed by tabla lessons from the great Ustaad
Zakir Khan," she says.
Rose Okada is also a
vocalist, who has been trained in eastern classical raags. "While I was
learning sarangi from Ustad Hafizullah Khan, I met with my vocal guru,
Pandit Pran Nath, also a disciple of Kirana Gharana. Though I could not
speak Hindi or Urdu, I learnt different ragas from him.
While learning classical
music, Pandit Pran Nath told me that Sa is Brahma and all the other notes
were born from Sa. Re is water, Ga is earth, Ma is space, including the moon
and other planets, Pa is the sun, Dha is the wind and Ni is fire.
“I believe that the
musical notes are like beads of a mala. SA is one of the beads and you move
to other notes and return to Sa. Like in liffe, each person is a bead and we
are born and move away from God in life but are still connected and
eventually all return to God,” she says.
Rose Okada's music school
is Kirana West Teachers where she teaches eastern and western musical
instruments. "The name is a combination of east and west. Kirana is my
real home; it is dedicated to my gurus, Ustad Hafiz Ullah Khan and Pandit
Pran Nath. West represents my first guru, my mother, who taught me piano.
When I was learning ragas,
sarangi and tabla, I found that I was born to learn, play, share and teach
music. As much as you get involved in it, you feel the oneness of God and
this is what differentiates eastern music from others. Indian classical
music is a spiritual discipline on the path of self realisation," she
For Okada, sarangi is a
charismatic instrument. It is difficult to learn but it makes her glad that
she is trying to keep this great instrument alive in the US. Now western
people are more inclined to learn eastern music. She gives lectures in
Portland, New York and other parts of the US.
"I don't know who
created this instrument and how but I am so much in love with it that I want
to spread it on a vast level. That's why I am writing a book on sarangi,
which will help coming generations to learn this instrument," she says.