A collection of interviews with important jurists focuses on the performance of judiciary in cases of constitutional interpretation
By Asad Jamal
This is a new edition of an earlier title: 'Adlia kay zawal ki Kahani' (The Story of Judiciary's Decline) by journalist Suhail Warraich who is famous for his unique style of interviewing, Warraich, who is now more known for his programme 'Eik Din Geo Kay Saath', has to his credit several hundreds of interviews with important political personalities. Many of the interviews conducted by him over the past two decades, when published for the first time, were considered to be scoops. This gives him an edge over others in this area.
The book under review is a collection of interviews of some important retired judges and prominent advocates. Keeping the changed scenario since March 9 in view, the book has been renamed to its present title (The story of the rise and fall of judiciary from Justice Munir to Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry) apparently in an attempt to catch the prevalent public mood.
Many among us consider judiciary at least relatively independent now; an assertion or belief that has yet to pass the test of time. Nevertheless, the chief justice has been restored and the spirits are generally high as against the prevailing sense of helplessness in pre-March 9 situation. Imagine the book with its older title in the post July 20 conditions i.e. after the restoration of the Chief Justice; besides being politically incorrect, it would also be a bad marketing technique.
The highlight of the new edition is an interview with Justice Jawad S. Khawaja which is perhaps the only interview by him since he resigned in protest on the presidential reference against the CJP. Some documents concerning the reference, such as the affidavits and statements submitted before the Supreme Court in the various petitions filed against the reference, have also been added in this edition. All in all there are sixteen interviews of which thirteen are important retired judges and the rest are of lawyers including Aitzaz Ahsan, Akram Sheikh and Khalid Ishaq. Among the retired judges interviewed are Justices Jawad S. Khawaja, Malik Muhammad Qayyum, Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, Sheikh Aftab Hussain, S A Nusrat, Javed Iqbal, Mahboob Ahmed, Aslam Riaz Hussain, Muhammad Haleem, Afzal Zullah, Nasim Hasan Shah, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, Sajjad Ali Shah.
One wished to see, as part of this collection, interviews with former Chief Justices Irshad Hasan Khan and Sheikh Riaz Ahmed who took oath under the Gen. Musharraf's Provisional Constitution Order and were part of the court upholding military takeover and granted the General three year period alongside the power to amend the constitution.
The most discussed issues in the book are the performance of judiciary, especially in cases of constitutional interpretation with direct impact on the nature of our polity such as the murder case against Bhutto and judgments since the Maulvi Tamizuddin and Dosso cases and the attitude of superior judiciary during military dictatorships.
Why do our judges so easily give in every time the military marches into the civilian territory? Some of the judges interviewed try to explain it, though unconvincingly. Justice Aslam Riaz says that after General Zia had imposed martial law the chief justices of high courts were called for tea in Islamabad and were at the same occasion asked to take oath as governors. He says that General Zia threatened them in a subtle manner meaning thereby the judges would be thrown out of courts if they did not comply. "...that is how we took oath and became governors," he says. It is worth mentioning that earlier Justice Aslam Riaz had declared the partial martial law imposed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as unconstitutional, he took oath as governor and then as a PCO judge notwithstanding Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan because in his words "the barrel of the gun is too strong to resist".
And what would the army do if the judges refused to budge? "He [Gen. Zia] would have packed the courts with brigadiers or many others would be ready to become judges and replace us. Following the traditions we tried to save the judiciary [by taking oath]. Thereafter the judiciary worked normally, miscarriage of justice (ghapla) occurred only in the Bhutto case," he adds.
This view has been expressed by many other judges at other places including in the interview by Justice Malik Qayyum (now the Attorney General of Pakistan), who says that good judges like Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui should have taken oath under the Musharraf regime, basing his argument on the assumption that they could somehow play a positive role while staying within the structure. Facts on the ground do not bear out such assertions though. One wonders how could judges stay loyal to the constitution after taking oath for a military dictator. Malik Qayyum, who had to resign in embarrassing circumstances after his telephonic conversations with the law minister regarding a case against Benazir Bhutto were revealed to the press in 2001, evades the question about decision on Bhutto's death penalty.
Justice Nasim Hasan Shah who was part of the Supreme Court bench which upheld the Lahore High Court's decision of death penalty in Bhutto's case has in some interviews expressed regrets. While laying blame at the way Bhutto conducted his own case, he admits that the judges were under pressure. In another TV interview he too also mentioned the barrel of gun (bandooq ki nok par) as the reason why judges acted the way they did.
Eminent lawyer and former Judge of the Supreme Court Fakhruddin G Ibrahim who refused to take oath under Gen. Zia's PCO, differs and is of the opinion that judges should not be afraid of anything. He is of the opinion that the constitution of 1973 got destroyed first by judges themselves the day high court chief justices took oath as governors under Gen. Zia and then the day they took oath under Gen. Zia's PCO.
Justice Jawad S Khawaja's interview reveals the circumstances in which he decided to resign from Lahore High Court. It also gives a glimpse of the way the Lahore High Court affairs are being managed. His version is supported by Fakhruddin G Ibrahim's impressions of the present day Lahore High Court. The interview also reveals a person who is not just another judge (or lawyer) but a thinking individual. One expected a more in-depth and longer conversation with Justice Khawaja which perhaps has been left for some other collection.
A good number of interviews in the collection were conducted before 1999 and are not an apt commentary on the present day scenario. The title of the book raises certain valid expectations about the contents of the interview. At times one feels that some of those may well have been edited. No one is interested in knowing when did Justice Zullah see the most beautiful woman in his life. The interview with Justice Javed Iqbal does not discuss judiciary and focuses instead on Iqbal's tassavur-i-khudi and other more intellectual issues which deserve to find a place in another book.
Novel aur Azadi Ke Tassawurat
By Razi Abedi
The basic thesis of, 'Urdu Novel aur Azadi Ke Tassawurat' is that the history of the Urdu novel is of strife for freedom. Heavy in content, the book is not just a history of the novel but that of a single idea: the idea of freedom, both individual and social. Dr Arif's canvas is vast. He discusses freedom from all aspects namely political freedom, religious freedom, intellectual freedom, psychological freedom and social freedom.
He aptly starts with the assumption that the genre of the novel originated in Europe, particularly in England, and was a product of various revolutions which repeatedly shook the western society. Beginning with the 'Magna Carta' (1245) there have been industrial revolution and French revolution. These succeeded in creating a middle class society in the west and the novel, he asserts, is a genre of the middle class. It projected the apprehensions and aspirations of a rising middle class.
The middle ages were the ages of tales and allegories. The novel talked of the real issues of everyday life. It was a break from fantasies and fairy lands and talked of real men and women confronting real problems of life replacing giants and fairies. It portrayed actual struggle of ordinary men instead of day dreams. It talked of achievable ideals.
The novel took up the issues of morality in private lives and political issues in the life of the community. It is, however, not an easy transition from English novel to Urdu novel, since there had been no industrial revolution and thus no middle class, and whatever of it existed, it was an outcast and men of skill were not accepted in the society. Blood was the only criterion of respectability. There was no democratic culture in India which is the basis of the novel. The year 1911 can be seen as a watershed in India when, for the first time, there were bomb blasts at the pavilion erected for the Darbar. This may be seen as the beginning of the emergence of political India. There was also an unsuccessful Mutiny planned by Indian immigrants in America on February 21, 1915 under the Mutiny Party. But the plan was leaked and many were hanged or deported.
Beside these upheavals, there was a commotion in the social life as well. Devanand and Gangadhor were striving for widow remarriage and abolition of Sati. Alongside, the British had introduced a legal system in India which asserted the supremacy of law. It was in this socio-political climate that Urdu novel was born. It had a long journey ahead of it, starting with Nazir Ahmad, and including Sarshar, Sharar, Ali Abbas Hussaini, Nawab Syed Muhammad Azad and concluding with Mirza Hadi Ruswa. This completes the survey of the 19th century Urdu novel. The 20th century novel comes under review with Prem Chand.
Then follow the postwar novelists, Sajjad Zaheer, Ismat Chughtai, Krishan Chandar and Aziz Ahmad. The post-independence novelists include, Hayat Ullah Ansari, Kh Ahmad Abbas, Jilani Bano, Qurratulain Hyder, Rama Nand Sagar, Qazi Abdus Sattar, Syed Anwar, Mustansar Hussain Tarrar, Fakhar Zaman, Bano Qudsia, Jauhar Mir, Rajindar Singh Bedi, Ahmad Daud, Zafar Payani, Ejaz Rahi, Abdullah Hussain, Khadija Mastoor, Fazal Ahmad Fazli, Jamila Hashmi. Absan Farooqui, Intizar Hussain, Nasim Hijazi, Mumtaz Mufti, Razia Fasih Ahmad, Anwar Sajjad, Shaukat Siddiqui and Nisar Aziz Butt.
The list includes about forty novelists. The number of novels written in Urdu must obviously be manifold. It shows the expanse, depth, richness and variety of Urdu novel. Nevertheless, it is not a comprehensive list even though the survey is spread over almost a thousand page. Also, the dissertation confines only to a single theme, that of freedom.
The survey is aptly supported by the ideas and commentaries of the western and Indian intellectuals. There is a comprehensive survey of the development of the novel in the west and the intellectual atmosphere that created it. Similarly the local intellectual climate in India is invoked to put Urdu novel in the socio-economic and cultural context. There were many Hindu intellectuals as well as statesmen and politicians who paved the way for a free India. Among the Muslims the initiative goes to Sir Syed who fought on both ideological and political fronts. But his main focus was on the general mental state of the Indian Muslims.
The intellectual and aesthetic survey of the development of the Urdu novel has been aptly supported by a study of the political sensibility evolving in India. Various political movements leading to the independence of India and the creation of Pakistan have been analysed. Along with this growing political maturity, a gradual command on genre and the techniques of moulding a story into novel are clearly visible in contemporary Urdu novel. 'Urdu novel aur Azadi Ka Tassawurat' in short is a valuable work that will help researchers and students of literature.
The plays of Chekhov and Ibsen demand sound effects that are essential to their meaning. Who can ever forget the sound of a distant axe striking a tree in the orchard of Ranevskaya's estate towards the end of Chekhov's memorable play, 'The Cherry Orchard'? The trees are struck to denote the passing of an era just as the 'door-slam', at the end of Ibsen's 'Doll House', marks the dawn of the new awakening of woman.
The famous 'door-slam', as Nora leaves her home and husband, defying all conventions of morality, has intrigued directors for well over a century. Should the door slam with a deadly thud? With a reverberation? With a few bars of music on the cello? The distinguished British director, Stephen Unwin, recalls that he spent hours in a sound studio listening to tapes of 'a door-slamming in the hall', until he realised that it was best done with an actual door slam in the wings.
The first theatre director who made effective use of sound effects was the great Stanislavsky. In his production of Chekhov's 'Seagull', in the late 19th century, he went for the overkill. As the curtain rose, church bells chimed, seagulls, squawked, the wind howled, thunder struck and singing went on in the distance. (He managed all this in an era when there were no recorded sound effects available). Chekhov was not amused and he reprimanded Stanislavsky.
But Stanislavsky was fascinated with the notion of creating an 'atmosphere'. He again made an over-enthusiastic use of sound effects in 'The Cherry Orchard', which included a whole menagerie of wildlife. Chekhov, who knew a lot more about country life than Stanislavsky, pointed out in a letter:
"Hay-making takes place June 20-25, by that time the corn-crake's rasping cry is no longer heard, the frogs are also silent then..."
In my own recent production of an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, I wanted to suggest that time stands still in the provincial estate of an impoverished feudal landlord. The characters are so absorbed in their mundane tasks that they do not even notice a fast moving train that whirls past them.
All the train noises that I heard time after time -- shunting, pulling in, pulling out, going full speed -- were those of British, European or American trains and they were either diesel or electric trains. But the play is set in UP in India, in the mid-twenties, a period when Indian trains were only led by steam engines. I would have come a cropper but for my assistant's ingenious plan to lift the sound of a steam engine train, going full blast, from the soundtrack of an old Indian movie.
Recent years have seen the emergence of sound designers who have created wonders. Gone are the days when you went out with a tape-recorder and a microphone and waited for the thunder to strike so you could record it. Today, with modern technology, the potential for sound is enormous and subliminal soundcapes have been made possible: jackals howling in the distance, a dishwashing machine churning in the kitchen, airplanes flying overhead -- all reproduced with startling effect.
Today you can find CDs which give you sounds ranging from 'domestic laughter' to 'digging with spade'; from an empty trash can being kicked to a pneumatic drill in the distance, with or without, traffic noises. You would imagine that there isn't a single noise or sound effect -- desired by a playwright -- which isn't available on tape or disc.
But this is not so. In Act II of 'The Cherry Orchard,' Chekhov gives the following stage direction:
('Suddenly a far-off noise is heard as if in the heavens -- like the sound of a breaking string, dying away, sadly).
Before the director starts looking for the sound of a breaking string, (he has to decide whether the instrument is a violin or a balalaika), he must take into cognizance the dialogue immediately following the stage direction:
Ranevskaya: What's that?
Lopakhin: I don't know. Possibly a coal-tub broken loose somewhere, down the mines. A long way from here anyway.
Gaev: Could be some sort of bird,
Trofimov: Or an owl perhaps...
Ranevskaya: (shudders) it's horrible, whatever it is.
It's not just the sound of a broken string -- albeit as if in the heavens -- that the director is looking for, but a sound that can allow for both Lopakhin and Trofimov's observations. Their different interpretations say something about their characters (Lopakin's industrial roots, Trofimov's gloominess, Madam Ranevskaya's fear) so the sound produced must not make it impossible for them to say their lines.
And even when, with the help of an expert sound engineer, you have managed to create the precise sound effect, you find that when you play it in the theatre, at the appropriate level, and from the right place on stage, surrounded by action that it's meant to support, it sounds bizarre. What sometimes seems right in the studio sounds ridiculous in the theatre..
Like sound, music too, has to be used very carefully in dramatic productions. The filmic tendency of underscoring certain speeches and even entire scenes -- direct influence of films -- is only a directorial indulgence. To begin with, it upsets the actors who resent the desire to turn spoken drama into musical drama. Also, this kind of an exercise obscures the thought inherent in an actor's speech. True, there are certain texts (Sophocle's Antigone, for example) in which a carefully composed score adds a dramatic power to the scene that is being deployed but, on the whole, I find the excessive use of music during scenes to be mushy. The power of the spoken word in aching silence is infinitely more effective.
Music is ideal for bridging the gap between the scenes. It can hurry a scene along especially in a farce or in a low comedy. It can also be most effective in Shakespearean productions in which one scene ends with an upbeat note and the next one starts with a mood of quiet contemplation. The current trend of using music, because it's the done thing, is deplorable.
I am, naturally, talking about music played through a high quality sound system. Live music on the stage is a different matter altogether. For that you need an orchestra pit, a conductor and live musicians. This is an enormously expensive exercise which we, in our part of the world, can ill-afford.
I am not in favour of inserting directorial 'touches' into a production. I regard it as the worst form of self-indulgence. Every play, if it is of any merit, allows ample scope for a director to plan groupings which are pleasing to the eye, but to create moody lighting effects (to highlight emotions) is an insult to the imagination of an audience. It's like our classical musicians who, having executed a particularly intricate and complicated phrase, repeat it to elicit an extra round of applause.