Interview with Justice Khalil-ur-Rahman Ramday

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Justice Khalil-ur-Rahman Ramday gave a three-hour interview to Criterion in Lahore on 19 July 2008 on the eve of the anniversary marking the  one year anniversary of the historical Supreme Court judgment that reinstated Chief Justice  Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.  Justice  Ramday who  was the presiding judge of the Supreme Court bench hearing the case, was subsequently removed from office, along with the other judges who refused to take oath under the PCO on 3 November 2007.  Justice Ramday’s replies to some of the important issues raised with him are given below almost verbatim from a recording of the Interview.  The Criterion team Consisted of Ms. Talat Farooq, Mr. Navid Zafar and Mr. Mushfiq Murshed.

Q: Looking at the 61 years of legal history in Pakistan,what are your views on the present day scenario?  Do you think it was a natural outcome or has something suddenly gone wrong?

A: The courts in any country reflect the aspirations, expectations or, to be more precise, the conduct of the people themselves.  The courts of law are not equipped with tanks and guns and fighter planes.  Their strength lies in the people and the public.  So it’s always the strength of the public or the weakness of the public which determines the strength or weakness of the judiciary in any country at any time.  I’ve always said that the county judge who summoned President Nixon or the county judge who summoned President Clinton was not made of steel.  He was also made of the same flesh and bones as I am. The difference, however,  was that that this petty county judge in Washington knew that he was summoning the President of the United States of America , the most powerful man on this planet, and he knew that he would come.  The reason was that they both knew that the people of  the country were standing behind that county judge and the President, despite all the power and might he enjoyed, dare not disregard the summons from the court.  Do you see the difference?  Unfortunately, the situation here has been worsening day by day.  There was a time when the judge of the Lahore High Court summoned the Marshal Law Administrator, a three star general, and that three star general came to the court. We’ve also seen times when two years back the court summoned a retired army officer who was the secretary of a housing scheme and he refused to come.  So the judiciary is what the public and the people are because their strength lies in the public.  The difference is simple and apparent.  At the time the three star General was summoned, the man knew that the public would not accept his defiance of the court summonst.  So the effectiveness of the courts depends on how weak or strong public opinion is. There have been, on occasions, individual judges who have showed strength of character but then they just fizzled out.  People forgot about them. It was as if they never even existed or as if they had never done anything commendable for the people, the nation or the constitution.  So unless there is awakening and there is awareness amongst the people and that this institution belongs to them and they need this institution to protect them from any aggression or any encroachments of any kind and unless the people show their determination to stand behind the courts and the judiciary, the courts will become ineffective.

Q: By peoples strength do you mean the laws of the parliament, the people’s representatives or people in the street?

A:The public at large.

Q: How does the public at large support the law?

A:Like they’ve done since the 9th of March.  In 61 years this is the first time that people have expressed their concern for the judiciary and expressed and displayed their determination that they are behind the judiciary and if anybody plays around with the judiciary they will not accept it.

Q: The judges and the people have intermingled so much…

A:They have not intermingled.  It’s not intermingling. It’s not an interaction between the judges and the people.  There never has been any interaction anywhere in the world.  This institution of judiciary belongs to the people.  And like any other institution it’s the people who have to own that institution and to declare and demonstrate their determination that they are prepared to make any sacrifice and  go to any length to defend this judiciary and nobody dare touch it.

Q: This has happened for the last 18 months but do you think…

A:These things don’t only happen in Pakistan.  They have been going on all over the world.  I’ll tell you something very interesting.  Now UK, for instance, is known as the mother of liberties and all rights. There the judges used to be appointed and removed at the whims of the crown.  Towards the end of the 17th century, the people put their foot down.  There was a famous Chief Justice Coke who was sought to be removed. The people had had enough and opposed this. Eventually an act of parliament, the Act of Settlement, was passed in the year 1700 where the crown felt compelled to ensure security of tenure, salaries and wages, etc. for the judges.  So people had to fight for this. Nobody gives anybody anything on a platter.  You have to fight for your rights.

In the US as well there was a tussle between the executive and the judiciary after the constitution had been framed.  Washington D.C. had been built: Capital Hill was built, the Whitehouse had been built, the secretariat and other offices had been built.  Everything had been built except the Supreme Court building. A 40 ft by 50 ft room was taken from the Congress and that is where the Supreme Court functioned for all those years.  So whatever is happening here is nothing unheard of nor is it something which has never happened anywhere else in the world before.  Then there were other battles that followed such as those of John Marshall and Chief Justice Ray.  This is exactly what went on in India as well.  So, throughout history the judiciary has struggled all over the world.

The judiciary has not been set up and the courts have not been set up to pay for the bread and butter of the judges and lawyers.  The courts have been set up as one of three pillars of the state that secure and guarantee the rights of the people.  It’s an institution owned by the people.  So the people have to decide finally that they will not let anyone encroach their institution. No institution can function without public/civil support, including the army.  We had one of the best trained armies of the world, yet they could not fight in East Pakistan even for a day.  This was not because there was anything wrong with our soldiers but because the public support was not there for them. It’s only when the public decides to protect and defend their institutions that these kind of encroachments, assaults, interventions and interferences seize to exist.

Q: In the present scenario does the PCO have to be ratified by the assembly as it had been in 2000?

A:It has today become a political issue and as people think that I am still a judge I would not like to express my opinion about this.  What I can safely tell you, however, is what happened in earlier situations.  The two earlier martial laws in 1977 and in 1999 were validated by the Supreme Court.  Despite this validation by the Supreme Court the parliament ratified it through the 8th amendment in 1985 and through the 17th amendment in 2002. Now you can ask that when the Supreme Court had validated it then why was it felt necessary for the parliament to ratify it?  Or why did the ones imposing the martial law feel compelled to secure an amendment of the constitution for it?  The reason is that on both these occasions when the Supreme Court granted validation the constitution was not in force.  The constitution was suspended.  As a student of law we know that howsoever the Supreme Court may be it cannot say anything that is in derogation of the clear command of the constitution. The Supreme Court has no such power.  Now let’s say that the constitution says that our president has to be a Muslim who is at least 45 years of age.  The Supreme Court cannot pass a judgment stating that a Hindu wants to be or a Christian wants to be the President so let him be one.  Now at that time – when the martial law was validated – the validation stemmed out of something absolutely contradictory to what the constitution had said. The constitution does not permit an army chief to start ruling the country or suspend the constitution.  However, at the time of the validation, the constitution was suspended.  The day the constitution gets revived then everything which is repugnant or offensive of the commands of the constitution disappears automatically.  Like darkness disappears from the emergence of the sun.  So that Supreme Court validation was given when the Constitution was not in force and since the validation was contradictory to the commands of the constitution, when the constitution reemerges and resurfaces the validation by the Supreme Court disappears because whatever the Supreme Court had done was absolutely offensive to the Constitution.   Therefore, the constitution needs to validate that act.

Q: Historically speaking judges have been taking oath under the PCO.   What is so different about this one?

A:As I look at it, I have no reluctance and hesitation in saying that I also took an oath under the PCO in the year 2000.  The reason is that certain things at certain stages in ones individual or national life are condonable or acceptable but the same things in another situation become absolutely repulsive and unacceptable.  And these situations do change with time.  We know that there was a time when the Quaid-e-Azam was a member of the Congress party and it was after quite a while that he switched over from his stance of Hindu-Muslim unity.  Nobody accused the Quaid-e-Azam that before you were a member of the Indian Congress and you were talking of Hindu-Muslim unity and today you’ve joined the Muslim League and you’ve started talking about two separate states and the two nation theory.  The reason is that the situation at times demands a change.  So what was okay or acceptable or condonable 30, 20 or 10 years back may not be acceptable in today’s set up.

There are two obvious reasons that I understand behind what you asked me. In 1999, 1977 and in 1958 the imposition or coup was for political reasons and not with the object or purpose of crushing the judges who were about to deliver a judgment in a matter in which the one imposing the martial law was himself a party.  And on all those three previous occasions which I witnessed, even the 58 martial law, I was then 12 or 13 yrs old, rightly or wrongly, fortunately or unfortunately, the steps taken by the army chiefs were generally welcomed, not just accepted but generally welcomed by the public at large.  Of course some of the judges, as I mentioned earlier, showed their character and refused to take oath under the PCO. But generally, since everybody seemed to have accepted it – the whole nation seemed to have accepted the imposition of those martial laws – the judges also went along.  Technically of course there was reason for not doing it but generally, politically and according to the atmosphere the taking oath of the judges was never really ever an issue.

Q: So the Doctrine of Necessity made sense then?

A:Call it Doctrine of Necessity, but generally taking of oath by the judges was never an issue.  And people never looked down upon or said anything to the judges who took oath.  The public, the political leaders and everybody accepted it and it was never an issue. This time, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, this had become an issue and this was in fact the only issue because the public, including the judges themselves, thought that this was not a political act but an assault to destroy the institution of the judiciary.

People are also attempting to confuse the issue.  Now some leader says that Ramday also took an oath.  The issue is not my oath.  The issue is an act of somebody else which he took on the 3rd of November.  That is the issue.  I have not been thrown out of service or office because I’ve taken an oath in 2002 or 2000.  This is not the issue.  The issue is that was whatever was done to me on the 3rdof  November valid? Was it valid morally, ethically, legally, constitutionally or by any standard?  Was it a valid act?  That is the issue. If the nation or someone thinks that I should not have taken oath in 2000, alright prosecute me for it or hang me for it.  But first decide whether my removal from office on 3 November was a valid step.  Could it be justified by any constitutional, moral, legal, ethical norms?  Let the people decide on this and if they say that this act was unconstitutional then undo whatever has been done.  And then if somebody thinks that I had committed a misconduct or I had done something wrong in the year 2000 for taking oath under the PCO, alright hang me for it. I don’t mind.  Why is the fact that I also took an oath an issue right now?  Right now the issue is the action of somebody that was taken on the 3rd of November.  What is the validity of that action?

Q:  So what you are saying is that the main difference between the previous PCOs and this one is public support and right now the support is not there.

A: Yes. That is number one.  And secondly and more importantly this was an assault on the judiciary.  Those martial laws were not an assault on the judiciary. And people have reacted.  I was locked up. I did not take out to any procession.  The ones agitating are not the judges.  I have not gone out taking out processions or I have not even gone to a bar to address despite invitations.  I am not agitating.  The ones agitating are the people.  And they are clamoring that how could you do this on the 3rd of November?  How could you remove all these judges from their offices, especially the judges who were about to deliver or take a decision in a matter in which you were involved?  How can you do it?  If I had taken a wrong oath then I should have been removed ten years ago.  They should have taken me out when Musharraf came into power in 1999.  Or remove me now for it.  That was a misconduct and I am ready to face those charges.  But that is not the issue.  Some people are trying to confuse the issue.  They want to dilute this issue.

Q: Has the judiciary played a part in the perpetuation of military intervention? If we look at the doctrine of necessity (Justice Munir), do you think in some level we can hold the judiciary responsible?

A: Yes you could.  I will not deny it.  But one may have a difference of opinion on the reasons which led to that action.  It’s a debatable issue.  Some say that it was absolutely foolish on the part of the judiciary to validate martial law each time.  There are others who justify it.  But the fact is that the judiciary did say that we validate this and we were a party to the imposition of Martial law.  So I can’t deny it.

The thrust in each of those judgments was that the whole nation has accepted it, so much so that the leaders had not even raised a petition.  I remember in ’77 the whole nation was on the streets and clamoring that a martial law should be imposed.   Your political leaders wrote letters to the army chief.  The people of the nation have taken out rallies and processions asking the army to come in.  The people have accepted it.  Technically, inan absolute puritan theory one may not agree with it.

Q: This is the second time that the judiciary and the executive have been at logger heads with each other: first Nawaz and then Musharraf. Where does this problem stem from?  Are the roles not clearly defined in the constitution?  Is it the individuals involved? Is it something else?

A:The existing case, first the Chief Justice one and then the other one, has nothing to do with the executive or any other institution.  This is the act of one individual.  A President filed a reference.  The question was whether it was validly made.  And the question also was in the manner in which the reference should have been made.  Is this the manner permitted by the constitution to remove a judge or a chief Justice? That you put him behind bars and you lock up his entire family. So I don’t understand where this clash between the judiciary and the executive come in?  Itwas an act of one individual which came up to the court for a decision and the court decided. So where is the clash? I said this in court also on the 20th of July last year. There was a statement made by Chaudhry Shujaat after the 9th of March saying that this is between the judiciary and the army.  I said what a silly thing to say.  You are putting two institutions – very important and impressive institutions of the country- on a war path.  How is it a clash between the army and the judiciary?  This is a reference sent by the president of the country.  The one against whom the reference is sent, he questions it.  The court is sitting to answer it.  So where is the clash between the army and the judiciary or between the executive and the judiciary?

Q: So you don’t think that it is necessary to add any special provisions in the Constitution.

A:What is the need for it?  These two cases were just ordinary cases involving an individual or an act of the President or the eligibility of a certain individual to contest for acertain office.  That is the end of the matter.  I don’t look at it as being anything else beyond that.  Now if some individual wants to make it a clash then it is his choice.

Q: One objection is that the lawyer’s movement has been politicized by various political parties.  What is your view regarding this?

A:Is the issue of the judiciary and the constitution an issue of just the lawyers?  It is an issue which involves the public. Yes the lawyers gave a lead. But then what is politics? Politics is the public. Why should the public not come in?  Why should they have stayed back? If it was an issue just pertaining to Khalil Ramday or Latif Khosa or some other lawyer then it is fine.  Then why would Nawaz Sharif or Asfandyar Wali or Qazi Hussain get involved?  It would be our personal issue.  But this is an issue pertaining to one of the pillars of your state.  Do you want this pillar of the state to exist or do you want it demolished?  That is the issue. Now if that is the issue then why shouldn’t the public be involved.  If the public wasn’t involved then I wouldn’t consider his an issue.  And if the public is going to get involved then the political parties who are the representatives or agents of the public will of course also have to come in on one side or the other.  Whichever side they want to take, they should come in.  If I was in the Bar I would not be embarrassed if the public came in.  This not an issue just pertaining to the judges and the lawyers, it is an issue of the public.  Tomorrow if, God forbid, somebody assaults the army then why shouldn’t the public rise.  The people of Pakistan who made the constitution have said in it that we want a certain type of judiciary.  In my judgment that is not being delivered.   An issue was raised in my draft; is access to justicea fundamental right of the people or are the courts and judiciary just something that involve and interest the judges and the lawyers?  The impression that the courts are established by the nation, the state and the people to only please the judges and the lawyers should not be there. This is not the reason why courts were set up; so that Khalil Ramday would get a salary.  These courts are made for the people.  You will find judgments before that of 20 July where it is stated that access to justice and to have justice delivered and administered is the fundamental right of the people.  So if you interfere with the judiciary or if it is assaulted this is in fact then an encroachment on the fundamental rights of the people and it’s for the people to agitate.  Why should I be embarrassed if, let’s say, the PPP went to a certain procession or rally or why did the Maulvi participate or why did Nawaz Sharrif participate?  The issue is actually theirs. The lawyers as a Bar have nothing to do with the issue except as individuals and citizens of this country.  This issue is the publics.  It is a matter of the public and it’s for the public to decide.

Q: When the Supreme Court becomes a victim then who do they turn to?

A:The answer lies with the people.

Q: Is the check of the Supreme Court also the people?

A:That is what I told you earlier. It is only the people that can defend these institutions, protect these institutions and claim supremacy and sovereignty of these Institutions.  Otherwise who am I?  The reason that I am in this house is the people.  Whenever they tell me to leave a procession comes and stops the eviction.  They were about to throw my belongings out from my Islamabad residence.  Everyone turned up there. I was here (in Lahore) watching the proceedings on TV and wondering what is going on.  Now if you start pulling the hair of the Chief Justice and a soldier slaps him thenthe Chief Justice will accept the slap.  He can’t take on the soldier.  Orif I, being a 60 or 61 year old man, am attacked by a soldier then I would not be able to fight back.  It’s for the people to defend me if they want to defend me.  This is a test of the people.

Q: You delivered a historic judgment on July 20th.  What influenced your decision?

A:Actually I received undue credit only because of I was the captain.  But the match is never won by the captain alone.  Some other player makes the century and some other player, Wasim Akram, takes the wickets. Some names of players are not even remembered but the fame goes to Imran Khan because in the end he is holding the cup.  He is the captain.  The real credit actually and honestly goes to the 10 judges who withstood pressure and stress yet they stood by what was right.  It was just a coincidence that I happened to be a senior amongst those judges.

The hearing started on the 15th of May (2007) and the judgment was delivered on the 20th of July (2007).   I can only give you my perspective and not of the other judges.  My opinion was that the manner of seeking the removal of the Chief Justice was not the one which was envisaged by the constitution.  You are sitting in the army house.  It was very forcefully and rightly argued that if the issue was regarding the reference of the Chief Justice then the Law minister, Attorney General, Law Secretary should have been present there.  Those are the relevant people and not the heads of the intelligence agencies.  So what had remained with me was that it appeared that the purpose of this exercise was not the purpose envisaged or admitted by the constitution.  The purpose was not as was indicated from whatever transpired on the 9th and thereafter that there’s a judge who should be removed due to misconduct.  If this was the purpose then the reference should have come in routine.  It should have come to the Supreme Judicial Council and the Supreme Judicial Council should have taken a decision on this.  The whole exercise appeared to have been done not for the purposes permitted by law but for the purposes extraneous to the constitution.  It appeared that you just wanted to get rid of somebody for whatever reason but the purpose was not of getting rid of a misconducting judge.

Q: When a government changes the attorney general also resigns.  This is the first time that the AG continued in the office.  What are your views on that?

A:I don’t think that I will comment on this.  This is for the people to decide for themselves. Usually the first day a new Government takes over the attorney general is changed because attorney general is not a beaurocrat.  He is the lawyer of the executive.  Usually, one would presume that you keep a lawyer that is in your confidence.

Q: Regarding the present scenario, under what law can a single individual make the decision and how can you undo that?

A:I don’t want to comment on this because I may have a biased opinion as I am  one of the victims or sufferers of that scenario.  I would not be the proper person to answer that.

Q: Do you think the 1973 constitution answers the situation that we are in?

A:Absolutely.  And let me also tell you one basic fact that you must remember. It used to be one of the topics of debate in college and it is that there is no system which is good or bad.  Now we have nations before us who have no written constitution and they are surviving and not just surviving but thriving.  And the most powerful of nations today has the briefest of constitutions.  The American constitution is the shortest and most brief constitution that you could ever come across and it is working.  So for the constitution to work you need a political will to run that system on those lines which are the basic fundamental principles.

You must have heard of constitutional conventions. No matter how detailed you write the constitution or how much you explain it, the fact remains that it’s a human effort. It can never be all pervasive. There are always things lacking or things deficient but with consensus, conventions and true political will it can work.  Let me give you an example.  There were no fundamental rights in the American Constitution.  They were subsequently added.  And when they were added they were without any rider.  These fundamental rights, basic rights guaranteed in the American constitution even today, are unrestricted.  It is written in it, for example, that the people will have the right of association.  There is no limitation on it.  Now how will the country run if there is no limitation on it? If the constitution has said that this is the absolute right and there can be no limitation or restriction on it then how will the country run?  The Supreme Court, therefore, recognized the police powers of the state and supplied whatever was deficient. They said that even though there was no mention of limitations in the constitution this didn’t mean that these rights were absolute and could not be limited or restricted.  The state can always put reasonable restriction on these. This they called the police powers of the state.  So if there is a will to work things out then issues are gradually settled.

Q: How do you see the future of the Judiciary in Pakistan?

A:There are lots of forces working on either side.  This is the defining moment.  Out of this melting pot you will either get a judiciary which will be the pride of the people or you will get a judiciary only in name.

When I was studying in Gordon College we used to go to Zumzum café to drink tea.  The unique think of that café was that the owner had an amazing collection of Urdu, Punjabi and Indian records.  Some people who frequented the café regularly were given the privilege of requesting songs that that the owner would then play.   Correlating that to the present scenario, let us see what we get.  Will we get courts or a Zumzum cafe where only some privileged people’s requests are catered to?

People have been clamoring for courts for the past one year.   This is the first time in 61 years that the people have identified their rights and they have raised their voices for it.

Q:  What is the solution, in your opinion, to the present judicial crisis?

A:One should go with whatever the people or nation think is the right path.  Governance is never through cleverness.  Governance is always through wisdom and wisdom always lies in following the right path.  It is just a question of putting two and two together.  What is the cause?  What is the irritant?  The cause of this entire crisis is the action taken on the 3rd of November. Give a decision on whether this decision was right or wrong and implement it.  That’s it.  When one starts getting clever and wants to please everyone, be it Musharraf or Khalil Ramday, etc. there can be no solution. The intensity of this movement may decrease but it will never die out.  It will come back one day or the other and when it comes back with very disastrous consequences.  One should not let that stage be reached.

Q: Certain organization and people are demanding Shariah.  What are your views on that?

A: I am glad that you’ve asked me that.  We have unfortunately coined a very simple equation which is that since these laws were made by the British and since the British were kafirs and not Muslims, therefore, all these laws must be non-Muslim and un-Islamic.  This equation and the formula or the presumptions on which this situation was founded were based on absolute ignorance.  The result was that ever since 1947 or ever since I can remember one has heard in everysermon and in every dua (prayer) the desire to bring the Islamic system and law.  Influenced by this, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq created the Federal Shariat Court in 1981.  One of the tasks assigned by the constitution to this Federal Shariat Court which was to examine all laws, federal, provincial and local, which were in force in the country and to determine whether any of those laws or any provision in those laws were against the injunctions of  Islam. If it was found that there was any provision or any law that was offensive to the injunctions of Islam then that law was to be struck down.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I was then Assistant Advocate General, Punjab.  I was deputed by the Punjab Government to appear in the Federal Shariat Court during this exercise.  This Court took up laws starting with 1841 down to 1983 or 84. We went through each and every law and each and every provision.  Let me tell you, the court could findhardly anything offensive to the Islamic injunctions in all the laws.  And whatever little un-Islamic provisions were found, unfortunately were the ones enacted after 1947 and not by the British.

In the Quran, if one has read it, there is no civil procedure court, no criminal procedure court, no Pakistan penal court, no rent laws, etc.  There are very few do’s and don’ts which are culpable, very few.  The rest the Quran and Allah only say, go and do justice.  Allah with His infinite wisdom knew that these demands or dictates of justice and the justice perspective would change from time to time, society to society and people to people so Allah couldn’t have given a hard and fast law saying that this is it.  Allah only says go and do justice.  All these Anglo-Saxson laws advance the cause of justice and there is hardly anything un-Islamic about that.

Let me tell an interesting incident.  It was the year 1983 or 1984.   At around  9 or 10 at night I receive a packet through special dispatchers.  What I received in that bundle was a draft law.  It was a draft of the Law of Evidence which was proposed to be promulgated by the Federation. The Federal Government had sent the draft to the Punjab Government, along with the other provincial governments, to get their views on it.  A note in the package said that there would be a meeting with the Chief Secretary the next morning at 10 to discuss the same.  I panicked as I knew that I could not go over the whole draft in one night.  However, as I started reading the Draft at night I was relieved.  I went through the draft and the next morning I went to the meeting.  Everyone was asked their opinion and when my turn came I said, “Sir if you ask me you should write a very short and simple note and send it to the Federal Government saying that the Government of Punjab has no objection to the renumbering of the provisions of the old Evidence Act.”  I brought the old Act and the new draft to the meeting.  The old was promulgated by the British in 1872 by the Kafir, by the non-Muslim. This was the height of Intellectual dishonesty.  Some people had convinced the President that the law was un-Islamic,so they made it Islamic by a verbatim reproduction of the provisions of the Evidence Act of 1872 which was said to be a non-Muslim act.  They only rearranged the provisions. It was the height of intellectual dishonesty. They have promulgated that law now.  They have changed the name to a Muslim name.  Instead of Evidence Act it has been named Qanoon-e-shahadat ordinance. Get hold of the old Evidence Act of 1872 and pick up this new Qanoon-e-Shahadat of 1984. It’s a verbatim reproduction.  They got away with it.  This is a trait slogan of our religious leadership and there is nothing to it really.

Now they are saying that we want Islamic law in Swat/Dir .Or the other place, Malakand. What sort Shariah has been imposed there?  What have they changed?  For instance, the Additional Session Judge is called Additional Zillah Qazi and the Civil Judge has been renamed Illaqa Qazi and the session judge has been renamed Zillah Qazi.  That’s all. And the maulvis are happy thinking that all has been Islamized and so are the others.

Whatever system that is in force in this country or has been in force in this country ever since the British rule, is not any offensive or contradictory or even a deviation from any Islamic injunction. I’d like to see one provision in any law which somebody could show me as being repugnant to Islamic injunctions.  This is a challenge coming from a person who has been a student of law for the last 40 yrs.  However, no one questions this. Out of fear or ignorance nobody actually asks what is un-Islamic in these laws.

Q: They ask why don’t you cut hands and stone people?

A:The provision is there.  It is there in the law.  Right or wrong it is there.  But the thing is that even if you look at that.  I am sure you know that Hazrat Umar, there was no one as severe as him, in his time abolished the punishment of amputating hands for theft.  Now this is a fact acknowledged by the maulvis, known to maulvis.  This is not something which is unknown to people.  You see the thing is that you should see the spirit of Islam.

Q:What is your opinion on Blasphemy law?

A:There is logical reason behind the blasphemy law and not a religious one.  The reason is that every society has basic norms.  In pre ’91 or ‘92communist Russia, for instance, could anybody be permitted to abuse Stalin or Lenin?  Would any of their laws permit this?  Before the Cultural Revolution in China would any law permit criticism or abuse of Mao?  Does any country allow you to talk against its constitution? So irrespective of whether a country is in the West or the East or whether a country is Islamic or otherwise, there are always certain basic foundations of a society or state that are sacrosanct.  This is a basic norm universally acknowledged and practiced. 

So what is my religion? My religion, faith and belief stems from the Quran.  My Islam is what the Quran tells me.  Now I did not receive the Quran directly from Allah through TCS.  Neither is there any certification from Allah or a seal saying that this message is from Allah.  Then why do I believe the Quran as being the Quran?  Only because there was a person in Arabia who said that this is a book or message from Allah. I believe that the Quran is genuine because Muhammad told me that this is Allah’s book.  So my entire Islam depends on Muhammad.  If Muhammad’s zat (person) is doubtful then my Quran will be doubtful.  I believe in the Quran and believe that it is the book of Allah because Muhammad has told me so.  So if Muhammad’s zat(person) becomes controversial or his integrity or his character becomes controversial then the Quran will also become doubtful.  Therefore, for my faith or my belief it is the person of Muhammad which is pivotal.  I don’t know Allah.  Why do I accept Allah as Allah?Because Muhammad has told me so.  I have never seen Allah and neither has Allah ever spoken to me. So therefore, before Muhammad became a prophet, Allah had the entire society within which he lived admit that the prophet was Sadiq and Ameen (honest and trustworthy).  This was acknowledged before he was appointed a prophet and before the revelations commenced.  He was accepted by the entire Meccan society as Sadiq and Ameen.  Hence the indispensable reason to protect the person of Muhammad. Otherwise Islam would finish.

I, not as a maulvi or fundo, but as a man who looks at it through reason would say that if any community, society or state takes any steps to protect its foundation then I’ll have no objection to it.

The educated person has to explain this.  The maulvi can never do it.  One has to explain it through reason and logic.  Other countries also protect their foundations and defend them.  And Islam’s pivot is this.  Minus the Prophet’s person there’ll be no Islam.  And I think logically this point should be understood.

Now, regarding its implementation and enforcement.  Look there is no law in the world that cannot be abused.  What do you think of all the cases of murder cases against people? Do you think they are all true and there is no abuse?  I don’t have statistics but I’m  telling you of what I’ve seen in the last 20 years as a judge.  One person has died and one bullet has been used and 15 or 20 people have been accused of the crime.  This is one of the widely abused provisions.  Just because of this should we just do away with murder as an offence?  If a provision is being abused the cure is not to do away with the provision but to check the abuse.  And I agree with you that the Blasphemy Law has been mostly used for being abused.  This is true.  I have seen such cases.  However, the cure is not in its removal but in checking the abuses.