Independent judiciary vital for democracy: Fakhruddin Ebrahim
By Shahid Husain
KARACHI: Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, a prominent jurist and a former governor of Sindh, said here on Friday that without an independent judiciary Pakistan could neither have democracy, nor could it make progress.
“Nothing is as important as the constitution; it is the fundamental law of the land; it’s the conscience of the nation,” he emphasized.
He made the observation while speaking at a seminar on “Press laws in Pakistan,” organized by the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) at Karachi Press Club. He said freedom was never a gift. On the contrary, it had to be earned and in Pakistan a number of journalists, including Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mazhar Ali Khan, Safdar Ali, Husain Naqi, Razia Bhatti, to name a few, had made sacrifices to earn freedom of the press, in Pakistan.
He said freedom of the press can only be ensured by a constitution, but unfortunately Pakistanis had made a mess of theirs. He said politicians, the Army, and the judiciary had failed Pakistan, adding the real author of the Legal Framework Order (LFO) was the chief justice of Pakistan who enabled President Pervez Musharraf to make amendments to the constitution.
Veteran journalist and director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), IA Rehman said that today the people of Pakistan were condemned to live amid a plethora of black laws. Elaborating, he said 123-B, a section in the penal code, prohibited an individual from discussing Islamic ideology and said if one abused it, one could be imprisoned for 10 years.
He said the Press and Publications Ordinance had been given a new form and it was strange why it was not being enforced.
Senior journalist and director of the HRCP Husain Naqi deplored that the institution of independent working editors had ended and barring a few, all editors today were proprietor-editors. Barrister Iqbal Haider said there were 30 ordinances on freedom of expression and only one ordinance, during the PPP era, was passed through parliament. He said every ordinance repealed the 1963 Press and Publications Ordinance, but the local administration had been applying it, which was totally illegal, he added. Former Federal Information Minister Javed Jabbar said the arrest of Khawar Mehdi was a symbol of state oppression. He said corporate dominance was exerting itself in the media and termed it the “new threat of commercialization.” The president of the KUJ, Mazhar Abbas, traced the history of draconian laws in Pakistan, saying newspaper owners were also responsible for the gagging of the free press.