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10 Questions with S.M.Zafar

Former Senator, A Person of Unrivalled Qualities

One of the most revered politicians in Pakistan, Mr S.M. Zafar, is a former Senator, a noted human rights activist and a lawyer par excellence. In his capacity as an attorney, Mr Zafar has been involved in some of the most important cases of country’s legal history. He is considered an authority on legal and constitutional issues and his opinions are quoted in national and international press. He attained many coveted posts during his professional life. Besides serving as a judge of the high court, he has also served as Federal Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs.

Apart from his services in the political arena of the country, Senator S. M. Zafar’s contributions to the betterment of society are also praiseworthy. His efforts for recognition and promotion of human rights and fair practices have attained him acclaim and acknowledgment on national and international levels.
He is also the chairman of Cultural Association of Pakistan.

Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): The government’s initiative of talks with the Taliban, to bring peace in the country, has seen chequered progress. What will be the fallout if the talks fail and a military operation becomes inevitable?

SM Zafar (SMZ): First of all, I would say that Pakistan did commit a blunder during Zia’s regime when the huge influx of Afghan refugees on Pakistani soil was allowed. They, later, spread in all parts of the country, and that proved drastic for Pakistan. Similarly, during any military operation in Pakistan, millions of IDPs leave their homes back in search of safer places. But, improper planning and imprudent management in accommodating them predicates that many of the terrorists may also come out of their bastions. So preventing their spread in the country is necessary, especially when negotiations are still on. And, if talks fail, then, a military action cannot be ruled out.

JWT: If, God forbid, talks fail, then which part of Pakistan would suffer the most?

SMZ: As I said earlier the IDPs went to other parts of the country, notably Karachi, and if a military action takes place, there will be more IDPs, providing ample space to some miscreants to move to other parts of the country. So, I think, these people will make a B line in Karachi as it is a city too big and too complex to manage. It is truer when we see that in spite of the deployment of the Rangers, there is hardly any letup in the spree of target killings.

JWT: In your book ‘Meri Kahani Meri Zabani,’ you have written that Pakistan needs a robust policy to deal with the terrorism issue. How do you see the prospects for the success of recent National Security Policy in this regard?

SMZ: Actually, we have to tackle the situation through our institutions by evolving a sound strategy. I don’t have any reservations on the NSP, but we do need a supplementary law to deal with such challenging situations. The incident of 9/11, though, was a big one yet it seems trivial when we compare it with the acts of terrorism in Pakistan. After the attacks, the US introduced the Patriot Act which certainly contained some draconian measure and no such attack has been seen since. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that I support such laws, we should, at least, make laws to facilitate our law-enforcement and investigation agencies so that they can work properly under the umbrella of law. In fact, if we fail this responsibility, it will definitely provide leverage to the terrorists.

JWT: As you know, Musharraf has been indicted by the Special Court, so, do you think that punishing him will close the door for any military adventure in Pakistan?

SMZ: I don’t think so because the only thing which can stop the way of military intervention is good governance. It’s like a volcano that can erupt anytime. But I don’t see any martial law in Pakistan as any such step wouldn’t be indemnified by the judiciary, and army now realizes that they are a body of professional soldiers and they cannot run the government.

JWT: In your book, you threw light on ‘Establishment,’ but what this term actually means in the context of Pakistan?

SMZ: Actually, establishment is a shadow which emerges in government business automatically as the government has a very vast domain. Establishment does amply know what is going on, what can happen in the future and what they can, and should, do. So, the establishment does assert its influence. Usually establishment is the collective form of number of forces but in case of Pakistan traditionally only the executive came under the ambit of establishment, however, at present, judiciary has also become a part of it while intelligence agencies, too, have a role.

JWT: In democratic societies public opinion holds a pivotal importance. But, you commented in an interview that our courts are riding on the horse of public opinion. How would you expound your views?

SMZ: There are no two opinions that public opinion is important but it is for the government so that it may manage the state affairs. Judiciary has nothing to do with it as they have to go by the laws.

JWT: How do you see the role of civil society in present-day Pakistan?

SMZ: I have a great admiration and reverence for the active civil society in Pakistan. Their struggle towards the betterment of Pakistan, especially for the restoration of judiciary, has been phenomenal and deserves all laudation and commendation.

JWT: Would you agree that in post 18th amendment Pakistan, the power structure has significantly changed?

SMZ: Yes, I do agree that today the dynamics of power structure in Pakistan are different than in the past. Earlier we had a troika i.e. President, Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff, to have vast powers. However, it has changed now, and today Prime Minister or executive, Armed Forces, Judiciary and Media all have their role in policy formulation in Pakistan. Actually, in my opinion, instead of fostering a good working relationship among them, all elements of power should be independent in their respective domains.

JWT: Why did you oppose the abolition of the Concurrent List when the deliberations for the 18th amendment were on?

SMZ: Actually, Concurrent List is there in Indian constitution as well, but they didn’t expunge it from the constitution. In fact, they added some provincial subjects to it. Many people say that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promised the abolishment of Concurrent List from the constitution, but I couldn’t find such statement in the records of National Assembly and in newspapers of that time. I also contacted some framers of the constitution like Abdul Hafeez Pirzada but I could not get any evidence in favour of this statement. I am against the abolition of the Concurrent List because few subjects cannot be dealt well by the provinces, for instance, Population, Drug Control, Higher Education Commission, etc. Indians have ‘Forests’ in the Concurrent List because they take climate change as a pressing issue which is related with the forests.

JWT: Were your concerns addressed before the said amendment actually became a part of the constitution?

SMZ: I was the one who wrote the longest dissenting note. Actually, there was a clause which enunciated that the parliamentarians will have to abide by the advice of their party leadership as far as voting for a constitutional amendment is concerned. I did oppose it but I had to face a massive opposition from all committee members. In fact, one member vociferously said that why we should not follow the advice of our party, as we are here only because of it. I replied that political parties exist only because of the constitution. So, no restrictions should be there on the conscience of any member of the parliament as far as constitutional matters are concerned. But, on this issue, unfortunately, no heed was paid and the amendment got passed.

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