Zafar Iqbal Mirza > Last Man In > Part One



Things Should Not be Pressed Too Far

BORN at Shahpur, Kohat, on October 18, 1902. Did his honours in Persian and masters in English from the Government College, Lahore. Joined the Indian Civil Service in 1927. Transferred from the executive to the judiciary in 1938. Appointed Legal Remembrancer and Law Secretary to the Punjab Government. Made Judge of the Lahore High Court in 1949, rose to become Chief Justice in 1958. Laid his robes on October 18, 1962 , and died in Chittagong on November 15, the same year.

          Guess who? I think most of my young readers wouldn't know the man I am talking about. Junior readers? Even senior citizens have forgotten all about Mohammad Rustam Khan Kayani, who died 30 years ago in far away Chittagong . He seldom used his full name and was better known as M. R. Kayani.

          A gentleman to the core, Mr. Kayani was one of the best judges the Lahore High Court has known. I never met him in person. All I know of the man is from his writings and from the writings of others about him, especially his son, Mr. Haroon I. Kayani. About four years ago, he gathered together four of his father's books in one cover. Called The Whole Truth , and published by the Pakistan Writers' Cooperative Society, Lahore, it includes four collections- Not the Whole Truth , Half Truth, A Judge May Laugh and Even Cry, and Some More Truth .

          These four collections contain the texts of the speeches he made at different forums, especially bar associations across the country and the CSP Association of which he was president  from 1956 until his retirement. Judge Kayani was not afraid to speak his mind because he had a mind of his own. This made President Ayub Khan, who had staged a military coup the same year, as Mr. Kayani became Chief Justice, difficult to digest the latter's criticism of men and matters.

          According to Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad Khan's preface to The Whole Truth , the President deputed Qudratullah Shahab to do something about the uncomfortable judge. Shahab quickly obliged with scathing criticism of Mr. Kayani in a speech he delivered at an educational institution. He asked Kayani not to play politics in judicial robes, resign and confront the President openly.

          Nothing daunted, Mr. Kayani continued to do what he thought he had to do in the larger public interest. He had gone to East Pakistan soon after retirement. On November 15, 1962 , he was to speak at a citizens' reception at Chittagong . He died before he could deliver his written address in which he had said: "If Martial Law was necessitated by crime, then 90 per cent of the people were put under pressure for no fault of theirs. If it was necessitated by the misdoings of politician, then the number of EBDOed persons did not exceed a hundred (EBDO stood for Elective Bodies Disqualification Order under which the Government debarred several leaders from taking part in politics).

          The question Mr. Kayani wanted to ask here was: why punished so many for the crimes, real or imaginary, of so few?

          Another irony here is that after having served President Ayub Khan to the best of his ability, Qudratullah Shahab was to write several years later in his book Shahabnama :

          " . . . no sooner is a constitution formed than it is abrogated by a general. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali's constitution lasted barely three years before it was abrogated by Ayub Khan. After seven years, Gen. Yahya did away with Ayub Khan's constitution, and since 1977, the unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 is hanging between existence and non-existence under General Zia-ul-Haq's Martial Law.

          Shahab is not the only bureaucrat afflicted by democracy when out of power. I have seen several imperious bureaucrats and senior officers of the armed forces who begin to swear by democracy when they retire and their overriding ambition then becomes a desire to 'serve' the people. First they served by the baton and the bullet, and now they yearn for power through the ballot.

Mr. Justice Kayani spoke on many issues over several years. Addressing the Government College boys in Lahore in 1961, he said: "Debates are good and dinners are better but books are best. If you put on a good suit, your body looks charming; if you read a good book you look charming."

          According to his son, Haroon, Mr. Kayani never allowed his family to make use of his office. "These people are not my personal staff. They work for the Chief Justice." Today, alas, most people in authority regard their staff as their personal serfs. Kayani's son went to school on a bicycle. Today, the begums and the bachas of the sahibs misuse official transport like it is nobody's business.

          When not in the robes, Mr. Kayani was simplicity itself. He loved gardening. Once he was trimming the hedge around the Chief Justice's house when a car drove up and a bureaucrat, not knowing the Chief Justice by face, asked: "Mali, do you know where the Chief Secretary's house is?"

          Later, at a reception, the same bureaucrat was introduced to Mr. Justice Kayani. The Chief Justice smiled and said, "I think we have met somewhere." The sahib could have died of embarrassment.

          What were his views about the Press? In one of his speeches, he said: "It has always happened that what the Press regarded as meat, the government of the day regarded as a poison, and though one man's meat may be another man's poison, it is a sign of the times that all effective medicines are now labelled 'poison' to be administered under the direction of the physician. Therefore, freedom of the Press is not like the milk of magnesia to which I compared the Bar Associations, but like arsenic, which is a tonic when administered in graduated doses, but a poison otherwise. . . . And what can I tell you about the Press except that things should not be pressed too far whether by the Press or the Government. . . ." (From Mr . Kayani's address to TV newsmen and officials of the International Press Institute in Lahore.)

Friday, November 13,1992