Geoffrey of Salarpur

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    A legal artist

    Iqbal Jaffrey is an artist and a lawyer. It is another debate whether he is an artistic lawyer or a legal artist. This is because when he does art he skilfully brings in law and when he practices law, he evolves an artistic approach.

    Let me give you an example. In his recent exhibition of art work at NCA, Iqbal Jaffrey of Salarpur had artistically displayed his writ petition as an item or piece of art. This petition he filed in the Lahore High Court and is well publicised in local and international media because he has sought direction in it that the federal government should bring back the assets of high profile individuals. He revised and amended it several times, and in the said exhibition, the said amendments were also displayed. No other artist- that I know of- has so overtly and loudly brought in a legal perspective in the display of artistic work.

    And then, when it comes to law, whether it’s drafting or unique cases, Jaffrey brings to life the artist in himself and paints the legal canvas with bold strokes.

    I’ve had occasions to read his petitions as a fellow lawyer quite a few times in the last 25 years. The expression is pronounced and the language is so unique that it’s worth going through every word of it just for the pleasure of it. One can disagree with his legal positioning but nothing should take away from Jaffrey’s use of language and the manner in which he addresses his opponents, his colleagues and all others that he chooses to address. He has filed a petition for the return of the Koh-i-Noor diamond in the High Court, whether it falls in the framework of the Article 199 is a debate that should be left for the court. But Jaffrey Saab masters the art of weaving a colourful narrative. Immensely creative, he can have difficulty in managing his various skills, a dilemma of all creative persons.

    I’ve known him for quite a while now, and let this go on record that upon return from Cambridge after my LLM, when I started writing on International Law, Mr. Jaffrey was one of the only few people who appreciated me and specifically encourage me. He would stop me in the corridors of the high court and insist that I continue with my interest in International Law. This was a time when my contemporaries in the legal profession, on the turner road and fane road made fun of my adventurism in international law and my efforts to kick start the newly formed RSIL.

     

    I still recall with fondness Mr.  Jaffrey’s pat on the back and encouragement for my work. Even then, I used to envy him for taking up causes that none would dare in the courtroom.

    He has an amazing academic record. Geoffrey earned meritorious degrees in Economics, Law, Human Rights and Aesthetics from the Government College, Lahore, Punjab University Law College, Harvard Law School (where his neo-thesis that pollinated the Bill  of Rights, and was designated as ‘Honor Paper’). Jaffrey topped in law examinations and broke all records in Jurisprudence, yet declined Gold Medals protesting nascent dictatorship of Sir Ayub Khan.

    His art exploits are no less. In 1962, his first London Retrospective (at age 21) was described by the Times as “Distinguished”. Dr. John Walker at the National Gallery of Art (Washington DC) adulated his artworks of early 1940’s as “precocious”.

    Nonetheless, Geoffrey – far from being ethnic – is the first Asian who held, while still in his twenties, well merited professorship of Fine Art at four important American Universities. This is unique.

    In the United Kingdom, Geoffrey became the first artist (originating from the south) whose work was included in the national collections of the Realm. Her Majesty the Queen commended [1962] him as ‘the Art Counsel of the Britain’.

    In 1965 he won the Paris Biennale Award to immense public acclaim and widespread media coverage in France. Consequently, the renowned French Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux, offered him citizenship of France which he gratefully declined in spite of his love for France. Fondness does not repel principles.

    Iqbal Geoffrey is fond of axiom which he often adopts as tenets. He reminds us that Almighty Allah commands in the Holy Quran, 53:59 “man can get what he strives for.”

    Socrates is known to have said: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy on building the new, nor fighting the old.”

    Seeing Geoffrey sahib rush through corridors of High Courts is some sight and then looking at his work in galleries of NCA and National art gallery Islamabad is equally impressive.

     

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