Watching the Umpires


All eyes on Panama Case’s verdict

I believe it was the former England cricket Captain Geoffrey Boycott who once said “no one comes to a match to watch the umpires”. But in today’s Pakistan, given what is happening in the Supreme Court, the whole nation is watching the Umpires. Indeed, compared with the performance of the current political actors, there definitely is hope in the Judiciary for pointing out institutional flaws. Three excellent decisions lend credence to this:

  1. Accepting the challenging Panama leaks’ case for hearing and all the pertinent questions being asked of the defendant,
  2. Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s report on the Quetta carnage,
  3. The decision by the Hon Lahore High court on the Orange Line case.

Given the recent terror wave we will focus on Justice Isa’s report here.

In the Arab world, the word for court case is Qadiya from Qadi or Qazi (judge) i.e.: something that is decided by a judge. Curiously, the word in Urdu for a court case is Muqademah derived from the Arabic word muqaddimah means introduction or prelude. It is derived from the Arabic root, aqdam (or, prior). The fifteenth century philosopher Ibn Khaldun also called his principal work Muqaddimah, but he used it for its philosophical connotation (meaning a premise, proposition or axiom). Others construe aqdam as an allusion to the urban tribal society that preceded the urban sedentary society that existed in his time.

He uses these axioms to describe the transition of society from tribal to sedentary through terms form (surah) and substance (madah). For example, as described by Ibn Sina (the Greco-Islamic thinker), the shape or form (surah) of the chair describes it but without the wood and nails (substance or madah) it would not exist. He then uses this dialectic to illustrate the relationship between society and the state. Here, society is the substance (maddah) and the state and its laws are the shape (surah). Thus society is the natural entity and the state exhibits the “a’rad” or accidental qualities. In the case of Ibn Sina’s chair, without wood there was form but you could not sit on it.

If you follow the same dialectic approach we can see why a legal case is called Muqademah in Pakistan as opposed to Qadiyah. In a tribal society the judge or Qadi/Qazi maybe prone to cruelty, avarice, the influence of kinship, making returns of previous favours or gaining new favours and power, or what Ibn Khaldun refers to as asabiyah – clannish bonds (similar to thaassub in Urdu). Whereas in a sedentary society – where there is accountability to the law as described in his Muqaddimah – preservation of the substance (society) takes precedence over asabiyah – clannish bonds The lack of asabiyah or lack of accountability to the law, according to Ibn Khaldun, constituted the single-most important trait that distinguishes one society from the other. Which is why in his view, one (tribal) is destined to taddammur (destruction) while the other (sedentary) to tamaddun (progress or prosperity).

In his excellent report on the Quetta carnage (available on the Supreme Court website), where many distinguished lawyers and others were martyred, Justice Qazi Faez Isa lays bare this distinction between form and substance – surah and madda. The duty of the state is to provide protection to the society (madda) as well as adequate medical facilities in case of an emergency. The laws (forms – surrah) are there but are not observed – the NACTA committee held only one meeting in three and half years, the hospitals were ill equipped, a forensic laboratory had not been established in Balochistan, the minister of interior continued to meet and greet member of proscribed organisations, there was confusion between rangers and the local police, etc.

In the Panama case (being heard by a different bench), the people of Pakistan look forward to similar perspicacity from the lord justices of the Supreme Court. It must be foremost that the madda or substance which is society and its preservation, rather than the surah or form – the laws and state.

Vacuous rhetoric, gilded valence and legal gymnastics notwithstanding, as brought by the Lords of the Supreme Court themselves, unless there is clear bankable evidence of tax paid resources and legitimate bank based financial exchange – a not guilty verdict will open up a Pandora’s box in the form of legal precedence in the future for dodgy politicians and businessmen. That will push this society towards tadammur (destruction) rather than tamaddum (prosperity).