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A Judicial Memoir

S.P. Singh

By Ajmal Mian
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2004, pp. 383, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 2 February 2005

Judges playing authors are rarely interesting. They give too many details in their insipid, over-burdened tales, writing on mundane or common topics a bit beyond them. A lifetime of getting addressed as ‘your honour’ and ‘my lord’ is perhaps invitation to acquiring pomposity and self-importance. Many succumb to verbosity. Pakistan’s judiciary, however, has never lacked pragmatic instincts too. On those many occasions when a be-medalled, often mustachioed, heavily braided and colourfully beribboned General has conquered the country so loved by him, the highest court of judicature in Pakistan has routinely certified the new General Officer Commanding as constitutionally legitimate in view of “the doctrine of necessity”.This judiciary thus understands ground realities and accepts the facts of life, invariably showing a pragmatic understanding of the political system of their land. It has always winked at the pretentions of the ‘elected’ politicians, refused to comment on daily governance; accepted the adolescent abandon of its national media; the cynicism of their bureaucracy which handles with admirable flexibility the real authority of the executive branch, whether the pro-tem boss-man be civilian or military. As participant in a juri- dical system such as this, one had hoped to find good, interesting, racy and lucid reading material here. One has been disappointed.   Judge Ajmal Mian comes from a family which for several generations had owned footwear shops, in the twin Mughal capitals, Delhi and Agra. Their profits grew significantly during the Second World War, when they supplied footwear for the army to the British colonial masters. The family was visibly wealthy by the time Partition came in 1947. They chose to leave the Agra-Delhi region and migrated to Karachi, where they got relocated without suffering any financial losses, or physical trauma in the process.   While young Ajmal had not distinguished himself scholastically he could persuade the family elders to send him to London to study law in the Lincoln’s Inn, the very same institution where the founder of Pakistan, Qaid-I-Azam Jinnah had received his legal training. Ajmal Mian obviously lived in greater comfort than most other South Asian students, and was able to spend his vacations discovering the Continent.   He describes at length the written agreement he made with his landlady so as to ensure that none of his food items may get contaminated with anything connected with pork (lard?); that he would be allowed to use water and that there will be no ...

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