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Saturday, February 4, 2023
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Op-ed: Are we citizens of this country or we remain merely subjects?

As a nation we have failed to protect the republic as such we continue to be subjects not citizens as envisioned by the founding fathers. The crusade for freedom must go on, the storm is not over yet.

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My late father Nazir Ahmed Malik was born a subject of the British Empire on July 15, 1920, in Ludhiana, East Punjab. To be a part of the freedom struggle he joined the Muslim Students Federation (MSF) during his college years. Upon graduation, he joined the All-India Muslim League to become a soldier of the Quaid. On August 14, 1990, he was awarded the prestigious Tehreek-e-Pakistan Gold Medal for his valiant struggle in the freedom movement. He wanted his children to be free citizens, not serfs of the colonial powers.

When communal riots started in Ludhiana at the time of partition, the family had to migrate to the free land, leaving a flourishing business behind. Still, in pursuit of freedom in the land of the pure, my old man departed for his heavenly abode on September 2, 1991, after over four decades of relentless struggle for an honourable existence. He kept fighting till his last breath. When his physical strength dwindled, he resorted to legal battles. All night he would prepare his cases and every morning he drove straight to the courts.

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I must admit that I had a great childhood. Growing up in the Mall was both fun and rewarding. Except for a few bad experiences, I always considered myself to be a citizen. Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated before my birth but I clearly remember the devastating experience of the first Martial Law in October 1958. First, it was the arrest of Khan Qayyum Khan, the most popular Muslim League leader of the time when he was leading a long march.

At the age of 5 years, I stood on the Mall holding my father’s finger waiting for hours for his arrival, till we came to know that Khan Sahib had been taken to the dungeons of the Lahore Fort. Then my own maternal uncle Dr. Saleem Wahid Saleem, a progressive writer and poet, went on a hunger strike outside the Civil Secretariat. He had three demands: Lifting of martial law, independent investigation of the murder of the first Prime Minister, either filing of cases against progressive writers or withdrawal of intelligence surveillance. My uncle’s life was saved through a clandestine negotiation arranged by my old man to end his strike.

Although my father remained a staunch Muslim League supporter all is life, I was happy for him that he had achieved his vision of raising citizens not subjects, but little did I know the agony of his struggle in the so-called free land till I took over all his cases pending in the courts for decades. His legal battles continued till his last breath.

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For an upright man to survive in a crooked environment is perhaps the biggest challenge faced by humans. Most of his litigation was based on fundamental human rights that he wanted to ensure as a citizen while he was being abused as a subject. He was consumed by this struggle. All his files were full of requests for early hearing of his cases, executive abuses and mismanagement of justice was evident.

Attending twenty courts and then finally settling on fighting two vital cases was a difficult and painful decision for me as a lot of effort had already been put in by him. It soon dawned on me that even if I was a subject not a citizen as I was made to believe all my life, it was indeed a fallacy. Naturally as I was born free, I lacked the sagacity to fight as a subject, so I let go the less important ones. One appeal was stuck in the Lahore High Court (LHC) for eighteen years. My old man moved an application for early hearing to the Chief Justice who ordered weekly hearings till decision on merit. His case was either placed on days of vacation of the judge or when the court rooster was over loaded so that his turn did not come. My father’s journey came to an end where my ordeal started.

At the next hearing, I was there with my brilliant lawyer Mian Nasir Ahmed, father of the Ex-Chief Justice Saqib Nisar. Cases were being called while I anxiously waited with my fingers crossed. Around 12 noon, I got a bit worried and approached Haji Sahib, the all-knowing smart Munshi (Aide of Lawyer) who asked me to give him a Rs 50/ currency note. With the court in session, he went up to the rostrum where the judge was sitting with his aide on the side. Haji Sahib shook hands with the aide and passed on the currency note to the aide. Within minutes our case was called after a delay of eighteen years that had also consumed my father in the process. Only one hearing and the case was concluded in our favour. The ‘photograph’ of the Quaid made all the difference, as a citizen I doled it out while my father, the subject, considered it unethical.

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Though I was born free unlike my father, I no longer consider myself a citizen whose rights have been enshrined in the constitution. Time is running out for the first-born free generation, our parents raised us as free citizens but events turned us into subjects. As long as this colonial system is in place, our children do not have a chance of becoming citizens. Franklin Benjamin, the man behind the US constitution was asked when he was coming out of the hall after the passage of the constitution, “Republic or Monarchy? Republic if you can keep it” was his reply.

As a nation we have failed to protect the republic as such we continue to be subjects not citizens as envisioned by the founding fathers. The crusade for freedom must go on, the storm is not over yet.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.