Book on Rabbani’s short stories
ISLAMABAD: He introduces himself as a lawyer and constitutional scholar with a “distinguished career of public service” as a politician. But the very first tale of “Invisible People”, the book he just authored, talks volumes about the failings of what he has been practicing all throughout his life.
Senator Raza Rabbani’s “Invisible People” is a collection of short stories. What he narrates in the first story- “Imprisoned Law”- reflects on the sheer injustices of the system the onus of which lies on the shoulders of the government, parliament, political parties as well as bar and the bench.
“Imprisoned Law” is the tale of an old woman, who in pursuit of justice for her missing innocent son- picked up by police- lost everything, even her mind but she could not get her son back. “Too qanoon ain (are you law)”, “ too magistrate ain (are you a magistrate)” are the questions she asked everyone but gets no answer.
The story is really touchy. It may help prick the conscience of the politicians, law makers, law practitioners and the judges- all belonging to Rabbani’s family- and thus is partly reproduced here:
“………. One day I was sitting on a broken wooden bench outside the Rent Controller’s Court,” Asif went on. “She came and sat next to me and stared at me. I became a little uncomfortable but then noticed that while her head did not move, her eyes were going up and down as if inspecting me from head to toe. This unnerved me. I shifted a little and immediately her hand was on my left wrist, her long finger nails biting into my skin. I dared not move out of fear. She gave me a good long look and said, ‘too qanoon ain (are you law) toon Magistrate ain (are you a Magistrate)?”
“Before I could say anything the Court peon rescued me and with some effort got me released from her clutches. ‘Amma (mother), ‘he told her, ‘he is neither the qanoon (law) nor the magistrate he has his own case in court, leave him alone.’ She stood up in anger and glared at the peon. She kept on babbling as she walked away.
Asif continued. “The peon said, ‘don’t mind her sahib, the poor woman has lost her mind. “I asked him, ‘Why?”…… I’ve watched her come to kacheri (court) for so many years now. She’s the first to arrive and last to leave.
Whenever the kutta gari (police van with prisoners) appears in the kacheri, she runs towards it, and pushes with her frail shoulders through all the male relatives of the other prisoners. Sometimes she succeeds. Other times, she stumbles and falls on the gravel road. Her heart beats faster and her head pounds with the rush of blood. He eyes search the prisoners getting out of the kutta gari expectantly, hoping that one of them is her son. She runs towards the closing door of the van and tries to pull it open. But the police minions shoved her away. She bursts out crying, shouting and wailing ‘qanoon kithay way, Magistrate kithay way” (where is law, where is Magistrate).
“According to the peon, her son was picked up by the local thana (police station) because he refused to give them free fruit from the shop where he worked. She went to one police station to another searching for him, but each would deny having picked him up, till finally she came back to the police station next to his fruit shop and sat on the steps in front of the SHO’s office and started to wail in a loud voice. This attracted the attention of a fat and sloppy police officer, who said casually, ‘he is chor (thief). He bought a stolen cycle. Tell him to give us the cycle and he can go free.’
“The old woman was shocked and perplexed.
“He is not a chor!, ‘she cried hysterically. ‘He is not a chor! He has no money, so how can he buy a cycle? Come with me to the house and see for yourself that there is no cycle. He is innocent.’ The sloppy officer, turned his back towards her, and said, ‘Go to the kacheri in the morning and prove his innocence before the magistrate and we’ll release him.’
“I asked the peon why she didn’t get a lawyer. Why didn’t anybody help her? He told me she had no money to engage a lawyer. She got trapped in the hands of one of the Court touts, who promised to have her son released. She sold everything she owned and was even ready to sell herself to get justice for her son, but it seemed this was not enough. Under this pretext, the tout squeezed every last penny out of her. She was shown light but the dark tunnel never ended, Whenever she told the tout that she had met all his expenses, yet her son still had not been freed, he retorted, ‘Amma aap samajhti nahin, qanoon ka apna aik procedure hy rasta hy jaisay hi woo puro hoga wo bahar aa jaey gaa (mother you don’t understand, the law follows its own course and procedure, once it is complete he will be released”.
“Each night when she returned to her shack, she barely had the strength to sit on the wane (rope) chowky (stool). She would gaze at the empty bed, and keep staring at it. At times it seemed as if the smell of her son was emanating from the bed sheet. She would experience a feeling of loneliness, of being alone, of being abandoned.
“……. While these games were being played with her, she watched like a helpless silent spectator, as the system yielded without pain or remorse to the rich and beautiful. A Pajero would come and a Pajero would go, a Land Cruiser would sail in and a Land Cruiser would sail out. The police and minions of the court would dance to the tune of the piper. Handcuffs would fall to the ground. Cases would take to the winds, Justice was being seemed to be done but Lady Justice’s blindfold had slipped. Now qanoon was a captive of the rich and the poor were invisible. But still she waited, deprived of her worldly possessions, on the verge of nervous breakdown. She went blind with her eyes riveted to the main gate of kacheri (court) looking for the magistrate and qanoon that would set free her innocent son………
“The days rolled into months and the months into years, She became familiar with every nook and corner of the kachery but her son never appeared. She recalled being told in her childhood that Allah is in every breath, so started the vird of qanoon and magistrate so that He might hear her and deliver her son. In this quest of devotion to her cause she contracted a king of dewangi (madness).
“…….She would see criminals entering a room with a person in a black coat and then come out scot free. So she thought that maybe by wearing a black coat, which she bought from landa bazaar, she would be able to have her son freed………
“….. As I was talking a tea boy appeared, she stood up and asked him, ‘Do you know my son?’, before moving away muttering, ‘Main maan hun, qanoon amir or taqatwar ka hy, mujhay naa qanoon mila naa magistrate mila.’ (I am a mother, justice is for the rich and powerful, I have neither got justice no have I found magistrate).
“toon qanoon aain, toon Magistrate aain”…………. Her voice was drowned out by the recitation of an old man, who was approaching………. He recited loudly: Chal Bhulia! Chal uthay chaliyay jitahy saray annay Na Koi saddi zat pichanain, na koi sanon munnay (Bhulia! Let’s move to the place where the blind live. Neither someone recognizes out caste nor is familiar with our identity)……. The woman followed him and joined him in chanting, “Allah Hoo, Allah Hoo (Arabic phrase uttered by Sufis in ecstasy).”
“She was taking her case to another court- the court of Allah.” (Ends)