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Random thoughts

April 15, 2020

Legal matters

Opinion

April 15, 2020

The coronavirus has played havoc, causing more than 70,000 deaths all over the world and more than a million people have been infected. So much has already been written on the subject that I don’t want to add any more this week.

Today, I would like to mention an invaluable historical book written by our well-known lawyer, a former minister, senator and a prolific writer, S M Zafar. This book, 'History of Pakistan Reinterpreted', has been published by Manzoor Law Book House, Lahore. Who hasn’t heard of Mr Zafar. He was the youngest minister in the cabinet of President Ayub Khan. His father, a religious scholar, was a successful businessman in Rangoon. After Partition they came to Pakistan, where he studied and became a successful lawyer. In addition to his legal and constitutional expertise, he is also a literary figure. As president of the 'Ravians', he often invited me to be chief guest at their annual functions. Before going into detail about the book (kept for next week), I would like to write about the importance of Mr Zafar to me personally and to KRL.

In 1983, the Dutch government, under pressure from the US and Israel, initiated a false case against me, accusing me of espionage. What had happened was that, when we started our programme, I had no library or literature and I needed some information of the very techniques I had developed there during the course of my work with FDO. I wrote a note to my former assistant requesting this, but never received a reply. After three years that letter was used to accuse me of attempting to obtain classified information. The bench, consisting of three judges, hurriedly convicted me in absentia to four years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, we were totally unaware of these proceedings. When one of my former class-fellows came to Pakistan on his way to Indonesia, he brought a Dutch newspaper with him containing the news. I immediately asked our ambassador to Holland, Dr Khurshid Haider, to file an appeal in the High Court of Amsterdam, using the services of two competent lawyers she had recommended. I wanted a Pakistani lawyer to be part of the proceedings and requested Mr S M Zafar to represent me. Gen Zia asked me not to bother with this case as I was considered to be a national hero, but I thought otherwise. I would never be able to travel abroad and my family would be remembered as related to a criminal. I told him I had already requested Mr Zafar to represent me.

The Dutch lawyers and Mr Zafar held many meetings to prepare the case. While the Dutch lawyer would pass judgement on legal grounds, I decided to prepare a case on technical grounds. To this end I sent the file of the case to world-renowned professors, requesting them to issue certificates stating that the requested information was not classified. Two British, two German, two Belgian and one Dutch professors, all gave me excellent certificates. In addition to this, one French, one German and one British top-notch lawyers issued certificates stating that the case and judgement were mala fide and illegal. All the professors and legal experts stated their willingness to appear in court.

The presiding judge then invited the state prosecutor and our lawyers to an in-chamber meeting. He asked the state prosecutor whether he wanted to continue fighting the case. When the state prosecutor saw all the certificates, he said that he would not contest the case as it had no substance and he felt that the previous prosecutor had blundered. As a matter of fact, he even said that he would send a letter to the defending lawyers stating that he had never doubted the fact that Dr Khan had not indulged in espionage and that the previous prosecutor had been wrong in filing the case.

The case was quashed. The Dutch lawyers appreciated the contribution made by Mr S M Zafar and they became good friends. We also became good friends and he would often attend dinners with us in Islamabad. I travelled to Holland a number of times after that to see my in-laws and never faced any difficulty.

Email: [email protected]