A lawyer for many causes

September 12, 2021

Javed Iqbal Jaffery will be remembered for taking up causes of public interest

A lawyer for many causes

Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, famous for initiating litigation on behalf of the public, was laid to rest on August 31 at the Bhatta Chowk cemetery in Lahore. Throughout his life, spanning almost 86 years, he refused to believe in letting sleeping dogs lie. He is survived by a wife and a son.

Having completed his legal education in London, he also worked as a district attorney in the United States. In addition to his legal interests, the barrister had a passion for arts, particularly painting. His work has been exhibited. Quddus Mirza in his piece for TNS, Art and the artistpays tribute to the late lawyer who reveled in contraditons.

Among his most prominent petitions were those asking for the release of Dr Afia Siddiqui from US captivity, removing the restrictions placed on the movement of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, and declaring the extradition of Aimal Kansi to the US illegal. Lahore High Court (LHC) has yet to rule on his petition to bring the Kohinoor diamond back from the UK. He had also petitioned the government to get back from India a 5,000-year-old bronze statue called the Dancing Girl.

In July 2008, Jaffrey filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of Dr Aafia Siddiqui - a US citizen of Pakistani origin. A US court has convicted Siddiqui of shooting at US Army and FBI officers while in custody in Afghanistan and sentenced her to 86 years imprisonment.

In his petition Jaffrey stated that US operatives had kidnapped Siddiqui and her three children as part of an Al Qaeda manhunt in 2004. The US, according to him, had moved her to Bagram Theatre Internment Facility (the Afghan prison) with the assistance of Pakistani authorities.

As a part of his petition Jaffrey asked the Islamabad High Court to order the government to disclose whether Siddiqui had been killed in detention. He wanted her to be brought before the court and compensated for illegal detention if she still lived. Siddiqui is now incarcerated at the Federal Medical Centre in Carswell, US.

Barrister Jaffery complained to IHC in July 2008 that Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Aslam had not ordered Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s detention. Khan had made international headlines in 2004 after publicly confessing his role in global nuclear proliferation. The IHC agreed to allow Khan to travel within Pakistan and access any health care facility of his choice.

Among his prominent petitions were requests for the release of Dr Afia Siddiqui from US captivity, against restrictions put on the movement of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, and the extradition of Aimal Kansi to the US. Lahore High Court (LHC) has yet to rule on his petition to bring the Kohinoor diamond back from the UK. 

In 1998, Aimal Kansi, sentenced to death in the US for murdering two employees of the Central Intelligence Agency outside the agency’s headquarters in 1993. Following a petition filed by Jaffery in 2010, a division bench of the LHC summoned the attorney general and the Punjab advocate general. The petition said that Kansi was illegally handed over to the US in 1998 during the Nawaz Sharif government.

Jaffery claimed that the respondents received large sums of money for turning Kansi over to the US and used the money to acquire assets abroad. He urged the court to order the respondents to surrender the assets to the state.

The deceased also filed a petition in August of 2012 for the restoration of Hindu temples in Lahore. He argued that the government had a constitutional duty to protect minorities’ rights.

The petition noted that several temples were destroyed in Lahore in 1992 following the destruction of the Babri Mosque in India and had not been restored. Jaffery requested the court to ensure that all temples were restored to their original condition and freed from illegal occupation.

In December 2015, the barrister filed a petition asking the government to bring back the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which India too has been trying to obtain from the UK. He asserted that the UK snatched it from Daleep Singh, grandson of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, and took it to Britain.

“The diamond became part of the crown of incumbent Queen Elizabeth II at the time of her crowning in 1953,” he said. “Queen Elizabeth has no right on the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which weighs 105 carats and is worth billions of rupees. Koh-i-Noor diamond was the cultural heritage of the Punjab province, and its citizens owned it.” He asked the court to direct the federal government to bring the diamond from Britain.

Jaffery petitioned the LHC in October 2016 for the return of a 5,000-year-old statue of a dancing girl. It is one of the two monumental statues of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation discovered at Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan in 1926.

The petition said that the 10.5cm high statue was taken from Pakistan 60 years ago at the request of the National Arts Council in Delhi and never returned. He argued that the statue is the property of the Lahore Museum. It is now held at the National Museum, New Delhi.

Jaffery was relentless in his quest for justice. His efforts for taking up causes of public interest will be remembered.

The writer is a freelance   contributor

A lawyer for many causes