Posted on March 16, 2007. Filed under: Chief Justice of Pakistan |

Where in the world is Justice Rana Bhagwandas

This man is missing. The various long arms and big mouths of the government of Pakistan are declaring complete ignorance of the whereabouts of a 64 year old Pakistani citizen. And no ordinary citizen this one. The missing in this case is the honourable judge Justice Rana Bhagwandas, who just happens to be the second most senior judge on the supreme court of Pakistan. Family, friends, and coworkers seem to have no firm idea where their beloved is. The media have picked up on the plight of those concerned about the safety and the whereabouts of the missing person. Sadly this is not the first time someone has completely disappeared off the face of Pakistan, leaving family and friends waiting in the dark, never to be heard from again. And this is not the first time that the government, with its 17 police and secret agencies feigns ignorance of the whereabouts of the missing person. All the kings’ donkeys and all the kings’ men are unable to locate the missing old man.

Lately, the Supreme Court had become the place to seek help in locating these missing persons. But with its maverick Chief Justice, the champion of Pakistan’s‘ missing people, himself under house arrest, it does not seem available to look into the matter.

Here is what we do know. Justice Bhagwandas, took leave and went on a trip to India. He held meetings at the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. None of their justices is missing so far. But from there on, the trail of our justice has gone cold. He left for his hotel and presumably onwards to Lucknow. There have been some indications of him calling his wife from a PCO (public call office) in Lucknow. Apparently his cell phone does not answer. Why? Two theories: He forgot his cell phone charger in Pakistan. Or, he gave up his cell phone to street crime in New Delhi. Delhi-Karachi, Karachi-Delhi. Same brown skins, same ghatya crimes. But lets digress.

The matter of the Pakistani Justice of Supreme Court gone missing, in the back drop of the current constitutional crisis, is also a big news story in India. Alas, not big enough. The multitudes of Indian cable news channels, tehelkas, tamashas, dhamakas, et al, have either been unable or unwilling to find the judge.

The government of India, rightly suspicious of visitors from Pakistan, keeps a close watch on them during their travel all the way up to departure from India. The recent tragedy of the fire bombing of the Samjhota express shows the extent of this control on tourists. The passengers were locked into the train and unable to escape the inferno. The locks are apparently meant to keep the tourists from slipping away in the newly shining India. Surely, they must know if the judge is still in India and if yes, where in. The alternate scenario where they might have lost track of a 64 year old man does not shine a complimenting light on their sleuthing skills. And that does not bode well for an India wary of so called ISI-trained terrorists slipping across the border. Lets just hope they are lying to us and their own citizenry.

Pakistan itself requires government employees to give out all kinds of details when they visit abroad. Here is a senior justice of our supreme court, protocol and all. It would be safe to assume that High Commission of Pakistan in India would be aware of this visit and have means to contact His Honour should there be need. But no. Not only do they not know where he is. BBC Urdu service reported the Pakistan High Commission declaring they only came to know about the judges’ visit from reports in Indian newspapers. Read the Urdu here. An English transcript of this is at Darveshs blog. The height of ridiculousness.

There is another theory, that the judge is not so much missing as in hiding. As in self seclusion. Was he approached with the governments’ plans, and given the choices of being a party to this coup or staying away from the mess chose the later option. He had to have been, given the way his absence is unfolding. He turns 65, the age for retirement, in December. He might have seen two choices before himself. Earn a blackmark on his judicial record at the twilight ofhis long and distinguished career, for history to judge him, or try to avoid the mess. There did exist a third option. That of standing upto the dictator. And that choice still exists before His Honour.

Issuing this Talaash-e-gumshuda (missing person) alert on the internet seems our only chance at finding our justice. Anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of the judge is encouraged to contact us, the media, and lastly the government.


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