Justice Munir and some scattered thoughts

I’ve been reading Judging the State by Paula Newburg — I can’t praise it enough. The only thing I wish is that the author had gone more in depth with the various opinions written by Justice Munir and Justice Cornelius on the major supreme court cases of the 1950s such as the Maulvi Tamizuddin case.

To be honest, I started out with a very negative view of Justice Munir. My overall opinion of him is still largely negative. Newburg makes a really interesting comment at one point that Justice Munir’s pro-stability realism actually demonstrates the limitations of realist thought. (I believe it was in the context of Justice Munir’s post fact justifications of his support of Ayub Khan’s rule by saying he did what he did to preserve the judiciary as an institution — but of course if this is true, he actually destroyed the independence of the judiciary and thereby, its power). But he was a complicated man in complicated times and one must consider the impact on his thinking of his study of the anti-Ahmadi riots after the first martial law.

In short, what I’m wondering is, how would most people act in a situation where they believed they were faced with an intractable right wing that had unlimited power to appeal to the most basic and widely held principles of the entire population? Wouldn’t one be tempted to choose an equally strong counterweight (the military) to the right wing?

The thought fills me with disgust, since I am a strong believer in representative government and democracy. But it does somewhat lessen my disgust for Justice Munir.

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4 responses to “Justice Munir and some scattered thoughts

  1. Shayan

    Munir also wrote a very extensive and very intelligent report on the 1951/52 Ahmadiyya violence. It was the strongest indictment of Pakistan’s drift away from secularism. That report is a very enlightening read.

    • Rabia

      Hi Shayan,
      Yeah, what I was trying to do (very badly) in the post was create a link between his views expressed in the Munir report and his invocation of the doctrine of necessity and various anti-democratic judgements of the 1950s.

      At the end of the Munir report there is that famous paragraph where he says something like “If democracy means subverting law and order to political ends then Allah knows best”… i.e. the conclusion was that had the anti ahmadi riots been dealt with purely as a law and order problem, things would not have escalated the way they did.

      I believe that Justice Munir had a very deep distrust of the consequences of democracy in Pakistan — like there was a part in the book I was reading where someone asked him what would have happened had the Maulvi Tamizuddin case judgement been different (i.e. had the supreme court overturned the governor general’s dissolution of the Constituent Assembly) and he said that there would have been “Revolution with a capital R” or something like that… I am guessing that the communist scare at the time also had something to do with it, i.e. it wasn’t just fear of Islamism, but probably the overarching thing was a deep distrust of any kind of democracy.

  2. stuka

    “how would most people act in a situation where they believed they were faced with an intractable right wing that had unlimited power to appeal to the most basic and widely held principles of the entire population? Wouldn’t one be tempted to choose an equally strong counterweight (the military) to the right wing?”

    Isn’t your question really…” how would an individual with power react in a situation where s/he is faced by a populace that holds diametrically opposed views”.

    Please see the difference between my sentence and yours. It is the same but neutral in terms of language and shorn of subjective adjectives. The military IS the right wing.

  3. Rabia

    I disagree. The army is the nationalist right, the religious leaders are the religious right. There is significant overlap obviously, especially since 1977 but it was different during Justice Munir’s time.

    Actually it’s interesting because the current situation is similar to the 50s in that there is again conflict between the nationalist right wing elements in the army and the religious right.

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