In defence of Ayyan Ali
Despite the fact that neither reading nor writing are genres of interest that our nation generally associates with, we are all familiar with a story authored by the legendary 13th century Persian poet, Sheikh Saadi. The hikayat (as Saadi would put it himself) goes by the name of “A Stupid Friend” and narrates the story of a man who decides to befriend a monkey and ends up getting his nose chopped off, the story concludes with the moral that “a wise foe is far better than a stupid friend”.
I don’t know why my subconscious manages to recollect this story every time I see our adorable Imran Khan surrounded by his people. It’s useless to get into the details over how and why the once rising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) now lies in shambles and the once charming Imran looks more bewildered with every passing day.
Everyone knows that it is the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ within the party that has successfully managed to bring about its own doom. A caucus of non-political men and women, who neither have the remotest understanding of realpolitik nor have the ability to ever stand test in the arena of electoral politics, has managed to form a clout of influence which runs high in intra-party affairs.
It is due to people like these that the party which once claimed to be the flag bearer of ‘change’ is today no more than a prime-time laughing stock. One such person Imran has befriended and whom I feel compelled to respond to, with reference to her article in the Daily Times titled ‘Legalising Shades of Grey’, is Andleeb Abbas.
Her piece, which was carried in the March 13, 2017, edition was perplexing. Without indulging any further in banter, let us come straight to what lies in this article, the main reasons why I feel the need to respond.
As an associate at the Amir Mirza Law Firm, a partner of the Khosa Law Chambers, I had the privilege of watching the criminal and civil cases concerning Ayyan Ali. I have also rendered my on-record assistance at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) (Crl Rev number 95/2015 ie The State versus Ms Ayyan) wherein the litigant Model Customs Collectorate Islamabad unsuccessfully challenged the order of the Special Judge Customs regarding superdari (the interim custody of seized property connected with as offence) of Ayyan’s passport and the permission to exercise at will her right to freedom of movement.
It is during this time that I had the privilege of perusing about a dozen judgments and orders delivered by three High Courts of the land and our Apex Court, all of which spoke volumes about the vindictive harassment Ayyan had faced at the hands of the executive.
I have written about this sheer disgrace on the state’s part in the past and do no not feel inclined to get into the same again. However, when an information secretary of a mainstream political party decides to bestow upon us her comments and therein resorts to commentary on an adjudicated upon case, I am pushed to respond.
Abbas, in her article, makes her first reference to Ayyan at the very outset, where she talks about Ayyan’s high black boots and a luxury plane in which she presumes Ayyan fled the country.
Dear Andleeb Abbas, sorry to burst your bubble, which is clearly over-inflated by a random Twitter feed, the picture you are referring to is about two-years-old and was part of a shoot Ayyan did for Turkish Airlines. My advice, it wouldn’t hurt to Google things before basing inferences on them.
Coming to the other portions of her article:
1. Abbas discloses that the offence allegedly committed on the intervening nights of March 14 and 15, 2015, ought to have come under the cognisance of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) rather than Pakistan Customs.
It seems like Abbas has never read the document called ‘The Customs Act 1969 (IV of 1969)’; Sections 2(s), 156(1)8 and 70 when read with Section 8 of the Foreign Exchange Regulations 1947 and Section 3(1) of the ITC 1950 make it abundantly clear as to whom is vested with the authority to prosecute a case relating to ‘currency smuggling’.
Furthermore, she may be unaware of a statute titled ‘Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (VII of 2010)’ and may not know of the ‘predicate offence’ under the said statue.
I don’t expect her to be aware of these avenues of jurisprudence nor do I press upon them but before lecturing the nation as to which Investigation Agency was competent to deal with the case, Abbas should have read the Quashment Order of the Special Judge Customs (Rawalpindi and Islamabad Capital Territory) dated March 30, 2016, (Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) vs Ms Ayyan) and two reported judgments of the Honourable Lahore High Court (LHC) i.e. 2015 LHC 4454 (Ms Ayyan vs The State) and 2015 LHC 6059 (Muhammad Awais vs Special Judge Customs).
In these three judgments, one presiding judge of the Trial Court and four honourable judges of the August High Court particularly dealt with the subject case and ruled upon the matter of jurisdiction.
2. Abbas then turns her pen on the subject of witness protection and narrates the story of a customs officer who was a witness in Ayyan’s case and was murdered before his deposition. It is hard to feel sorrow as Abbas notes down her pain for the departed soul and his surviving widow. It is, however, necessary to inform her that Inspector Chaudhry Ejaz, the slain officer, was neither an investigation officer in Ayyan’s Case (FIR number 10/2015 Model Customs Collectorate Mauve Area G-9/1 Islamabad) nor an arresting officer and most certainly not a witness.
It seems like Abbas’s source of knowledge in the case is random newspapers. Moreover, she may not have read the judgment delivered by a Full Bench of the Supreme Court (SC) and authored by the right honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan in Crl MA number 1154/2016 where he dismisses the impleadment application of Saima Ijaz.
The SC placed reliance on the case and after having perused all the challans ever submitted, the Trial Court ruled that Inspector Chaudhry Ejaz was an ‘alien’ to Ayyan’s case and thus no motive can be driven in the matter. Abbas is advised to read the Daily Express Islamabad Edition dated September 26, 2016. A clipping of the said paper is being attached here for her kind perusal.
3. Before parting with her confusing article, Abbas does not forget to make some tongue-in-cheek remarks about Ayyan’s removal from the Exit Control List (ECL). She presumes that it was a ‘few direct meetings’ which managed to remove Ayyan’s name from the ECL. It takes stomach, which I don’t possess, to respond at Abbas’s level, but if someone intends to understand the chronology of injustice extended to Ayyan, he/she should read the judgment delivered by the Sindh High Court (SHC) in Const P 3708/2016 (Ms Ayyan Ali vs Govt of Pakistan) wherein a larger bench of SHC said,
“Petitioner has faced vendetta of a level which is unprecedented in the history of the country.”
Furthermore, it is clear that Ayyan’s name was finally removed from the ECL after the SC on Civil P 165/2017 (Govt of Pakistan vs Miss Ayyan Ali) said,
“This is the sixth such order in the matter regarding removal of the respondents’ name from the ECL and we make it clear that the inability of the petitioner to comply this time shall expose him to contempt of court proceedings without any further delay or affordance of opportunity”.
Ayyan earned her constitutional rights through a fiercely contested legal battle and only has the country’s judiciary to thank.
Abbas also gave some advice in regards to the improvement of our criminal justice system. She asserts that our law gets cold feet when faced with the mighty and strength when pitted against the poor.
I would not disagree to this extent as we all know how Abbas was swiftly released after her detention for violating Section 144 in Islamabad. All while her party workers languished in prison for weeks before being released on bail.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.