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The Other Side Of The Story: Cleric Iftikharuddin Is Languishing In Jail Over A Misunderstanding

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While surfing VOA Urdu and BBC Urdu websites one casual morning, a news piece took me by shock. The news was about the wife of honorable Justice Qazi Faez Isa requesting Islamabad police to lodge an FIR against a person whose video has gone viral on social media. She claimed that the person is ‘threatening’ to kill Justice Faez Isa. Further, she told that she did not know the person but that social media users say he is someone named Iftikhar Mirza from Rawalpindi.

What happened subsequently is common knowledge. To summarise, the FIA summoned Iftikhar Mirza for his statement after lodging an FIR against him on the application of Justice Isa’s wife.

Later, the Attorney General appears before the bench hearing the case and informs the court that terrorism charges have also been added to the FIR against Iftikhar Mirza.

Mirza is a 67-year-old cardiac patient and has already undergone heart bypass surgery. He also arrived at the Supreme Court to give his side of the story, but he is not allowed to enter the court room. Instead, he is manhandled by the police. Then Iftikhar Mirza appears before FIA to give his statement. FIA officials make him wait for hours and arrest him without listening to his point of view.

This was followed by thrill and drama on mainstream as well as social media where Mirza was humiliated. One-sided reporting accused him of threatening to kill Justice Faez Isa (while he didn’t, if you watch the said video clip with an open, neutral and unbiased mind). Further, media also ran the (exaggerated) story that Iftikhar Mirza has submitted an undertaking in Supreme Court wherein he has said that the comments in that video were made under the influence of ‘drugs’ used by him sometimes, and that he is a hypertension patient.

Prominent journalists, both from print and broadcast media, shared these stories without trying to find out the other side of the story. Taking whatever information available on media about Iftikhar on face value, it appears as if he is an extremist cleric like the TLP chief Khadim Rizvi and Ashraf Jalali who have repeatedly taken law into their own hands and declared individuals ‘traitors’ and ‘infidel’.

However, for people like me who know Iftikhar Mirza in person, the entire saga has made them (and me) lose faith in media, judiciary, investigation agencies, and journalists working in mainstream media as well as social media (with the exception of a few) who claim to be the champions of truth. Following are the reasons for the loss of trust.

  1. Iftikhar Mirza is not an ordinary person, He is, in fact, Agha Iftikhar ud Din Mirza, born as an Ahmadi but converted to Islam after he was inspired by the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Subsequently, he forsake his luxurious life and decided to study religion. He went to Qom, the epicenter of Shia Islam’s religious studies. After the completion of his studies, he came back to Pakistan where he is associated with a Jamia Mosque in Morgah Rawalpindi as prayer leader (paish Imam) and has been leading the weekly Friday Prayers since early 90s.
  2. Agha Iftikhar Mirza, despite being a well reputed religious scholar and leading a Jamia Mosque, does not own a house and resides along with his family in a rented portion.
  3. While the traditional ulema run madrassas and breed religious students, who are often a burden on the society (from the socio-economic point of view) and some also go towards extremism, Agha Iftihar Mirza helped produce doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, business graduates, PhDs, military officers etc., who have been serving Pakistan and are peaceful, law abiding citizens. His students can’t even imagine resorting to violence and even hurling a stone at someone (let alone threatening to kill).
  4. It is also pertinent to mention here that when the former dictator Pervez Musharraf deposed the then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) in March 2007 and elicited a lawyers movement for restoration of CJP and other judges (when they were deposed in November 2007), Agha Iftikhar Mirza, not only vehemently opposed the dictator’s move, but he also participated in the long march for the restoration of judges. How can he threaten to kill a judge when he as protested against his sacking and supported his reinstatement and independence?
  5. Coming to the video clip, he has not hurled any threat, direct or indirect, blunt or veiled, to kill Justice Faez Isa. He has only suggested a purported Chinese model justice system where corrupt officials, if convicted (I repeated he has said, ”if convicted”) be dealt with the way the Chinese do. One can question the wordings, one may question if such a model exists in China in the first place, but accusing him of issuing murder threat is beyond logic. Labeling him a terrorist, framing terror charges against him and FIA’s harassment and incarceration of Agha Iftikhar Mirza is the travesty of justice.

The second aspect of the video clip case is contempt of court. Agha Iftikhar Mirza has already tendered unconditional apology to the court over his words. Supreme Court has, in the past precedents, accepted the apologies of mighty and more powerful who used more derogatory words of intense degree. Scapegoating Agha Iftikhar Mirza who has absolutely no backing from any political and religious parties or any institution. That he has been languishing in Adyala Jail for the last several days despite being over 67, cardiac patient and having undergone heart bypass surgery, corroborates the fact that he is alone with no backing whatsoever.

Lastly, I would like to make two heartfelt appeals. First one addressed to the wife of Justice Faez Isa and the second one to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

To the wife of Justice Faez Isa: Respected madam, if somehow you end up reading this write-up, I hope that after reading these words written while I am in extreme distress, grief and pain for what has befallen to my respected teacher, you would come to the conclusion that person of such a profile cannot even threaten to hurl a stone at someone, let alone issue a murder threat. The FIR was lodged because of misunderstanding. Please withdraw the case against our beloved teacher Agha iftikhar Mirza so that he may finally find relief from the woes and betides inflicted on him for the sins he did not commit in the first place. If Afga Iftikhar, despite being innocent, is still made to suffer further by using him as a scapegoat in your case against the establishment, justice will prevail on the day of judgement where you, me, judges, generals, politicians, bureaucrat – everyone will be answerable.

To the Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan: Dear Sir, now that Agha Iftikhar Mirza has apologized over his comments and it is established that he has no backing from any quarter, please accept his apologies and exonerate him. Punishing the weak and oppressed will not elevate the respect of judiciary. Forgiving the weak will not degrade the judiciary either.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect Naya Daur Media’s editorial policy.

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