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my article published in alternate solution of lahore

February 20, 2013

ONLY JUSTICE CHOWDHRY CAN PROVIDE ME JUSTICE: MUNOO BHEEL
By Abbas Kassar

[Abbas Kassar Senior Journalist based in Hyderabad.]

Munoo Bheel one of millions of unfortunate peasants who work as forced/bonded labour on farm lands of landlords in Sindh, is still waiting for justice to be done with him for recovery of his family of 8 kidnapped allegedly by landlord of Jhol district Sanghar since a decade ago. Bheel belongs to minority Hindu community considered as “untouchable” not only by Muslims but also by upper caste Hindus. Munoo Bheel believes that there is only one man in Pakistan that is Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry who can provide him justice and get his kidnapped family recovered.

Justice Chwodhry was hearing this case and on his orders the main accused landlord Abdul Rehman Mari was arrested in July 2006 and is still in Hyderabad central jail. It was on orders of Justice Chwodhry that former deputy inspector general police Mirpurkhas Rana Saleemullah Khan had tightened noose of kidnappers and had reached close to them but on a sudden he was transferred and later suspended by the then Arbab government because main accused landlord belonged to ruling clique. And Justice Chowdhry was also removed on 9 March 2007 by President General Mushraf.

Munoo Bheel’s 8 family members, old mother and father, brother Jalal, wife Motan, one and half year old daugher Dheeli, 8 years old another daughter Moomal, two sons Chaman of 15 years and Kanji of 12 years along with one guest were kidnapped on 2 May 1998 from village Waryam Memon near Jhuddo town of Mirpurkhas district. 8 persons of landlord of Jhol district Sanghar Abdul Rehman Mari, landlord of Jhudo Chowdhry Bashir, Kazi Jabbar Punjabi and 5 servants/farm managers/drivers of landlord Mari namely Sher Khan Mari, Hashsim Leghari, Sheral Chandio, Nathoo Bheel and Azam Khaskheli were nominated as accused kidnappers in FIR No.35/98 of Jhudo police station.

Munoo Bheel family had worked on lands of Abdul Rehman Mari and was liberated by HRCP Sindh Task Force led by late Shakeel Pathan in early 1998 but then landlord and his armed men kidnapped whole family few months later from village near Jhudo. For more than 5 years peasant Munoo Bheel kept running from pillar to post to recover his kidnapped family but all in vain. It was 19 January, 2003 that he started hunger strike in front of Hyderabad press club to invite attention of the authorities concerned to get help for recovery of his kidnapped family. Plight of Munoo Bheel was that the kidnapper was an influential landlord and front man of politically powerful Pir of Sindh as such no authority could provide help to Bheel.

It was at the end of year 2005 that Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chwodhry took suo moto notice of hunger strike of Munoo Bheel and directed Inspector General Police Sindh to recover the kidnapped peasant family. Then IG Sindh Asad Jehangir visited Hyderabad on Friday 25 November, 2005 where he met with Munoo Bheel and after taking his statement also visited Mirpurkhas and Sangher where he chaired meetings of police officers and issued directions to gear up efforts to recover Munoo’s family. He allowed police to raid any place/village for the purpose. Before he could report back to chief justice, he was retired before year end. New IG Sindh Jehangir Mirza continued efforts for recovery of kidnapped peasant family.

Meanwhile Sanghar police arrested one accused of case Nathoo Bheel, Kamdar (farm manager) of landlord who confessed in civil court Sanghar that he had accompanied landlord Mari along with other accused shown in FIR and kidnapped family of Munoo Bheel from village Waryam Memon near Jhuddo and then brought them to Garang Bunglow near Sanghar where they were handed over to armed men Sher Khan and others. (This is the same
Garang Bunglow which was the headquarter of resistance movement of Hur Jamat against Britishers led by Soorhia Badshah illustrious father of present Pir Pagaro).

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry continued to hold hearings of case and issued fresh directions on every hearing about recovery of kidnapped family and arrest of main accused landlord Abdul Rehman Mari who had got bail before arrest from district and sessions court Mirpurkhas. Lawyers of Peace and Human Rights Trust including Justice (retired) Rashid Rizvi, Aslam Rana, Taj Qaimkhani filed application for cancellation of bail of Mari in Sindh High Court and got the same cancelled by Justice Muneeb of Sindh High Court Hyderabad on 25 April, 2006.

Mari had first fled to Saudi Arabia and later his lawyers told Justice Chowdhry that he was in Balochistan. However when DIG Mirpurkhas Rana Saleemullah Khan tightened the noose around Mari he surrendered to Karachi police on 23 July 2006 through an influential person and since then he was first kept in Karachi central jail and nowadays he is in Hyderabad central jail. His lawyers had again tried for his bail on health grounds but the same was again rejected by SHC Hyderabad. CJP had held hearing of Munoo Bheel case at the end of
February 2007. It was last hearing as immediately after it Cheif Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry was removed by President General Mushraf who forwarded a reference against him to Supreme Judicial Council.

Though he was cleared of charges in reference by full court of supreme court headed by Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday on 20 July, 2007 yet he could hardly sort out pending cases, President Mushraf then army chief also issued emergency rule on 3 November, 2007 under which the judges not taking oath under PCO including CJP and 45 other judges of supreme and high courts were deposed. They were also detained under house arrest and released after 5 months by newly inducted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani on 31 March, 2008 after taking vote of confidence from the national assembly.

Events of judicial crisis were keenly watched by human rights bodies as well as peasant Munoo Bheel who has pinned all hopes of recovery of his kidnapped family with CJP’s restoration. He is also watching developments on Bhurban Declaration under which both the big parties of ruling coalition that are PPP and ML(N) have pledged to restore CJP and other deposed judges. On May 2, 2008, 10 years (a decade) completed and he is yet to see his the kidnapped family recovered. If Judges are not restored or restored minus Justice Iftikhar or restored for few months under new formula of reduced age, all hopes of Munoo Bheel for justice will evaporate and he could never be able to meet his family again. The non recovery of kidnapped family of Munoo Bheel would also cause set back to movement of human rights bodies who are working on liberation of more than 2 million bonded peasants presently languishing in private jails of landlords in Sindh.

Various HR bodies had liberated about 30,000 bonded peasants who are living in unhygienic and inhuman conditions in 7 Hari Camps in and around Hyderabad yet hundreds of thousands more are to be liberated. Though two big coalition partners have signed an agreement at Bhurban, Murree, reaffirming the restoration of judges including CJP, but the events leading thereafter show that though PML (N) is keen to see judges reinstated, PPP leader Asif Zardari is not interested in restoration of judges for his personal annoyance that the same judges had not given him relief during his 8 years of jail under harsh Mushraf rule.

The developments show that Zardari is following line of Musharraf more than Shaheed Benazir Bhutto perhaps feeling himself bound with the agreement of reconciliation under which he along with BB were allowed to return to the country. If policies of Musharraf are followed and judges not restored this may also be the last mandate of people for PPP. Now when no agreement has been reached between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif for the restoration of judges at their talks in London before 12 May 2008 the deadline for presenting resolution in national assembly, perhaps this was because of intervention of US minister Richard Boucher who met with both at London on final the day of talks, it appears that CJP Justice Chowdhy may not take his seat back at SC, it will prove final blow to the fate of Munoo Bheel whose family, according to him, could never be recovered without Justice Chowdhry. 
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