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Kadri, a lifetime crusader against injustice

Special Correspondent, London
Wednesday, 28 December, 2011 08:23:01 PM

The first British Muslim QC Sibghatullah Kadri who spearheaded struggle for ethnic minorities in Britain is known as a leading authority on immigration and race relations. Born on April 23, 1937 in Indian city of Badaun, Kadri has been a champion of raising voice against oppression and injustice. “My father Firasatullah Kadri was a religious scholar.  I migrated to Pakistan along with my father in 1950. We were 6 brothers and two sisters of whom one brother and one sister had died. I passed Matriculation examination from Punjab. My parents wanted to make me a scientist and hence took admission in Karachi University to study Chemistry and Mathematics in 1956. As a student I joined the struggle against the Martial Law of General Ayub Khan. I was elected as General Secretary of the Karachi University Students Union. I and my other colleagues were arrested for opposing the Martial Law and languished in prison for 7 months without trial. On release from the jail I wrote a Habeas Corpus petition against my detention. In other words I prepared the first case of my life for myself. Like many other students struggling against Martial Law I was also deported from Karachi to Hyderabad in 1959.I was refused exemption and had to repeat my B.Sc Honours Final year but I could not complete my degree because of the student protests.”

A staunch opponent of Ayub’s Martial Law regime while in Pakistan, Sibghatullah Kadri giving reason for his migration to England said “my elder brother  had already come to London to study Bar and he also wanted me to join him. However, in the meantime my elder sister received burn injuries in a fire in her home due to which first my sister and her husband and later all our family migrated to London. I came to London at the age of 23 and found a clerk’s job in a firm for £10. My brother did not want me to study law. Since I had not passed A and O levels, I could not get admission in the University while at that time Barrister’s education was private. Not holding any other degree I was left with no option but to study Bar. I applied in Inner Temple and told them about my position in detail upon which they admitted me at Bar on special grounds.”

“In 1962, we revived Pakistani students’ organisation in London to launch movement for restoration of democracy in Pakistan. I was elected as its General Secretary. In this cause we also mustered support from East Pakistan’s students studying in England. We held series of protests and demonstrations against General Ayub Khan on his visit to the UK and also occupied the Pakistan High Commission’s building to register our protest against continuance of dictatorship in the country. “ 

He described the present political and economic situation and scandals surfacing one after the other as the failure of the government and its unpopularity in the public. “These scandals would continue surfacing one after the other as the people are not with this government. This government is the slave to NRO. The NRO has eaten up the supremacy of law. This NRO group does not want to give power to the Supreme Court and likes Dogar courts. In 3 and a half years of its tenure the present government has done not a single work that Benazir would have even it did not apprehend her killers. This government is not protecting the democracy but its own seat. The President leaves the country as soon as he feels that presidential immunity is being withdrawn. Today PPP is a party just by its name.  All close colleagues of Benazir have been cornered or dispelled from the party. Bhutto’s case has been opened for doing politics. If they want to do something they should apprehend the killers of Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto. The whole world knows that Bhutto’s hanging was a judicial killing. The genuine heirs of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are his grandson and granddaughters who feel scared and ignored.”

“What was the qualification of Husain Haqqani that he was made ambassador except the friendship? His boss was not foreign office but Zardari House. Even today he is staying in President’s House as guest. However, there is a difference between Haqqani and Wajid Shamsul Hassan. Wajid would never tell lie. He would not say anything until he is directed to. The most important thing is that how America could take such a big action on its own.”

Kadqi considers that supremacy of law and respect for the courts’ verdicts as basic requirements to rescue the country out of the present state of anarchy. “At present the most basic and important thing is the supremacy of law. Politics should be open. Now Imran Khan is making his way and the people have been attaching many expectations from him. The Pakistani nation has become fed up of corruption, lawlessness and dearness. Bhutto also came out of the blue.  The way Bhutto reached out to the public, Imran is also doing in the same manner. May be this is the only way to bring democracy into the country and an independent foreign policy too. Another important thing is to purge the feudal mindset from the body politic of the country. The people should choose their leader instead of following some will left behind in favour of a son, daughter or any other relative.”

He has seen the struggle of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and accompanied in her journey back to Pakistan after ending the self exile. “She knew the nature of my relationship with her illustrious father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. I also had good relations with Murtaza Bhutto. The only difference with Benazir with me was my friendship with Murtaza. Benazir’s was of a bit feudal disposition while Murtaza was quite different. I am at a loss to say that those who distributed sweats on the hanging of ZulfiKar Ali Bhutto now make the important part of Zardari government.”

Sibghatullah Kadri holds the army, feudal lords and Mullas trioka responsible for ups and downs in the political life of Pakistan and fragility of democracy. "Bhutto was hanged not just by Ziaul Haq but by a system, the system that did not like the slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan. Mulla, Army and Feudal troika has been running the country since 1950. When Benazir came into power this troika felt that their interest was at stake. They also enjoyed the support of the imperialist powers. Benazir compromised with the Army after coming to power and first of all visited the residence of the Army Chief after taking oath. But after 18 months her government was dismissed. The present Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Zardari is not socialist and has never been the part of the PPP before but the establishment does not like PPP. Benazir signed NRO and assured some guarantees that Musharraf would remain President but the time proved that she was befooled. Benazir herself had sensed the situation. When she was attacked on reaching Karachi, she immediately realised that she had been trapped. America and Army had betrayed her. The same people are now exploiting Zardari through NRO.”

In a developed country a transparent system of governance is the strength of a democratic society in which anybody could progress through his ability and hard work. "People get seat in the Parliament or House of Lords only on their capability and rights and not through bootlicking. Unfortunately in Pakistan there is quota system but not here in this country where it is illegal. An untouchable from India could become MP in this country. There does exist some kind of discrimination in British society in one form or the other but there are also laws and regulations to check them. The children of bus drivers and workers who came here from Pakistan are now sitting in the House of Commons and House of Lords.”

 
   

Kadri who struggled for democracy in Pakistan did not sit content after migrating to London and launched struggle against racial indiscrimination and inequality and continued his struggle from different platforms for the rights of the ethnic minorities fruit of which are now being enjoyed by the Asian community. “I passed out Barrister Exam in 1965. In the meantime Labour Party won the general elections. At that time racial discrimination in this country was at its peak. No one would even rent out his place to blacks nor were they given any jobs. Labour Party wanted to make some law against racial discrimination and for that purpose had issued a White Paper for consultation.  To speak on this move I was invited by BBC Urdu Programme on behalf of my organization Afro-Asian and Caribbean Lawyers Association. They liked my voice so much that they offered me job and I started working with them as outside contributory (OC). Later I also was associated with BBC Asian Radio Birmingham. We formed an organization by the name of Scope to struggle against racial discrimination that consisted of some 100 big and small bodies. I also launched Asian Action of which I was the convener. We met with the Prime Minister and apprised him of our problems. In 1969 BBC banned me for speaking at a demonstration at Inner Temple. Somehow or the other I passed bar’s final exam and became barrister."

He who struggled against racism in Britain himself remained its victim.  “Earlier, there was a law in this country that no barrister from outside could practice in all the four Temples. There was no Asian barrister in the country. All QCs were English. No Asian or black was allowed pupilage after passing the bar exam and if at all one could be able to get it the chamber would not give him any place. Earlier, the barristers could practice only in the chambers established in the temple while these days they have opened offices along roads. The Whites had over 100 year old chambers that mean they were being run from generation to generation. There was tutorial for Oxford University students but not for other students. There was discrimination and not equation in education. We launched a whole hearted campaign against this indiscrimination and occupied inner Temple hall that raised a large hue and cry but some of our demands were also met including formation of a union. For the first time Inner Temple students union was formed of which I was the first President and defeated John Laws (now Lord Justice Laws). Although there was my brother’s chamber but I decided not to join that because all in his chamber were Asians, no black or white. I applied in many chambers but with no response. Later I was also banned to do pupilage with my brother’s chamber. In 1971 I got the pupillage in Lord Gifford’s chamber but after that was not allowed to work there. At last all I decided to open my own chamber. The people at Inner Temple permitted me to set up my chamber at No.11 as they thought that soon it would be closed. I started multi racial chamber together with seven people. I had passed bar exam in 1969 and opened the chamber in 1973 that meant that a junior had become the head of a chamber. I gradually started raising voice against racial discrimination as a result of which race relation committee was formed and many changes were made. In 1979 I formed Commonwealth Lawyers Association which in 1983 was renamed as Black Lawyers Association. I became its first chairman and Barrister Rudy Narayan general secretary. A struggle was waged against discriminatory treatment of ethnic minorities.”

Kadri holds indifference on the part of the community leaders responsible for fast growing sense of deprivation among community youth. ‘I understand that the July 7 events were the reaction against various inequalities and discriminating treatment. When the Muslim youth see that they are being discriminated on the basis of language and religion and on the other hand they also see the atrocities being let loose against Palestinians they want to do something. Unfortunately our community lacks in leadership that could lead them into right direction. While on the other hand if there is some sort of leadership it is in the form of Sophies who receive grant from the British government. The situation now is no more like it had been in sixties and seventies. Now our community is mature enough and is engaged in different fields of life. Our second and third generations are British Muslims and think in that way. Mosque committees are divided in sects and Eid is celebrated on two different days. We are too much indulged into Pakistani politics and the mosque Imams are speaking about Gwantanamo bay and Libya while they are not supposed to speak on politics. Our representatives who had been elected on public votes should pay attention to the problems of their constituencies instead of speaking on Pakistan’s politics. I don’t mean that they should cut off their relations with Pakistan but should also pay attention to the youth of their community. Pakistani politicians are sufficient to take care of their country.”

British government is talking of making the immigration laws stricter so much so that it is being suggested to restrict the number of immigrants per annum. “We had struggled a lot with regard to immigration laws but unfortunately our own people are abusing these laws, especially asylum laws are miserably abused. People came here, sought permanent residence, got British passport and left their wives and children here on social security and left for Pakistan to do politics. I am against any discrimination in immigration policy on the basis of race and creed or on any other ground, but we should also be responsive to our responsibilities alongside enjoying our rights otherwise we would ourselves create problems for us by strengthening the hands of the extremists.”

Kadri was married with his wife Carita in 1963 and the couple has a son and a daughter. The son is a barrister and writer while the daughter is an Educationalist and lives with her family in the United States.

Comments

His life is epitome of struggle for human rights ,I feel proud of his friendship ,the only missing link here was his house is the shelter for many nukamma log like me and ejoyed his COOKING ,which we relish till we live.I will fail in my DUTY if I do not mention CARITA his great spouse friend and supporter,who as said there is a woman behind every successful men CARITA is living example of keeping him PRESERVED ,I do not know or imagine WHAT AND WHERE he ended himself without her!!

AHMAD ZAHIR KHAN

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