Community News

JUSTICE SAMDANI — Pakistan lost one of its great treasures

Pakistan lost one of its great treasures on April 11, 2013. Justice Khwaja Muhammad Ahmad Samdani is no more. He leaves behind a legacy of honesty, dignity and an absolute adherence to principles. He did not merely possess a strong moral compass, he served as its very definition.

Justice Samdani resigned his position in 1981 when Zia demanded that the judiciary retake their oath on a document that contained reprehensible and unconstitutional clauses.

Born in 1932 in Kareem Nagar, Hyderabad Deccan, Justice Samdani’s family opted to move to Pakistan after the partition. After completing his education and then teaching at Peshawar’s famed Islamia College, he joined the civil service. After a few years he opted for the judicial branch. Justice Samdani maintained a spotless reputation. In 1972, he was appointed an additional judge of the Lahore High Court.

During the Bhutto era, when the anti-Ahmedi sentiment was nearing a crescendo, Justice Samdani was asked to lead the Rabwah Tribunal, charged with investigating the violence that took place on May 29, 1974. While the full contents of the tribunal’s report were not shared with the public, Sadia Saeed reported in the book, “Political Power and Social Theory” that Justice Samdani found the Second Constitutional Amendment tantamount to “persecution of a vulnerable minority”. He expounded that while he was in favour of a ‘true Islamic state based on the principles of justice and equality’, due to the impossibility of realising such a state he was ‘in favour of secularism’. Justice Samdani was highlighting the impossibility of reconciling Islam’s original message of equality and fairness with the hatred and intolerance some were attempting to inject into it.

Three years later General Ziaul Haq seized power and Justice Samdani found himself caught in the midst of the dictator’s witch-hunts. Zia’s first instinct was to eliminate any credible opposition. To that end, he had former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto arrested in connection with murder charges. While this trial was in motion, Justice Samdani’s court received a bail application from Mr Bhutto’s lawyers. The trial was obviously very personal to Zia, as he wanted Bhutto and his political party to be eliminated. He expected that all those in government who wished to survive would readily comply. Justice Samdani, however, was always ready to embrace hardship, but never ready to compromise. He felt that approving Mr Bhutto’s bail application was the right thing to do and that, to him, was the only consideration. Thus, he approved it. It was his firm belief that regardless of the price he may pay, a judge must dispense justice.

Justice Samdani records another such incident in his autobiography, “Jaizaa” (Observations). While serving as Federal Secretary for Law, he came to know that Ziaul Haq had used abusive language against the secretaries. Not one to cower in such circumstances, he returned the favour and confronted army officers in the presence of General Zia. Despite being bullied and pressed to seek an apology from the General, Justice Samdani refused. He had done the right thing and there was no need to apologise nor room for any regret when taking a principled stand.

Justice Samdani resigned his position in 1981 when Zia demanded that the judiciary retake their oath on a document that contained some reprehensible and unconstitutional clauses.

He might have been elevated to the Supreme Court had he been supportive of a dictator, and would most certainly have made tens of millions had he compromised on his values.

He became the judge of the High Court in 1971 at the age of 40.  In the intervening years, he served as joint secretary in the Law Ministry, and was later sent to Yale University on a scholarship to do his LLM. On his return, he still served as the joint secretary until he turned 40.

What we are getting in the name of education is information whereas true education is all about transformation….. transforming the personality of the student. Do we teach our children the following:
1. To say “thank you” when it is due;
2. When to greet?  How and when it is due;
3. To be truthful and honest;
4. Always to keep promise;
5. To be punctual;
6. To be considerate to others (specific instances - like road manners etc.);
7. That they should always strive for perfection and shun casualness;
8. To respect the constitution and law;
9. That every body is entitled to his/her own opinion and to express it;
10. To avoid unnecessary arguments;
11. The manners of Conversations;
12. That service to humankind is service to God;
13. The concept of Qanaat [to be content with what you have];
14. To be courteous and firm;
15. The importance of austerity and that austerity is more impressive than ostentation.

Justice Samdani

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 12

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at

blog comments powered by Disqus