Profile: Ali Ahmed Kurd
By Malik Siraj Akbar
60-year old flamboyant lawyer firebrand, Ali Ahmed Kurd, has spent most of his life in judicial activism and fighting dictatorship. He went to jail for the first time when he was merely a 17-year old student in Mustung district of Balochistan. For him, that was understandable as he came from a highly respected political family of Balochistan and participated in anti-government agitations from teenage days. Balochistan’s illustrated politician, Mir Abdul Aziz Kurd, who along with Mir Yousaf Aziz Magasi, pioneered a culture of political resistance in the present day Balochistan, was his uncle. Kurd credits his early day detentions for his today’s fearlessness. Jails, he says, no longer frighten him as he has spent more than six and a half years of his life in the jail.
Kurd has been an active lawyers’ leader since 1980s but he came to limelight after the eruption of last year’s judicial crisis in the country. Once President Pervez Musharraf decided to oust former Supreme Court Chief Justice, Mr. Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary, on March 9 last year, Kurd’s fiery speeches fueled the lawyers’ unprecedented movement for the reinstatement of the CJP.
“Not for a single day did I support any government in the history of Pakistan,” he tells this blog, “because none of them came up to the expectations of the masses. Therefore, I remained an anti-government agitator throughout my life.” However, Kurd says he never opted for extremist mode of politics. While the Right wing politics never attracted him from the outset, he clarifies that he never called himself an ultra-Leftist.
Born in Quetta in 1948, Kurd accidentally landed in the legal profession. “Even then, most of the young people of our age, including myself, were not sure what we wanted to do in future.” His account of becoming a lawyer is, nonetheless, interesting. He gave the LLB examinations when he was on the government’s list of the wanted political (student) leaders. “I was lucky that the day I gave papers, the police did not catch me that day. But when there was no paper, the police would arrive in the evening to arrest me,” he recalls.
While a student at Quetta’s Degree College, Kurd simultaneously led the students’ union of Degree College and Government Law College, Quetta. Having obtained his LLB degree in 1973, Kurd for the first time joined the bar. “Then, it was the Sindh-Balochistan Bar Council,” he said. In the meanwhile, in 1973, he was implicated in a ‘false case’, as he bills it, and thrown into the jail where he remained for the longest period – four years – until released in 1977. After his release, he once again joined the Balochistan Bar Council. Since then, he has been an elected member of several bar associations. The highest position he has ever held is the vice chairmanship of Pakistan Bar Council.
As a student, Kurd was the first man to revolt in 1973 against the dismissal of National Awami Party (NAP) government in Balochistan. Young Kurd was the first man to ignite a political movement in Balochistan. “We students protested at a time when the actual NAP leadership went underground to hide as they feared the newly instated governor, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Bugti did not like me. I used to spent most of my time at Kabir Building,” he recollected, adding that the reason for him to take shelter at Kabir Building was understandable: “Sardar Attaullah Mengal used sit there. I knew that Bugti would not raid that building. How would Bugti take the Mengal Sardar to task?”
Ali Ahmed might appear to be a highly articulate speaker but deep down he is a very introvert gentleman. One of the biggest problems of interpersonal communication he faces at 60 is, interestingly, to talk to female journalists and lawyers. “I still become nervous while talking to women. I tend to ignore talking to female journalists and lawyers. I don’t know why but this is how I am,” says a smiling Kurd, the father of five kids. With a little effort to see this man more closely, one discovers Kurd’s adventurous instincts too. Kurd says he loves hiking in his free time. “There is not a single mountain in Quetta that I have not climbed. I have been on all the mountains that surround Quetta and Ziarat. I love going to the mountains – but not as an insurgent,” he laughs and adds.
While squinting at his past struggle against successive governments, Kurd becomes upset at one stage when he is reminded of the gruesome martial law days of General Zia-ul-Haq. “I wish I had opposed him [General Zia] with the same spirit as I am doing today against General Musharraf.” Kurd says though he fought the Zia regime, he still believes he should have done ‘much more’ and opposed Zia more stridently. “Even some times I become embarrassed and feel guilty that I did not lead a similar struggle which I did against Musharraf. Had we done this much earlier, today things would be very different,” he climes.
Kurd contends that the lawyers of Pakistan have ‘opened the eyes’ of the political parties. The political parties also admit that lawyers have done a commendable job as their movement has redefined the Pakistani civil society. “Political parties could not achieve the same level of credibility as the lawyers did. Thus, people have reposed their trust in the lawyers’ community,” he says, adding, “People viewed us as trustworthy. It is still not too late for the political parties to join us. Their tone is still not as critical of the Musharraf regime as one expects it to be. They have double standards. We did what we promised to the people of Pakistan. On the other hand, the politicians remained confused.”
Kurd dispels the impression that lawyers movement kicked off only after the suspension of Justice Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary. Their struggle in its latest phase is as old as General Musharraf’s coup of October 12, 1999. Most of these people who are in the forefront of the struggle against the Musharraf government, including Munir A Malik, Hamid Khan and Tariq Mahmood, became active from the day when Legal Framework Order (LFO) was promulgated, he reminds.
Movement: According to Kurd, the lawyers’ movement appears to be meant for the restoration of an independent judiciary, establishment of rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution but this movement is beyond the defined objectives. As a matter of fact, this movement is intended to ‘completely change the Pakistani society. “We want to eliminate the existing hypocritical political culture of Pakistan. The upper class largely opposes this social change. But this change has to come as it must”
A defiant Kurd says he and his supporters do not recognize the PCO-ed judges of the Supreme Court. “If the successive governments did not accept the Supreme Court for the last 60 years then why should we accept it at this transitional phase? For us, Ifthakar Chaudhary is the de jure CJP.”
Future: Kurd is very optimistic with regards to the future of the lawyers’ movement. There is no question, he says, of their movement coming to an immediate end. “We pushed General Musharraf to such an extent that he was fully compelled to impose a state of emergency. “Gone are days when Pakistan had rubberstamp assemblies. Gone are the days when the President of Pakistan used to unilaterally dismiss an elected assembly and oust the parliament. Gone are the days when the Supreme Court judges used to passionately stamp on the martial law declarations, granting legitimacy to the dictatorial regimes,” he thunders.