Monday, January 3

‘Take me as an example’

Justice (Retd) Fakhar-un-Nisa Khokhar says though working as a lawyer was a thorny journey but she is a successful woman

Justice (Retd) Fakhar-un-Nisa Khokhar is an example of a success story for women in the legal profession. She started her career from Multan–a comparatively lesser-educated, conservative and feudal-dominated district–as an advocate and gained eminence in the profession. Presently, she is canvassing for the office of the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association.
Following are excerpts:-
“Rights of women are mentioned in the Constitution, which says no gender discrimination should be made in any field. Women have the right to promotion in all the socio-economic fields. Practically, this is a male-dominated society, and we are not making policies sans discrimination. “When I was a judge, I had the opportunity of hearing many cases of women, who were victimised because they were not pleasing their bosses. For instance, a lady was not given a salary for a year because she did not acted upon her boss’s wishes. Keeping all the facts in mind, I decided that case in the lady’s favour, and my judgement was sustained in the Apex Court as well. This is just one instance. I have seen that when a working woman reaches a higher pedestal, discrimination starts. Then her rights are denied on the gender basis. I met the same fate. I was the senior most judge and had the right to be promoted to the seat of the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court had given a judgement that the senior most judge should be made the Chief Justice. But when it came to me, a junior judge superseded me. No reason to this effect was communicated to me. This is gender discrimination.
“If the political background was an issue, then the person who superseded me, was the brother of the PPP governor when we were appointed judges. This is injustice within the four corners of justice–an institution which is supposed to do justice and render justice to the citizens of this country–did injustice to its colleague.
“I took independent decisions. If those were obstacles in my promotion, then I am proud of those. On the other hand, I was not the only one rather all the judges took oath under the PCO. We had an edge over them because our batch took oath under the Constitution (1973) of Pakistan. Yes! We did go for the second oath, but we were delivering justice. In the larger interest, if all the judges had declined to take oath under the PCO, then I should not be singled out. You should take a judge on how he or she was rendering justice.
“I started practising Law in 1965 when ladies rarely use to come to this profession. The first question was the selection of the place–whether Multan or Lahore. I saw the atrocities committed by feudal lords and others there. Being a person against vicious customs, I chose Multan to practise. I was the first lady, and people used to come and see me as if I am an animal of the Zoo. I faced many difficulties, but by the grace of God, I was successful. It is hard for me to explain those problems now. In a male-dominated society, people didn’t give that much respect to a young girl during those days, but I survived that difficult period as a young lady. I also launched a women rights NGO.
“I was the only student in the Punjab University Law College. When I was in the Bar, I was the only female there. I became a leading lawyer in Multan and Lahore. I contested elections in 1973 from the Punjab, and became the youngest member of the Punjab Bar Council. I contested as an independent candidate and stood first in seven districts, including Lahore.
“During 1980s, I was doing detenue cases. I was appearing in the Lahore High Court. After two days, I was arrested and put behind bars for six months. They wanted me to give an undertaking that I would not appear for those cases, but I declined and told them that I was a lawyer, and I would conduct cases again when released. In 1994, I was appointed as a Judge of Lahore High Court. As a lawyer, I didn’t face any discrimination, but as a judge I definitely did.
“I will like to advise every woman of this country–‘never be afraid of any thing.’ This is their own country, and they have ample opportunities to come forward and make a name. They should join each and every field. Take me as an example! I enjoyed prestigious positions despite the fact that I had no political masters at my back. I really proud of the fact that I tread the thorny path to be a successful woman.”
– As told to Aamer Waqas Chaudhary

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