PTH Exclusive: Interview with J. Jawwad Khawaja

Posted by Raza Rumi

We are grateful to Babar Mirza who has translated an interview given by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja to Sohail Waraich in June 2007 which is recorded in Waraich’s book ‘Adlia ke Arooj-o-Zawaal ki Kahani’. The interview is a must read for all those who are interested in Pakistan’s politics and institutions. A biographical note is also available for those who wish to know more about the life and times of J. Khawaja. The latter resigned when J. Iftikhar Chauhdry was illegally deposed by the Musharraf regime. Later, he was part of the lawyers and judges movement and he was re-inducted into the Supreme Court after J. Chauhdry was restored as the Chief Justice in 2009. The interview also explains why Justice Khawaja took oath unde the 2000 PCO during the Musharraf regime.

Just as in any other part of the world, Punjab too has its share of stigma. Leaders from other provinces and many historians allege that the people of Punjab are not brave or courageous. Only time will establish the truth or falsehood of this allegation, but, in the recent judicial crisis, only one judge in Pakistan resigned from his office and that judge was a Punjabi from the Lahore High Court, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. Perhaps this was why Sindhi nationalist Rasool Bux Paleejo had to admit that Punjab’s strong stance in the judicial crisis had compensated for her many misgivings in the past. The Punjabi judges who decided to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry have further helped clear the judiciary of many an allegation and perhaps the mistakes made by Punjabi judges in the past would now be remedied. Bold and fearless though the role of judiciary has been, the first drop of rain was Justice Khawaja and that will always remain to his credit.

 Justice Khawaja is a very private person. He shies away from the world of fame. Perhaps this is why he did not give any interview or try to gain prominence after his resignation. Had any other judge resigned in similar circumstances, he would have justifiably lead protests, presided over meetings or at least given interviews to newspapers and television channels. But the reclusive nature of Justice Khawaja kept him away from all that. He felt the reference against the chief justice to be a burden on his conscience and resigned to free himself from that burden. 

 It was very difficult to get an interview with Justice Khawaja. Everyone knew that. It was only after a mutual friend told Justice Khawaja about me, in rather exaggerated terms I believe, that I was able to see the latter at his house. After a long discussion, he agreed that an interview was possible if he could give written answers to written questions and was shown the final draft. I accepted every condition. However, as the interview progressed, he also allowed me to record it but on the same condition that he should be shown the draft before it was published.   

 Justice Khawaja has a very distinctive character. His house is probably the only house in Pakistan where the nameplate at the gate carries his wife Beena’s name before his own, and makes no reference to Justice Khawaja’s designations or titles. His house is like a commune where even the servants of the house appear to be part of the family.

In our discussion, Justice Khawaja talked not only about the judicial crisis but also about his ideal, Justice Cornelius, and other aspects of his life. This singular personality has preserved the pride of Punjab. Let’s read his thoughts.       


Q: Which personalities have inspired you in the fields of law and justice?

JSK: It’s an immense honor for me that I got to work with Justice Cornelius and observe him closely. Justice A.R. Cornelius’s life was extremely simple. There was no complexity of character or twist in him, he always walked the straight path and did not fall for compromises. He had genuine humility. He moved into Faletti’s Hotel in 1951 and stayed there with his wife for years [until he died]. I remember, in the 80s, I went to offer him Christmas greetings and Justice Naseem Hasan Shah showed up as well. When Justice Cornelius introduced me to Justice Shah, the latter remarked, “So this is Jawwad Khawaja who works with you.” Justice Cornelius quickly replied, “No, no, I work with him.” My association with him was so close that he made me the executor of his will. I frequently enjoyed his company during the later years of his life, that is, from 1979 to 1991. Justice Cornelius remained the Chief Justice of united Pakistan for seven or eight years, but he had humility and simplicity and no interest in exhibiting himself. Cornelius Sahib and I had been partners as well [in our law firm]. Here is one instance of his simple humility. Our secretary, one day received a letter, reading which made him quite uneasy. The letter was written by the Treasury Officer in Lahore and was addressed to Cornelius Sahib, asking him to present himself before the officer and prove that he was alive. It was probably about pension. I got quite annoyed when I saw the letter as I had thought that everyone would know if and when Cornelius Sahib passed away. I also found it extremely inappropriate of the Treasury Officer to send such a letter to such a [renowned] personality. I hesitantly went to Cornelius Sahib and showed him the letter. He said, “My dear Jawwad! There is nothing to be annoyed about. The officer is just trying to do his job.” Then he wrote two letters. The first he addressed to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, asking him to issue a certificate to the effect that he, Cornelius, was alive and to hand it over to his representative. The second letter he sent to the Treasury Officer, saying that he was sending a certificate to prove that he was alive, adding, “I do hope this satisfies your requirements. If this does not meet your requirements, please inform me of the date and time when I should appear before you in person.”

Everything about him exuded humility. The truth is that Justice Cornelius deeply affected my life. He held high office but never showed any vanity. Later on, Justice Samdani, with whom I grew close, also impressed me with his personality.

Q: How honest was Justice Cornelius?

JSK: It’s painful even to hear such a question about him as he was not covetous and didn’t have an iota of greed in him.       

Q: Justice Cornelius was on the bench in such famous cases as that of Maulvi Tameezuddin – what did he have to say about these?

JSK: I never had a discussion with him in this regard.

Q: What’s your opinion on the doctrine of necessity?

JSK: (After thinking a while) I think a lot has been said and written about it and I do not want to add anything. Since we are talking about Cornelius Sahib, a lot of people criticize him for becoming a minister in Yahya Khan’s cabinet. It’s possible their criticism might have some weight but since I knew Justice Cornelius, I know that all he wanted was a new constitution, one that would satisfy the expectations of the people. It’s a separate issue that the constitution that was drafted remained secret and never came to light. It’s not even known whether or not a copy of that constitution still exists.

 Q: When and where were your born? And where were you educated?

JSK: I was born in Wazirabad in 1950. I stayed there for the first 17 years of my life. Our home is still there; my elder brother Khawaja Umar lives there. I remember studying at the Mission School there for a while. Then I spent four years at Lawrence College in Murree. I did my Senior Cambridge from Aitchison College in 1967, FA and BA from FC College and LLB from the [Punjab] University Law College. I did my LLM from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975 and, after returning, started practicing as an advocate of the High Court.

Q: How many years did you spend in practice and for how many years were you a judge?

JSK: I practiced for 24 years, from 1975 to 1999, and then for eight years, from 1999 to 2007, served as a judge of the Lahore High Court.

 Q: How did your parents influence your personality?

JSK: Deeply, I believe. Material things were of no importance at home. The important thing was respect for humanity, which nobody teaches you but you imbibe it [from your elders] without being instructed. This was an important influence and I believe this value still exists in our home.

  Q: Were you interested in sports in your student life?

JSK: I played all sorts of sports in school. I still go swimming, but at that time I used to play tennis, hockey, football and basketball, and [learnt] riding.   

Q: Did you wish to become a judge or a lawyer in your childhood?

JSK: (laughing) no. But I would like to tell you something interesting in this regard. In Wazirabad, there was a family servant Laaldin who used to clean our house. He used to call me ‘Judge Sahib’. I don’t know how it came into his head, but I hadn’t thought of becoming a judge as a child.

The story of how I became a lawyer is this. An American visited my father for business. I wasn’t there at the time but my father told me that the American had seven or eight children. My father asked him about the education and jobs of his children, and the visitor replied that he had insisted that his children should study law and then practice for at least two to three years, after which they could do whatever they wanted. My father liked the American’s reply and advised me to study law as well. Thus, I came to study law.

 : Why did you go to Berkeley in particular? Bhutto Sahib also studied at Berkley, didn’t he?

JSK: On reason was that it was a good university. Your reference to Bhutto Sahib had nothing to do with it. But my elder sister had done her Masters from Berkeley 15 years earlier in 1960. So there was an old connection with Berkeley – that’s why I didn’t go to Cornell despite having been offered admission there. Moreover, California has pleasant weather, so going to Cornell didn’t appeal to me.

Q: What was your favorite subject in you student life?

JSK: There was no favorite in particular.

Q: Do you remember any of your teachers?

JSK: My teachers were really good and I remember them still. One of them was our history teacher Chaudhry Rehmatullah Sahib: I didn’t see it then but now I realize that he was very different from others. May be he had attained to some special station by that time.

Q: Spiritually, you mean?

JSK: Yes.

Q: Do you believe in spirituality?

JSK: I don’t know what you mean by spirituality. We get so caught up in material life that we take it to be the only aspect of existence. There is another dimension to our lives as well, but I wouldn’t use any term for it because it’s impossible to describe it in words – it’s something experiential.

Q: Have you gone through this experience?

JSK: (after pausing for a moment) I think it’s not proper for me to say anything on that.

Q: Were you a naughty kid?

JSK: (after a short laughter) No, not especially so, nor was I very serious. Just a normal childhood.

Q: Did you go to the movies?

JSK: Yes, but not often. At that time my school also used to show a movie on the weekend. Sunday was a holiday so we would go and watch a movie. Some of my friends watched movies more often than I did and some didn’t see them at all. I was in the middle.

Q: You have seen the state of affairs in Pakistan from its founding till now and you have visited other countries as well. What do you think is the fundamental problem of Pakistan?

JSK: (after thinking a while) There are a few fundamental problems.

Q: Many people say fixing the judiciary would fix the country. [Do you agree with them]?

JSK: In my view, education and justice are the fundamental issues – and by justice I mean both legal and social aspects of it. In my view these two fields should be given the most importance. And formal education, not just literacy. Every child should get education of the same standard without any discrimination or privilege. Our traditional literature should also be part of the curriculum. You see Aitchison College was a school for the elite and had English as medium of instruction but at that time they used to teach Arabic and Persian, but not anymore. We read Sheikh Saadi; the tales anecdotes in ‘Gulistan’ are instructive for all times but if you mention them now, children have no idea of who Saadi was

Q: Which department in Pakistan are you satisfied with?

JSK: (thoughtfully) Can’t recall any at the moment.

Q: Doesn’t it mean there isn’t any?

JSK: Let me think… I think the postal system is still working alright. If you post a letter, it’s delivered the next day or the day after. But other departments are generally deteriorating.

 Q: Have you ever associated with a political party?

JSK: No. Not yet.

Q: Do you like any political personality in particular?

JSK: In the early days I used to think that Ayub Khan was good and the reason for that was my father’s approbation for him. But as I grew older, I realized it wasn’t so. What I read and heard about Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy impressed me. I think the recent judicial crisis would perhaps result in better leadership; if not immediately, then in four or five years good leadership would definitely emerge. This is what I expect.

Q: What do you think is the reason why the judiciary or judges in Pakistan are not independent?

JSK: I have worked for eight years as a judge. Before March 9, I had never felt that I wasn’t independent in the performance of my duties. During those eight years, nobody ever tried to approach me. If I bind or chain myself, it will only be my own fault. A judge’s job is very straightforward and easy: he just has to look at the facts of the case and decide according to law.

Q: Are you implying that a judge shouldn’t care about the consequences [of his decisions]?

JSK: Absolutely not. This is not a judge’s job at all. A judge’s job is only to see what the facts of the case are and what the law says about them and then decide accordingly.   

 Q: Justice Naseem Hasan Shah says that a judge should see whether or not his decisions would lead to catastrophe…

JSK: No. In my view, this is not a judge’s job. If a judge considers a third element in making his decision other than the facts and the law, it’s wrong, utterly wrong. This is because the circumstances of a case are not created by the judge. He just has to reach a decision as an umpire in light of the facts and the law.

 Q: The fact is that the judiciary has acted contrary to your opinion…

JSK: If you mention a particular case, may be I’d be able to comment.

Q: All the important political decisions, such as the Tameezuddin case, the Dosso case, in all these cases, the judiciary never gave a decision which would harm the government or the establishment.

JSK: This is a generalization. But my answer is still the same, that it is not proper for a judge to consider a third element in his decision other than the facts of the case and the law.

 Q: What are your reservations against the doctrine of necessity, which is mentioned often in the history of the judiciary?

JSK: The Constitution does not mention any such doctrine therefore there is no place for it in legal decisions. Judges and courts themselves are the creation of the Constitution. Their powers are also given in the Constitution. They have no power which is not mentioned in the Constitution. As I said earlier, a judge’s job is really straightforward and easy.       

Q: Pakistan has never had democracy in its proper form, what’s the reason for that?

 JSK: First of all, we need to clarify what we mean by the term democracy. If we take it to mean a system where the will of the common people finds expression, then there are historical reasons [for its absence from Pakistan], of which the most important in my view is the lack of leadership, as the people have expressed themselves time and again – at the time of the Partition and even these days people are expressing their desires and wishes. A lot can be done if we had a leadership with a hand on people’s pulse.

Q: Sir, the day you resigned from office, what were your feelings, what were your thoughts, were you feeling any pressure?

JSK: (laughing and then repeating the question) Your question is what I was feeling that day. It was the 19th day of March but what was to be felt had already taken place between the 9th and the 19th of March.

Q: Please do tell that in detail…

JSK: March 9 was Friday. The next working day in the High Court was Monday (March 12). On March 12, I had started Court at 8 o’ clock in the morning as usual, but, then I realized I was unable to work, or even focus on it. The reason for this was that at the time of accepting [Judicial] office, I had a basic belief that no one could interfere with the performance of my duties as a judge – even the Supreme Judicial Council could only conduct an inquiry on receiving a complaint. March 9 and the days immediately following shattered this belief of mine, as a clear message had been sent through the incidents of those days. What did I matter when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could be treated in such a way and prevented from performing his duties by a presidential order?               

 Q: So you didn’t work on March 12?

JSK: I was quite restless and unable to do my work. So I told the lawyers present in the court that I would only hear such cases which were urgent which it was necessary to hear and not hearing the same would cause irreparable loss to the interests of any of the parties. I postponed hearing in all other cases. On returning home, I told my wife that I couldn’t work anymore. She said that I was part of the judiciary and, by virtue of my office, could do justice to people, as I was doing, so instead of leaving office, I should continue working. Later, some of my acquaintances also gave me similar advice. My wife also said that I should look into myself and try to see the reason behind my inclination. Was there any desire in me to become a hero and receive public [adulation] acclaim?  I knew that wasn’t the reason. But still I told her that I would go to work for another few days as it may be that I would perhaps be able to focus on my work after two or three days. But still I couldn’t work. On Thursday (March 15), I felt that something should be done and that it would be better if all the judges could act in unison. In such case it wouldn’t have been necessary for them to collectively take any [drastic] step such as resigning from office. I could foresee that all the 35 honorable judges of the Lahore High Court might not reach consensus on collective action but [I was hoping that] even if seven or eight honorable judges acted together, some step could be proposed to represent the collective reaction of the Court. That would have been enough for me, and maybe such a step would have sufficed for me by way of catharsis. Nevertheless, when I was considering different options on Thursday (March 15), resignation was one of them. So on Friday (March 16), I sent a brief letter to the Chief Justice and other honorable judges of the Lahore High Court, wherein I stated that it was very difficult for me to work under the prevailing circumstances and requested all the honorable judges to come to the Common Room at 10:30 in the morning on Monday (March 19) so that they may express their opinions on recent events. My objective in inviting the other judges was to hear opinions or analyses different from my own, but, during the tea break on Monday (March 19), nothing transpired to that affect.

Q: Rumors are that judges there had a fight among themselves, one judge manhandled another judge and that the meeting was wasted by the ruckus.             

JSK: No comment.

Q: Was it done in bad taste?

JSK: Briefly, nothing happened there which would have satisfied me. I had left home that day with the letter of resignation but it didn’t have a date or my signature, as it was possible that the need to resign might not arise, but after the incidents in the Tea Room, I had made up my mind that that was my only option. So I resigned [on March 19].

 Q: Many people ask why you didn’t come out [on the street] after resigning? You would have become a leader if you had addressed political gatherings. People would have thought of you as a hero. Then why didn’t you come out?

JSK: People might think of me as a hero but I don’t think of myself as a hero. Secondly, as I explained earlier, the reason for my decision was not to become a hero or aggrandize myself.

Q: Only one judge in all of Pakistan, in the Supreme Court and the four High Courts, resigned. So there must be something which distinguishes you from the rest?

JSK: Everyone is different from others and everyone has a different way of thinking.  

Q: Don’t you think the conscience of other people would have told them to do the same but they didn’t have the courage. It’s brave and courageous, isn’t it?

JSK: I wouldn’t comment on this either. As I said, every person has their own way of thinking. It’s possible that other honorable judges had the opinion that they could play a more effective role by remaining part of the judiciary. [However,] in light of my own circumstances and way of thinking, I believe that such an opinion wasn’t possible for me. I’ll tell you how.

First of all, this opinion is based on the assumption that I was doing good work before March 9 and could have continued doing so after the events of March 9 as well. As I told you earlier, I was unable to do the work that I was doing before March 9. I was convinced that it was impossible for me to continue working as before. Therefore this assumption is not correct.

Secondly, if I had believed that I could effectively perform the High Court’s constitutional role, I might not have resigned. The High Court’s constitutional role is to keep an eye on the excesses of both the executive and the legislature and to stop them if need be. For instance, when the Parliament makes a law, a judge in the High Court can decide that the law violates the Constitution and cannot therefore be implemented. Similarly, a Judge can stop the executive if it does something unconstitutional. This is the constitutional role of the judiciary. Here, by judiciary, I mean the Supreme Court and the High Courts, as the subordinate courts have been created by an ordinary law while the Supreme Court and the High Courts are created by the Constitution. Constitutional cases were not assigned to me even before March 9. I am not saying that I should have been given such cases to hear. My job was to deal with those cases which were included in my list, and so I did. One thing at the time was clear though that I wouldn’t get to hear cases which require the High Court to play its constitutional role. For that reason, I had no way to stop the executive from exceeding its authority.

 Q: Why was it so?

JSK: I don’t want to speculate on the reason for it, but I can tell you about the types of cases that were assigned to me. My cause list included civil revisions, appeals, dowry and divorce cases instituted under family laws and other cases of similar nature. These cases were important for me as well and I was dealing with them. But the assumption that I could have performed a constitutional role while remaining part of the judiciary in that period is wrong.  

Thirdly, I wouldn’t have resigned if there had been a collective decision. Since all three things didn’t emerge, especially the High Court’s ineffective performance of its constitutional role. These were the three reasons why I resigned. This decision wasn’t born of emotion or anger. In light of the circumstances I described above, I had no option that would have allowed me to express my strong reaction against the steps taken by the president and the maltreatment of the Chief Justice.

Q: Sir, some people even say that perhaps you were not on good terms with the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. You spent a lot of time in Bahawalpur and Multan. Could it be that this was also a cause of your anger?

JSK: No, no. In fact, I should make it clear that I had no reservation or feeling of anger in that regard. As far as going to the Bahawalpur or Multan Benches is concerned, I think there should be a rule requiring all judges to go to those benches as they are part of the High Court as well. When I was in South Punjab, I visited all parts of the area and very much enjoyed the culture there. The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court and I had different views on certain issues but there is nothing unusual about this. Two judges can differ even as part of the same bench.

Q: Was there any tension between the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court and you?

JSK: I wouldn’t call it tension. I never questioned my own assignment for work at the benches, but one of our colleagues had his family in Lahore and he was kept at the Multan bench for three years. When he raised this issue among other honorable judges, I supported him. I would repeat that this wasn’t for my own sake, as I had returned to Lahore after six months in Multan and, the next year, three months in Bahawalpur, and, as I said, I had enjoyed myself a lot. But as a question of principle, I disagreed with the proposition that the Chief Justice should have absolute discretion in such matters. When my colleague raised this issue, I wrote two letters to the Chief Justice and to other honorable judges. When I did not get an answer to these letters, I met the Chief Justice in person, and, among other things, expressed my point of view on the issue. He was of the view that the Chief Justice had an absolute authority, which had been used in the past and would continue to be used in future. I told him that my point of view was different from his. I was of the view that any authority vested in us [as Judges] should be used for advancing the objectives of the institution and that even our discretion should be subject to the interests of the institution. I’d say that this view did affect him as the roster of sittings that had been issued for the following week was cancelled, and thus our colleague judge, who was assigned to the Multan Bench for an inordinately long period, returned to Lahore.

Q: What were your thoughts when, on May 6, 2007, 17 honorable judges of the Lahore High Court went to welcome Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on his visit to Lahore?            

JSK: I did not think anything special about it, but feel that the participation of 17 judges in the welcome ceremony was a sign of change in their views. My wish on March 19 to see eight or ten judges of the High Court collectively expressing their views was realized that day.

 Q: What will you do now?

JSK: I am enjoying life for the time being. It’s almost three months since March 19 and I have visited seven or eight places for leisure.

 Q: What are the benefits of being a judge, and will you feel their absence?

JSK: See, if I had in mind [only] the perks and benefits of being a judge, be it the salary or other facilities, I wouldn’t have become a judge of the High Court at all.

Q: Will you now start your legal practice?

JSK: I haven’t yet decided on anything in this regard.

 Q. Initially [in 2000] you had refused to take Oath under the PCO but later you took the Oath. Why?

JSK:    Others [before you] have posed the same question to me. I can give you some of my reasons. I was appointed judge of the Lahore High Court in April, 1999. At the time, I was the junior-most judge of the Court. There were other fellow judges who were working at the Multan Bench with me. Amongst them was a senior judge who, these days, is in the Supreme Court. We were, in all, 8 judges at Multan and 3 at Bahawalpur. Before the oath-taking I asked for the text of the Oath. When I read it, I expressed unwillingness to take this Oath. This was my immediate reaction which, in part, [I admit] was due to fear of disapproval. The oath-taking ceremony was to take place in the adjoining room. Fellow judges, other than me, had moved to that room but the ceremony was delayed by about one or one and a half hour because my fellow judges were of the view that I should take the Oath. The senior judge [mentioned earlier] and the Provincial law minister Khalid Ranjha came forward with the same premise that one could effectively do good within the judiciary which would not be possible outside of it. This was one of their arguments [for persuading me to take Oath].

I next asked them if there was any other judge besides me who was declining to take Oath. Both of them said there was none other than me. It is possible they had understood my question as being restricted to the Lahore High Court, because indeed none of the judges of the Lahore High Court had declined taking the Oath. I did feel that it was me alone who was [standing out] and was refusing to take the Oath.

The third reason was a question I put to myself. I wanted to know why I was refusing to take the Oath. The answer I got showed me that it was the vanity of standing out [from the rest] and the fear of public disapproval [if I took oath] which were driving my decision.

 Q:        Is it wrong to take oath under the PCO?

A:        Yes. This is what the answer should be. As for myself, I have explained my personal reasons for taking the Oath [in 2000].

Q:        What will be the fate of the reference filed against the Chief Justice?

A:        I do not know and have no idea, nor can I speculate on the outcome.

Q:        Had you been a judge of the Supreme Court, what would you have done?

A:        (Laughing). Had I been a judge of the Supreme Court, it is possible I might not have resigned. As events have unfolded to date, I might not have resigned even if I had been a judge of the Sindh High Court, because judges there had met and taken a collective decision. Even in the Lahore High Court I might not have resigned had a collective decision been taken. Had I been a judge of the Supreme Court, I would have been in a position to act on my own.

Q:        How, for example?

A:        In the Supreme Court the issue of the constitutional status of the Court can arise before a judge in any matter. A lawyer can raise an objection against the hearing of a case on the ground that the Court is not properly constituted. The basis of the objection being that in the presence of the Chief Justice there is no [Constitutional] provision for an Acting Chief Justice [to head the court]. As a judge of the Supreme Court I could have taken a decision on this objection or I could have suggested the constitution of a larger Bench to consider the question. Other objections of similar nature could also have arisen of which I could have taken notice.

Q: Your house is one out of  only three or four other houses in Pakistan in that it has your name and the name of your wife written outside, ‘Beena and Jawwad’. What’s the reason for that? 

JSK: There is no reason for that. No conscious reason. We don’t think it makes any difference. It would have been alright if there was no name written at all, but if there is, that’s alright too.

 Q: ‘Beena and Jawwad’ – to write the names in this manner is different from social norms?

JSK: Maybe. It’s possible. I accept it is different from social norms.

Q: Do you face any problem in moving among society for this reason?

JSK: I seldom venture into society anyway. I used to attend very few social events and almost stopped doing so when I came to the High Court. Even as a family, we are not much socially active. At times friends and colleagues had a complaint about this. But the nameplate never caused any problem.

Q: How much time did you give to your family when you were a judge of the Lahore High Court?

JSK: See, the court work used to start at eight o’clock in the morning and end at half past one. After that I’d spend half or three quarters of an hour in the chamber dictating the decisions which I had not dictated in Court, and then I would return home. I didn’t bring home any court work. The rest of the time I used to spend at home [with the family].

Q: You used not to attend government functions either?

JSK: Yes, I did not attend government functions. In my view, it is not for a judge to participate in government functions. I had instructed my staff to politely regret any invitation from any government official such as the governor, the president or the chief minister.    

Q: Were you acquainted with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [before resigning]?

JSK: No. I had never met him. If I had come across him I would have recognized him because, as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, his photos had been appearing in newspapers. But he wouldn’t have recognized me because we had never met before.

Q: What role has the liberal elite played in the progress of Pakistan? They often resort to compromises, why is that?

JSK: (after thinking a little) I can’t comment on that.

Q: Is that the reason why Pakistan is lagging behind?

JSK: It’s possible, because what you call the middle class or the literate class has an important role in national life. I would repeat that I haven’t thought much about it. It’s possible that your view is right.

Q: How much freedom should women have, especially regarding pardah?

JSK: There should be no element of coercion in it. I do not consider it right to compel them to wear a particular type of dress, because we have also been taught that a man should lower his gaze and not stare when he sees a woman passing by. But we are not ready to act on that. One of our female acquaintances – very good, pious lady who follows Shariah- she told me that she was having a walk one day and as often happens while walking that the scarf (dopatta) slips off the head. A Maulvi Sahib, was coming from the other side. He asked the lady to adjust her scarf. The lady had strong nerves. She retorted, “Maulvi Sahib! How did your eyes fall on me and how did you know there is no scarf on my head?” I think it’s not right to make anyone do things under coercion.

 Sohail Waraich: Thank you very much.

June 2007.   


Jawwad Sajjad Khawaja was born in Wazirabad in 1950. He was educated at the Mission School in Wazirabad, Lawrence College in Murree, Aitchison College in Lahore and FC College in Lahore. He did his LL.B. from the Punjab University Law College and his LL.M. from the University of California, Berkeley. He started his legal practice as an advocate of the Lahore High Court in 1975 and was a partner at the Cornelius, Lane and Mufti – the biggest law firm in Pakistan. In 1999, he became a judge of the Lahore High Court but resigned in 2007 in response to the maltreatment of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9. He joined the Law and Policy Department of the Lahore University of Management Sciences in August 2007 and served as the head of department from October 2007 to May 2009, when he was elevated as a judge to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Though he has been in the Supreme Court for less than a year, he has been part of the bench on such important cases as the SHCBA case that declared Musharraf’s 2007 Emergency to be unconstitutional and restored most of the judges who were compelled to leave office due to the Emergency; the NRO case that declared the NRO to be void ab initio; the Makro-Habib case that ordered the wholesale giant Makro-Habib (and its patron Army Welfare Trust) to restore the playground in Sadr Karachi on which it had established its outlet, and, most recently, the short order that suspended the government’s notification for the appointment of Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif to the Supreme Court contrary to the advice of the Chief Justice. 


The following is the translation of an interview given by Jawwad S. Khawaja to Sohail Waraich in June 2007 and recorded in Waraich’s book ‘Adlia ke Arooj-o-Zawaal ki Kahani’, Sagar Publishers, Lahore, 2007.


Filed under Activism, Judiciary, Justice, Law, lawyers movement, movements, Pakistan

9 responses to “PTH Exclusive: Interview with J. Jawwad Khawaja

  1. banjara286

    justice wajihuddin resigned from the supreme court in 1999 rather than take a fresh oath under pco. plz. get your facts straight.

  2. waqas

    Does anyone know where to get a copy of this book? Whether it’s available online or not?

  3. Sultan

    Dear Banjara286, when it comes to them, facts are indeed very important. But I don’t understand what in the text of the interview makes you think that Justice Wajihuddin did not resign from the Supreme Court in January, 2000 (and not 1999! )??

    Are you a member of the PTI??

  4. Honest People

    Jawad Khawaja has double standards. He is one of the most corrupt judges intellectually. His judgment in NRO case and PCO case of 31st July 2009 is an outright violation of Universal Charter of Human rights and a blot on our judiciary as over 8000 persons were condemned unheard. He himself took oath on PCO but he had the cheek to initiate contempt proceedings against other PCO judges. He is serving political agenda of Jang group, Imran Khan and Ifikhar Chaudhry. He is related to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman whose sister is married to Jawad’s real brother. He was partner of Hamid Khan Advocate who is politically affiliated with Imran Khan. Iftikhar Chaudhry got him appointed as Supreme Court judge in violation of Judges case.

  5. The statement by “Honest People” is fully endorsed by me:

    Jawad Khawaja has double standards. He is one of the most corrupt judges intellectually. His judgment in NRO case and PCO case of 31st July 2009 is an outright violation of Universal Charter of Human rights and a blot on our judiciary as over 8000 persons were condemned unheard. He himself took oath on PCO but he had the cheek to initiate contempt proceedings against other PCO judges. He is serving political agenda of Jang group, Imran Khan and Ifikhar Chaudhry. He is related to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman whose sister is married to Jawad’s real brother. He was partner of Hamid Khan Advocate who is politically affiliated with Imran Khan. Iftikhar Chaudhry got him appointed as Supreme Court judge in violation of Judges case.

    Moreover i believe that he is one of the biggest drama of Pakistan Legal History.

  6. banjara286

    nothing in the interview; but in the introduction of the article it seems as if it is being painted that justice khwaja is the first judge to resign from his office on a matter of principle. whether the resignation date for justice wajihuddin is 1999 or 2000, it long precedes that of justice khwaja.

  7. ralam420

    In Justice Jawad S. Khawaja, the Supreme Court of Pakistan – and the entire Pakistani judicial system – has one of the finest and fairest legal minds in the land.
    I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to interact with Mr. Justice Jawad S. Khawaja when, after he resigned, he took up the position of acting Head of Department of the Lahore University of Management Sciences. In his time at LUMS, Mr. Justice Khawaja wrote a book on civil procedure (which, I am sure, will become a classic treatise on the subject), helped the Department organize itself and guided at least two batches of students to excellence in their academic endeavours.

  8. PMA

    “He is related to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman whose sister is married to Jawad’s real brother.”

    If you dig a little deeper you will find a Military General, a Secretary, a Politician and few Industrialists in the extended ‘All In The Family’. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Justice Jawad Khawaja are only two members of a very powerful Punjabi-Kashmiri clan. In Pakistan you don’t get anywhere without ‘family connections’.

  9. mustafa

    I am appalled at the comments made on Justice Jawwad Khawaja by “honest people” and sufyan….Justice Jawwad Khawaja is an asset to the country’s judiciary and is an exceptional human being.

    It is extremely worrisome that we do not appreciate the likes of Justice Khawaja, who sacrificed his office for the greater national interest.