By: Naveed Baloch from Islamabad, Pakistan
“I came back to my homeland with a hope, a belief in the system of justice, but it is too late for me”. These were the words of a senior citizen and Pakistan’s origin British national woman who is stranded in Pakistan as she is in litigation of her family shares. Despite knocking every door to get timely justice, she is not expecting to fly abroad until late September this year.
Mrs. Shamim Sanaullah Sellers, 68, landed in Pakistan in November last year with a hope of returning to France in a couple of weeks. She had booked her Emirates Airlines’ seat for late November but after 8 long months, she is asked to wait until courts are reopened after summer vacations.
Mrs. Shamim is living in a guest house in a posh area of federal capital Islamabad. She is paying huge amount in terms of room rent for stay there and other expenses. She has very bad experience in the country where she was born. Her father, Mr. Sanaullah was a Captain in Royal British Army in India before partition. As soon as the British rule was over and the subcontinent was divided into two independent states, Mr. Sanaullah resigned from army. He was an Oxford graduate and had passion to serve Pakistan, so he decided to run a school with high standards of quality education. He died in 1990’s leaving behind precious land in Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Lahore for his six children.
After the father’s death, the family members migrated to different countries like U.S, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia. Mrs. Shamim discussed family property in Pakistan with her sisters and brothers who asked her to visit Pakistan and make a sale deal. She visited homeland in 2004 and secured a deal over family residence in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to federal capital Islamabad.
The Magistrate allowed her to take her share and leave the rest for her siblings who could get their shares whenever visit Pakistan. She flew back in the same year. Her siblings could not find time to visit their country of birth and again tasked Shamim to go and take their shares deposited in court exchequer. She landed in Pakistan in November 2013 and was hoping to get the task done in a couple of weeks as it was ‘very simple.’
Since November last year, Mrs. Shamim visited a high court in Rawalpindi to get court orders for release of funds but 8 months have passed and the courts are closed over summer vacations until September 5.
“I am waiting for her case to be heard, I believe in justice but I am being denied,” Mrs. Shamim lamented. She is saddened over people’s attitude towards her. “when I call some taxi cab to take me to courts, the drivers charge me triple the fair compared to normal as they think I am a rich lady and don’t bother about money, but I am running short of funds, I have to go home back with shares of my siblings”, She concluded while looking into sky with deserted eyes in disillusion.
In another case, Mr. Ghulam Muhammad, 81, from Uch Sharif of District Bahawalpur, is waiting for the legally promised justice from the courts. “I was not grey haired and wrinkled skin when I first petitioned in the court in 1991 for decision over my father’s property,” he stated.
Mr. Ghulam Muhammad told this scribe that he had won his property case. “Whenever I win the case against the occupant of my property, he drags me to another court and I have to start from zero”, told Mr. Ghulam Muhammad.
In-charge complaint cell at Lahore High Court, Lahore Mr. Jamshed Shaheen told that the lower courts had much burden due to lack of judges. “There is less number of judges in the courts to clear the backlog,” Mr. Shaheen said. He further said there were strict instructions from the Supreme Court to decide the cases of overseas Pakistanis speedily and also to facilitate elderly people on hearings. But the cases of Mrs. Shamim Sellers and Mr. Ghulam Muhammad present the different picture.
Commenting on the issues faced by masses in the courts, the member of the Pakistan’s Press Association of Supreme Court, Mr. Tayyab Baloch said the backlog is in thousands and the courts were under heavy burden.
He said that the civilians are facing various problems in seeking justice. Mr. Baloch further said the masses had helped former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry reinstated as the boss in the apex court and thought the courts would transform themselves as real saviors. “Hence they make high expectation from the courts but as soon as they approach judiciary for justice, their dreams are shattered as the courts are always delayed in delivering justice,” Baloch noted.
Mr. Baloch suggested that this was high time for the judges of higher courts to bring revolutionary changes in the judicial system, if they fail to deliver, the system would collapse as the people won’t tolerate the same delays for long.
(Naveed Baloch is an Islamabad based journalist, he tweets at @Naveed_Qamar)