Memoirs and Reflections
Nasim Hasan Shah
Dr. Justice Nasim Hasan Shah, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, gained international respect and recognition when he restored the sovereignty of the Parliament in Pakistan; the first such instance in the country's turbulent constitutional histor.
After a brilliant academic career and a Doctorate of Law - with distinction - from Paris University, he had a successful legal practice when he was appointed a High Court Judge at the age of 39, and retired from Supreme Court at 65, the longest tenure by any judge in the history of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
He is the author of four books, all praised and admited by reviewers and readers, namely: Constitution, Law and Pakistan Affairs (1986); law, Justic and Islam(1989); Judgements on the Rule of Law and Martial Law in Pakistan (1993); and Constitution, Law and pakistan Legal System(1999).
In this Memoirs and Reflections is detailed the intimate panorama of his early life- it is an inspiring story of how a young man physically 56 inches tall and 50 inches in girth (almost a midget) overcame his handicap to become the Chief Justice of his country. It contains the portraits of the many jurists and friends who gained fame nationally and internationally, the cases which made history and in which he participated as a counsel and as a judge. It narrates the process of judicial activism, the hitherto unknown facts about the trial of Z.A. Bhutto- the former Prime Minister of Pakistan - the Islamization of Anglo- Saxon Laws, the Kashmir dispute, the betrayal of Pakistan by the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, and the many judgements which changed the social and legal fabric of Pakistan.
The First Years
I was born in Lahore on 15th April 1929 to Syed Mohsin Shah, an eminent advocate and political activist.
During my infancy, and growing-up years, a congenital glandular deficiency had restricted my growth. My father was most concerned with it, and the best doctors of the time were consulted. A German Jewish refugee, Dr. Kailash, had begun his practise in Lahore. He prescribed a series of injections; but instead of growing upwards, I began to grow sideways. Col. Mullick, then practising in Amritsar and later Director-General of Health in Pakistan, prescribed all sorts of hormones, but to no avail. My father took me to the famous Hakim Qarshi, who made me pace the room a few times, and then solemnly declared, “Nothing can be done for him,” and with a wry sense of humour continued, “Shah sahib, he is your son all right,” referring to my father’s 4 feet 11, and with the same glandular deficiency.
This was a big shock to me. I cried all night, became morose, and peevish. My father endured his physical disability with a strong intellect and manifold interests. I was too young to comprehend a life with this disability. I sat with my mother and cried in her lap. She cheered me up and gave me an advice, which has been the beacon of my life. She said: “You are what you are, and what you think you are. You should always think that you are normal. The people who see you will not think so, but you in your inner self must always think so.”
These sentiments which only a mother can bestow to a physically handicapped child gave me a new spirit. I have been through life, reaching the highest position of law in my country, without for a moment thinking of my handicap that I am only 4 feet 8. Later in Paris I was addressed as “Monsieur Petit – ShortShort Shah.” In the recesses of my mind I am a normal human being, and with the advantage of a God-gifted intellect. In my school days, between the ages of 9 to 14, I played table-tennis and was good at it. I played cricket tolerably well. I played tennis, and was not bad at it. Like most young school boys of the time I bicycled to school. I took part in debates, and declamation contests. In one contest, the choice was between a romantic poem and a selection from Shakespeare’s Henry V at the battle of Agincourt. When I thundered, “Once more to the beaches, my friends,” the illusion I gave was not that of a 4 feet 8 midget, but a young prince carrying his men forward in battle. I may mention that I got the first prize, much to the consternation of my detractors.
In school and college I got the nickname of “full stop” and “coma” because of my height; but it never bothered me. Once, while I was bicycling home from a college debate I inadvertently crossed a red-light and my companion shouted “Full stop.” I turned around to him and said rather angrily what the hell he meant by calling me “full stop” on the road. He said, “I did not call you ‘full stop’; I said ‘fool stop’.”
In Paris while at the university I often went dancing, mostly the Vienna Waltz at the university social functions and sometimes in the night clubs in the Latin Quarters, and was never for a moment overawed by the thought that my partners were much taller than I. One of my friend’s in Paris, whose girlfriend was slightly taller than him in her heeled shoes, never went dancing with her, till I waltzed with her. “God!” he exclaimed, “if Nasim can do it, so can I.” In spite of my own handicap I relieved him of his complex. They lived as friends and lovers for several years.
My mother lived to see me return from Paris with law degrees and honours, presided over my marriage ceremony, as only mothers can, and saw my physically normal children born and raised.
The official ceremonial regalia of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, inherited from the British Raj days has a gold embroidered robe almost seven feet long, and is always carried by two attendants. On my swearing-in as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the President being over six feet tall, had a stool placed for me. I accepted the stool. The happiest men at my swearing-in were my two attendants, who instead of carrying and holding the robe for three feet for others, had another extra feet to carry for me, and whose pictures came prominently on the TV and in the newspapers.
I cannot be presumptuous. The deformity was God’s will; and the intellect and my achievements are also His Will and Mercy.