First British Pakistani QC Sibghatullah Kadri was born on April 23, 1937 in India to Firasatullah Kadri, who was a religious scholar. He migrated to Pakistan along with his parents in 1950. Kadri is a leading authority on immigration and race relations. He is on top of the list for raising voice against oppression and injustice and has always fought for ethnic minorities rights in Britain.
In 1956, Kadri took admission in Karachi University to study Chemistry and Mathematics because his parents wanted him to be a scientist. As a student he joined the struggle against the Martial Law of General Ayub Khan. He was elected as General Secretary of the Karachi University Students Union.
Kadri and his other university colleagues were arrested for opposing the Martial Law and languished in prison for 7 months without trial. On release from the jail he wrote a Habeas Corpus petition against his detention. In other words he prepared the first case of his life for himself. Like many other students struggling against Martial Law he was also deported from Karachi to Hyderabad in 1959. He was refused exemption and had to repeat his BSc Honours Final year but could not complete his degree because of the student protests.
At 23, a staunch opponent of Ayub Khanís Martial Law, Sibghatullah Kadri migrated to London where he found a clerkís job in a firm for £10. Since he had not passed A & O levels, he could not get admission in the University, he decided to study Bar. He applied in Inner Temple and explained his position in detail. He was admitted at Bar on special grounds.
In 1962, Kadri revived Pakistani studentsí organisation (PSO) in London to launch movement for restoration of democracy in Pakistan. He was elected as its General Secretary. In this cause PSO also mustered support from East Pakistani students studying in England. They held series of protests and demonstrations against General Ayub Khan on his visit to the UK and also occupied the Pakistan High Commissionís building to register their protest against continuance of dictatorship in Pakistan. †††††††††††† †
Kadri who struggled for democracy in Pakistan did not sit content after migrating to London and launched struggle against racial indiscrimination and inequality and continued his struggle from different platforms for the rights of the ethnic minorities. The Asian community in UK is now enjoying the fruit of his struggle.
Kadri passed his Barrister Exam in 1965. At that time racial discrimination in UK was at its peak. No one would even rent out his place to blacks nor were they given any jobs. Labour Party wanted to make some law against racial discrimination and for that purpose had issued a White Paper for consultation.† To speak on this move Kadri was invited by BBC Urdu Programme on behalf of his organization Afro-Asian and Caribbean Lawyers Association. They liked him so much that they offered him a job and he started working with BBC as outside contributory (OC). Later he was also associated with BBC Asian Radio Birmingham.
Kadri formed an organization by the name of Scopo to struggle against racial discrimination that consisted of some 100 big and small bodies. He also launched Asian Action of which he was the convener. In 1969 BBC banned Kadri for speaking at a demonstration at Inner Temple.
Kadri believes; ĎHe who struggled against racism in Britain himself remained its victim.í† Earlier, there was a law in this country that no barrister from outside could practice in all the four Temples. There was no Asian barrister in the country. All QCs were English. No Asian or black was allowed pupilage after passing the bar exam and if at all one could be able to get it the chamber would not give him any place. Earlier, the barristers could practice only in the chambers established in the temple while these days they have opened offices along roads.
The Whites had over 100 year old chambers that mean they were being run from generation to generation. There was tutorial for Oxford University students but not for other students. There was discrimination and not equation in education. Kadri launched a whole hearted campaign against this indiscrimination and occupied inner Temple hall that raised a large hue and cry but some of our demands were also met including formation of a union.
For the first time Inner Temple students union was formed of which Kadri was the first President and defeated John Laws (now Lord Justice Laws). Although there was his brotherís chamber but he decided not to join that because all in his chamber were Asians, no black or white. He applied in many chambers but with no response. Later he was also banned to do pupilage with his brotherís chamber.
In 1971, Kadri got the pupillage in Lord Giffordís chamber but after that was not allowed to work there. At last he decided to open his own chamber. The people at Inner Temple permitted him to set up his chamber at No.11 as they thought that soon it would be closed. He started multi racial chamber together with seven people. He had passed bar exam in 1969 and opened the chamber in 1973 that meant that a junior had become the head of a chamber. He gradually started raising voice against racial discrimination as a result of which race relation committee was formed and many changes were made.
In 1979, Kadri formed Commonwealth Lawyers Association which in 1983 was renamed as Black Lawyers Association. He became its first chairman and Barrister Rudy Narayan general secretary. A struggle was waged against discriminatory treatment of ethnic minorities.Ē
Kadri holds indifference on the part of the community leaders responsible for fast growing sense of deprivation among community youth. He believes the July 7 events were the reaction against various inequalities and discriminating treatment. When the Muslim youth see that they are being discriminated on the basis of language and religion and on the other hand they also see the atrocities being let loose against Palestinians they want to do something.
Unfortunately our community lacks in leadership that could lead them into right direction. While on the other hand if there is some sort of leadership it is in the form of Sophies who receive grant from the British government. The situation now is no more like it had been in sixties and seventies. Now our community is mature enough and is engaged in different fields of life. Our second and third generations are British Muslims and think in that way. Mosque committees are divided in sects and Eid is celebrated on two different days.
We are too much indulged into Pakistani politics and the mosque Imams are speaking about Gwantanamo bay and Libya while they are not supposed to speak on politics. Our representatives who had been elected on public votes should pay attention to the problems of their constituencies instead of speaking on Pakistanís politics. I donít mean that they should cut off their relations with Pakistan but should also pay attention to the youth of their community. Pakistani politicians are sufficient to take care of their country.
British government is talking of making the immigration laws stricter so much so that it is being suggested to restrict the number of immigrants per annum. We had struggled a lot with regard to immigration laws but unfortunately our own people are abusing these laws, especially asylum laws are miserably abused. People came here, sought permanent residence, got British passport and left their wives and children here on social security and left for Pakistan to do politics. I am against any discrimination in immigration policy on the basis of race and creed or on any other ground, but we should also be responsive to our responsibilities alongside enjoying our rights otherwise we would ourselves create problems for us by strengthening the hands of the extremists.
Kadri was married with his wife Carita in 1963 and the couple has a son and a daughter. The son is a barrister and writer while the daughter is an Educationalist and lives with her family in the United States.