Heading for anarchy?
In the meeting of the PML-N held last month, there was a consensus that the party should go for public mobilisation with the support of other political parties, lawyers` bodies and civil society organisations, if needed, for the sake of independence of judiciary. It should be born in mind that the situation was different when the movement gathered momentum for restoration of judges. It is not the intention to turn a blind eye to the PPP ministers’ corruption; the point being made here is that if political parties start settling their scores on the streets there would be anarchy, and law enforcing agencies would have to act whether the pillars of state like it or not. Therefore, all pillars of the state should act within the parameters drawn in the Constitution.
The position today is that political leadership and military leadership are on the same page so far as security of the country is concerned; and they are committed to follow the Parliament’s guidelines for redefining the rules of engagement with the US. On the other hand, judiciary and military have convergence of views on the need to show zero tolerance to the corrupt elements. However, they do not see eye to eye on the issue of missing persons’ case, and military perhaps would not be happy over some judges’ remarks with regard to excesses of law enforcing agencies insinuating as if Balochistan problem is of their making. Of course, such remarks embolden the traitors, centrifugal forces and insurgents. Otherwise also, there is perception that a few judges pass acerbic remarks during the course of proceedings, which are not taken in good taste. We suggest that there should be complete understanding between the pillars and organs of the state, as the country cannot afford clash between the institutions at this point in time when the country is faced with multifaceted crisis and challenges to its internal and external security.
There is no denying that respect the higher judiciary enjoys in Pakistan today is well-deserved and well-earned as a result of the struggle waged by the lawyers, members of civil society and activists of political parties. And it should be our endeavor to protect that honour and respect. Of course, judiciary has to ensure even-handed justice and across the board accountability to maintain and sustain its present position. No doubt, that some members of the ruling party including president are beneficiaries of the NRO, but they complain that the focus of the apex court is only the PPP. They allege that there is the judicial bias, as the Supreme Court which took the NRO case for hearing in 2009 did not make progress in any other case during the last 4 years except the Swiss case. They argue that Swiss Case in not only the NRO case but there are other 8041 cases whereby beneficiaries have been blessed by this NRO. The apex court would do well to expedite the cases against Sharif brothers; and as per maxim ‘the justice should not only be done but should seem to have been done’.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while addressing the Youth Parliament the other day said that Parliament could not make law, which is repugnant to the Constitution and injunctions of Islam. “The judicial institution of the state, with Supreme Court as the final arbiter, acts as the ultimate protector of the rights of citizens and serves as upholder of the constitutional supremacy”, he added. For some time the debate is raging as to who is supreme; a section of intellectuals and constitutional experts hold the view that the parliament is supreme and it has the right to frame or amend the constitution. In a constitutional polity, which we are supposed to be, only constitution is supreme; nevertheless in Pakistan every pillar of state insists on its primacy. Newly elected Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has said that the Parliament is mother of all institutions, adding that all pillars of the state must work in accordance with the dictates and stipulations of the Constitution. The PPP-led government should also ensure that it goes by the book, and takes steps to end corruption and improve its image.
There is another school of thought believing that it is the prerogative of the Supreme Court to delete any existing article or any amendment made to the constitution by the Parliament, but majority of constitutional experts consider it as an encroachment on the domain of the Parliament. Justice John G. Roberts, the present chief justice of the United States, during hearing of a case had declared: “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them.
The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” It has to be mentioned that the US and the West took more than two centuries to achieve the present state of consciousness after passing through various stages of development. Anyhow, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is committed to give the nation a clean, efficient and independent judiciary; and he is also determined to cleanse the lower judiciary where citizens have the first truck with the judges in their quest to seek justice. Having that said, there should be zero tolerance to the corrupt elements in the parliament, executive or judiciary, and there should be even-handed justice to maintain the prodigious image of the judiciary.
—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.