Important meeting, positive signals

TWO important and somewhat surprising developments took place on Tuesday that have sent positive signals to all that two important pillars of the State, Judiciary and Executive, reaffirm their pledge to work for greater interest of the country. The Supreme Court accepted the unconditional written apology submitted by former PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi in a second contempt case against his unfortunate anti-judiciary outburst. The court withdrew the contempt of court notice issued to Nehal Hashmi over his speech targeting the judiciary, made after his release from Adiala Jail following a one-month prison sentence for earlier contempt of court. This was followed by a 2-hour long meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar at the Supreme Court building, which according to a statement issued by the SC Office took place at the request of Prime Minister.
A meeting or consultations between the Chief Executive of the country and Chief Justice of Pakistan should be a routine affair in normal circumstances yet the one that took place on Tuesday assumed special significance as it was held in the backdrop of simmering tension after the Panama verdict. The official version of the meeting conveys an impression that the two leaders discussed issues relating to judicial reforms and public interest litigation initiated vigorously by the CJP and other members of the judiciary these days, with Prime Minister extending full assurance of support in realising the objective of revamping judicial system and resolution of people’s problems in areas like health, education, environment and clean drinking water. No doubt, these are very important public interest issues that cannot be achieved without total harmony and cooperation of the executive and judicial organs of the State.
The efforts of the CJP have led to some improvement in the situation but a real and durable transformation can only take place if there is financial and administrative support from the government, which unfortunately is clearly lacking due to misplaced priorities. It was apprehended that in the given political environment of tension and confusion, moves from the two sides would be seen as interference in each other’s domain. Therefore, the meeting between the Prime Minister and the CJP, no matter on whose instance it was held, is a welcome development. However, there are reasons to believe that the meeting didn’t just focus on what the official press release claimed. This is because it took place all of a sudden and was not planned. Secondly, it was one-on-one meeting held without aides despite the fact that all the issues mentioned in the press release needed input from different ministries, departments and organisations especially the Law and Finance Ministries.
Some political leaders including Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah objected to the timing of the meeting but we believe that it was, indeed, much delayed. The kind of situation in which Pakistan finds itself today cannot afford confrontation or tension among institutions and that is why we have been emphasising in these columns that someone should take the lead to repair the dented relationship. There had been suggestions for dialogue among institutions but practically there was no move from any side. The meeting, therefore, augurs well irrespective of what has been discussed or decided and we hope there would be visible positive impact on the overall situation.
As for contempt of the court, it is also good that Nehal Hashmi admitted his mistake and offered written apology and the judges too have done well by exercising restraint and accepting his apology, otherwise award of sentence to him for the second time would have sent negative signals. Anyhow, we would urge all sides to exercise restraint and air their grievances while remaining strictly within the bounds of the law, the Constitution and decency. We are heading for general election and there is dire need to bring down the temperature. This would obviously require wilful cooperation from all sides to create salutary environment for holding of free, fair and transparent election. As the Chief Justice himself has pointed out the judgements can be criticised but not the conduct of the judges.

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