Responsibilities of all stakeholders | By Zaheer Bhatti

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Responsibilities of all stakeholders

THERE is a limit to which one may defend the conduct of principal institutions of the country.

What does one say to the Rawalpindi Division Bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem and Justice Mohammad Amjad Rafiq overturning a lower court decision awarding multiple death sentences to culprits convicted for suicide attack in Bosaal, district Attock on an Atomic Energy Commission of Pakistan vehicle in May 2018 killing four and wounding 17 individuals, who have been set free!

The convicts had been handed down seven times death sentence and life imprisonment on 22 counts which looked like a very considered decision.

But it is mind boggling to note the extremities of judgments where either of them has to be gravely wrong.

There are also countless examples of Civil Courts quashing Special Military Court death sentences, frustrating not just decisions of lawfully created speedy Trial Courts established to deal with anti-state terrorist crimes without delay, but also rendering the innocent blood of civilians and the priceless life of Pakistan’s valiant sons of the soil laid in the process, as if spilled in vain.

It is a sad commentary on the system of colonial justice still being followed in Pakistan ever since the creation of this country without bothering to modify it to suit the genius of its people in conformity with the requirements of an Islamic polity which is supposed to deliver justice without delay.

One often wonders why if Pakistan’s lawmakers are not up to the task, does the country not adopt the system mercifully still prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

No wonder terrorism in Pakistan instead of abating is on the increase despite supreme sacrifices, for which the judiciary is squarely to blame.

There are countless examples of grant of bail to established criminals and terrorists, who have used the reprieve to engage in more heinous crimes; an example of which was shared with the press by Murtaza Wahab of the Sindh Government in a recent case of a bailed out terrorist who planned more chaos but mercifully met his nemesis not through a judicial process but as a result of an anti-terror operation.

This is besides the countless civil cases in which the lower courts as a matter of routine award stays and adjournments of cases stretching over years; particularly family cases which they have orders to conclude within six months.

This indiscretion adds to the horrible paucity of judges in the lower judiciary and makes a mockery of the system.

In the present economic and political chaos, Parliament which otherwise claims superiority and finality over all key national institutions but every now and then refers matters which it should resolve within the House thereby undermining its own authority, the country’s superior judiciary is called upon to play a more proactive and decisive role and leave no room for ambiguity which leads to further chaos.

This scribe had suggested measures in his piece last Sunday that the court could have advised the Speaker of the National Assembly to defer the vote of no-confidence till interpretation of the Supreme Court of Article 63-A in order to stave off the possibility of back-tracking on major decisions regarding the making or breaking of the Government in the Punjab Province.

As it is now, despite handing down a clear ruling discounting vote of dissenting lawmakers, the court has again left it vague in terms of its effective date; needlessly requiring yet another application to seek a ruling, although common sense dictates that the interpretation ought to be automatically binding with retrospective effect from the date of the said law having come into force, as also authenticated in opinion expressed by the eminent PPP lawyer Eitezaz Ahsan.

Following the verdict, the Punjab Government which had taken office after embarrassing rounds of oath-taking of the Chief Minister repeatedly refused by the Governor as unlawful, ought to have automatically ceased to exist; thereby restoring the PTI rule in the Province.

The only issue rightly referred back to Parliament by the superior judiciary was the question of the time period of such dissenting members whose conduct unbecoming was vividly described by the Honourable Court as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The Judiciary therefore indeed ought to have acted proactively and pre-empted the uncertainty which has followed and possibly saved the country’s economy from the spineless IMF which has no love lost for Pakistan and has now forced its hands into making it phenomenal raise in prices of petroleum products, because Pakistan obviously has neither broadened its tax net nor generated alternate income sources to pay back the money lender with mark-up.

It remains to be seen how the political mandarins of the country now in the saddle will manage to take the brunt from the general public.

On the political front, the PML-N hawks have demonstrated their high-headedness with their Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah going one up on their Model Town Shoot-out performance by unwarrantedly firing a public salvo declaring it would block Imran Khan’s long march and confine them to their homes; a threat they virtually carried out in imposition of Section 144 preventing assembly, mass detentions, blocking all roads and routes and openly letting their goons physically assault PTI leadership, little realising that in preventing a peaceful protest rally call by the PTI, they had themselves been guilty of creating a non-existent law and order situation on the pretext of unverified intelligence reports.

That the Khan for a change has used his head in deferring his march a few days further, unless the powers that be are still able to intervene and make better sense prevail among the political leadership to announce elections, the PML-(N) response to Imran Khan’s created leg-room by rejecting his dictation and insisting that it is they who will decide when to go to polls, is bound to exacerbate the already volatile situation which the country can ill afford.

With the country’s leadership behaving the way it is, the press subjectively divided, and tailored public opinion, there indeed is a limit to defend to the conduct of all stakeholders.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

 

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