“It looks to me to be narrow and
It was a disappointing day for all those who were expecting that the Supreme Court would order Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to pack up and go home in the ongoing saga that has held the whole country hostage.
The judges, too, had hinted, in the last hearing, that they would not oppose in case a middle way was found, which meant that neither the Prime Minister’s office, nor Pakistan’s judicial system would be brought to grief. Yet, a section of the opposition and the media were predicting that a showdown between the executive and the judiciary was imminent, and that PM Raja’s fate would be no different from that of Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Even within the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), there was a group that was propounding to confront the judiciary by advocating that Prime Minister Raja should not appear before the judges. However, prudence and tolerance that have been the hallmarks of the past and present PPP governments once again prevailed. Despite opposition from some party members, the PM attended the hearing on Monday, August 27, 2012.
More so, President Asif Zardari’s had correctly advised the PM to appear before the court so that the government’s policy, which is not to confront the judiciary, was put in place. It is noteworthy that both the President and Prime Minister, along with their coalition partners, had agreed on it after extensive consultations. On their part, the judges by granting an adjournment that was sought by the PM not only showed judicial acumen, but also tolerance. This implies that the executive and the judiciary are determined to support the democratic dispensation and have the capability to stand up to any pressure that is exerted on them.
Nonetheless, some local and foreign constitutional experts have openly expressed their opinion on this issue, and at the same time have defined the previous decision in the orbit of judicial activism. They also blamed former PM Gilani for aggravating the situation through his public pronouncements about a matter that was sub judice. But PM Raja is playing his cards well and, perhaps, is guided by a better and mature legal team than his predecessor. Former Law Minister Babar Awan, for instance, followed a policy that was not beneficial either for democracy or the dignity of the courts or judges.
Here it would be interesting to know that recently the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, issued a tirade against the judges in India and went as far as to accuse some of them of being purchasable commodities. Her statement was issued from the floor of the West Bengal Assembly, although the house was not in session. It ignited a firestorm across the length and breadth of India where senior lawyers and retired judges and politicians sitting on the opposition benches came very hard on the CM for issuing it.
Several people approached the courts with petitions that the West Bengali Chief Minister should be summoned under the contempt of court proceedings some going further requesting that she may be dismissed from office. However, there were others, including senior lawyers and retired judges, who suggested that while it was appropriate to condemn Banerjee’s statement, it was not prudent to summon her for contempt of court procedures.
Many senior politicians also agreed with the courts that have till now refused to hear petitions for the contempt of court proceedings against the fiery politician. This shows the maturity and strength of the Indian institutions that have stood in the interest of their country and refused to be dragged into a controversy that would leave no winners in the end.
Against this backdrop, what happened in the Supreme Court on August 27 points to the fact that Pakistan’s key institutions are well aware of their responsibilities and work in the best interest of the nation.
Keeping in view the court proceedings and the PM’s statement that he made before the five-member bench, it can be safely assumed that in the next hearing on September 18 an acceptable and dignified solution to the problem would be produced. That may end the turmoil, which has led to political and economic uncertainty in Pakistan.
It must be understood that a clash between state organs is not only detrimental to democracy, but also provides an opportunity to those who have refused to surrender to the will of people. That has mostly led to the imposition of martial law, which, in turn, has created conditions that damage the entire fabric of this country.
The experimentation that resulted in the aftermath of dictatorships is before everyone; in spite of tall claims by successive dictators, the result has been the same. Now the situation has reached to the point where even the best efforts of the PPP-led coalition government in Islamabad have failed to pull the country out of the present mess.
It is important that the state institutions will keep in view the short but checkered history of the country before embarking on the perilous road to confrontation, since it is not difficult to predict that the result would once again be the same - the early demise of democracy.
Hopefully, the executive will find a way out of this impasse that not only upholds the dignity of the independent judiciary, but also creates conditions conducive to democracy. This is the only way forward for the state because democracy is the only method that would create opportunities to improve the living standards of the masses.
On their part, the judges should keep in mind the responsibility that is on their shoulders. The people expect that they will continue to support the present system of democracy because only then it will be possible for the country to forward in the comity of nations.
The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org