LAHORE - The Supreme Court has struck down the law which the federation’s counsel had admitted the government had enacted to shield Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
The Supreme Court insists that the prime minister send a letter to the Swiss authorities to request them to reopen the cases against President Zardari, which were earlier shelved in light of a political deal made by then president Pervez Musharraf with Benazir Bhutto through the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), annulled by the court subsequently. Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani disobeyed and was convicted and disqualified for any public office for five years.
After his removal, the government started thinking of measures to save his successor from a similar action.
A two-pronged policy was devised for the purpose. A new law was enacted which exempted many state functionaries from the contempt law, as a result of which they got a licence to criticise or ridicule the judiciary the way they like, without the fear of any punitive action.
Simultaneously, the PPP leaders started an offensive against the Supreme Court to portray the judges as partisan. Several leaders said in TV talk shows that they respect the judiciary but it is taking up only those cases which are against the PPP leadership. Many of them said in so many words that cases against the Sharifs have been pending for a long time but they are not taken up.
The attorney general also set new records of provoking and insulting the judges during the court proceedings. So much so that one day during the court proceedings, he said the parliament is supreme, empowered even to wind up courts. The bench disagreed with him but the principal law continued to test the judges patience.
It is said that the attorney general did all this at the behest of the government high-ups, believing that if the court took any action against him the president is there to set it aside. Otherwise, no law officer can afford to annoy the courts and behave the way he did.
Now that the Supreme Court has given its verdict, the government has not given in. It is thinking of new strategies to outwit and outmanoeuvre the apex court.
According to media reports, the government may enact a new contempt law or file an appeal against the court verdict. Both the steps are aimed at delaying the matter further, not implementing the court order.
When the bench had last met, it had directed the attorney general to find some middle path to the Swiss letter issue which is acceptable both to the government and the court. But it appears that this is not going to happen.
What is more disturbing is the attitude of the PPP’s coalition partners. Why the leaders of the PML-Q, the ANP and the MQM are supporting the PPP who are pursuing a well thought-out policy against the judiciary for a particular purpose. Publicly, all leaders say tirelessly that they respect the judiciary and are not in favour of a judiciary-executive clash.
Interestingly, the property developer Malik Riaz was the only leader who had invoked the new contempt law to defend himself. His lawyer had first stated that his client was not in favour of the new law.