While issuing a contempt notice to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chaiman Adm (r) Fasih Bokhari, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has come out very strongly against any civilian or military move to delay the polls which are due later this year. The notice was issued over a letter written by Admiral Bokhari to President Asif Zardari in which he allegedly accused the superior judiciary of trying to influence that election, and of interfering in the bureau’s investigations. The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, which ordered the notice issued on Thursday, was hearing the Rental Power Plants (RPPs) judgement implementation case. In its order, it reiterated that the free judiciary would be the biggest impediment to any effort at rolling back the democratic order and would remain, as in the recent past, in the forefront to guard democracy. It must be mentioned that PPP Senator Raza Rabbani had recently expressed fears about the derailment of democracy.

The Supreme Court thus precluded its grant of legitimacy to any unconstitutional step by any institution, previously granted in the form of a validation of a military takeover. The Supreme Court was thus precluding any delay in polls on the basis of an excuse provided by Admiral Bokhari’s letter, and thus left coup-makers the prospect of having the Supreme Court finding such a setup illegal, no matter what the excuse. Thus, the Supreme Court acted to bring back attention from the possibilities inherent in Admiral Bokhari’s letter, and not only showed that it was close enough to contempt to invite the notice, but also provided an opportunity to the court to make it absolutely clear where it stood on the question of holding elections.

It is probably going to be a long time indeed before it is generally accepted that elections will be held on time. One of the prime factors for this will have to be just such a firm commitment as shown by the Supreme Court in this matter pf issuing Admiral Bokhari the contempt notice. While the merits of the case against him will discussed on February 4 when the notice is to be answered, potential coup-makers, both civilian and military, should take notice that the Supreme Court is merely giving voice to an aspiration of the entire nation, when it says that polls must take place on time. No excuse for a delay is to be contemplated.