Military dictators, particularly General Zia ul Haq will always be cursed by the people of Pakistan for the harm that they inflicted on Pakistan and its political landscape through amendments in the constitution with the complicity of pliable judges. God knows how long those aberrations introduced in the constitution would haunt the nation and continue to cast a debilitating impact on democracy, stability and security, which are threatened by the jihadi culture and sectarianism that General Zia gifted to the land of the pure.

Article 58(2b) conferred the power to dissolve the assemblies and send elected governments packing to the President. This has been used once by the dictator himself and thrice by civilian presidents to dismiss elected governments, consigning the country to an unending political instability and scuttling the chances of democracy taking root in the country. Though the article has been removed from the constitution, its ill-effects continue to torment the nation. Frequent martial laws also created an imbalance in the civil-military relations with the latter having ascendency. The Khakis, even when they were not in power, have been calling the shots from behind the scenes, orchestrating regime changes and even blocking the access of certain political parties to the corridors of power through clandestine means. These are proven and recorded facts.

Since their inception, articles 62 and 63 have remained dormant until PTI, Jamat-i-Islami and Awami League invoked them in their petitions before the apex court to seek disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, citing contradictions in his statements in the National Assembly and outside the parliament with regards to offshore companies owned by his children as revealed in the Panama Leaks. They also accused the Prime Minister of money laundering and tax evasion. The petitions were filed in October 2016, and after nearly 20 month of tenuous and protracted hearings and investigations, the five member bench of the Supreme Court – through a unanimous decision – has disqualified the Prime Minister under Article 62(1f) for failing to declare his assets besides ordering NAB to file references against him other family members and finance minister Ishaq Dar in the Ehtesab Court. The SC invoking its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) heard the case, as under normal circumstances it is a court of appeal.

The writ filed by Imran Khan and other political parties in the SC seeking disqualification of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under article 62 and 62 of the constitution undoubtedly was a politically motivated attempt to exploit the infamous provisions of the constitution. One thing which baffles the mind is that the SC verdict was not based on the prayers made by the petitioners, rather the court found a reason of its own to disqualify the Prime Minister. It is this aspect which continues to draw flak from legal and constitutional experts.

The politicians as a class have actually axed their own feet by invoking articles 62 and 63. Today they might be rejoicing their victory over a political opponent whom they could not defeat through the ballot box and the decision might assuage their wishes but what they fail to understand is that the verdict has added to the litany of vulnerabilities of the politicians which could be exploited by the anti-democracy forces. Tomorrow they could also be the victim of this development. Imran Khan and Jehangir Tareen might also face the same fate whose similar cases are being heard by the Supreme Court.

Though the Prime Minister immediately after the SC verdict reportedly has relinquished Premiership but according to the announcement made by the spokesman of the Prime Minister House, the decision of the apex court was a great injustice to the Prime Minister and his family and the PML (N) would exhaust all legal and constitutional avenues to contest the decision. What exactly the PML (N) response would be will become clear within two to three days or may be even earlier but one thing is certain that the decision of the SC would have very serious political repercussions and judiciary’s role might also become controversial in regards to how the Panama case has been handled. The judiciary is considered as the most sanctimonious pillar of the state and its decisions in cases of national importance do have long lasting effects, like the ones validating martial laws and authorizing the dictators to amend the constitution. The judges were right to say that the decision in the Panama case would be remembered for centuries. It would indeed be remembered though for not so auspicious reasons and the debilitating impact that it would have on the political future of the country and the prospects of democracy ever taking roots.

In fact, by accepting this political case and then giving its verdict on it under article 62 and 63, the Supreme Court has opened Pandora’s box. We might see the SC struggling to cope with references that would be filed by political leaders and parties against their opponents invoking these articles as well as by citizens against anybody whom they thought was not ‘ sadiq and ameen’ in terms of those provisions of the constitution.

I am afraid even the SC might not find it convenient to come up with a comprehensive definition of ‘sadiq and ameen’. My considered view after reading these articles is that as per their spirit, only the prophets and angels could come up to the standards specified. It is simply out of the question to find any individual or a group of individuals who can be characterised as sadiq and ameen as envisaged in these articles, including judges, generals and politicians. Can any one of the judges of the honourable Supreme Court and those who adjudicated this case stand up and say under oath that they were sadiq and ameen as defined in Article 62 and 63? And do the judges believe that those who filed petitions themselves qualified to be sadiq and ameen? I hate to go along with those who ascribe the proceedings of the Panama case and the verdict delivered as a sequel to conspiracy but would like to point out that the judiciary has committed yet another blunder by invoking the articles of the constitution which were inserted in the constitution by a dictator with malicious intentions. I wonder how long the legacies of the dictators would continue to haunt Pakistan and when this hapless nation will get rid of selective justice? I am sure the Quaid must be turning in his grave to see what we have done to his Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Imran Khan and Jehangir Tareen might also face the same fate whose similar cases are being heard by the Supreme Court.