After some weeks of relative silence, Nawaz Sharif has continued his mass mobilisation campaign, with his tirade against the judiciary on Saturday when he lashed out at the “PCO judges” who disqualified him and termed him dishonest.
Addressing a public meeting at the Ayub Stadium, he used his usual anti-judiciary rhetoric, by criticizing the Panama judgement which ousted him, and repeating the often asked question of “mujhe kyun nikala”, reiterating that it was not because of corruption but because of the question of salary from his son’s company. What was more hard-hitting this time was his taunt of the judiciary of being judges who had taken the oath under the PCO (Provisional Constitution Order) and those who had sworn in dictators, being the one to judge dishonesty.
The term ‘PCO judges’ refers to those members of the judiciary who opted to stay on after then-military ruler Pervez Musharraf suspended the Constitution, once in 1999 and then again in 2007.
This kind of rhetoric of targeting the judges and leading to the delegitimisation of the judiciary is an extremely dangerous setting of precedent for the law and order of this country. Not only is it invalidating and discrediting to the the judiciary but it is also factually incorrect, since judges involved in the Panama judgement, such as Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Ejaz Afzal Khan, had rejected to take the oath under PCO.
Attempting to make his journey into an anti-judiciary and anti-law and order one is a risky game to play for Nawaz, especially as he has petitions in the courts to club his three charges into one. It is also a contradictory stance to take, as in one instance Nawaz Sharif states his commitment to law and order, and of following the democratic route, and in the same breath, devalues the judiciary. Nawaz also never stated this discontent with the judges during his four years or when he appealed to the SC in the Panama case.
The past few weeks have accrued some good will for Nawaz, especially his silence in the Khatam-e-Nubawat debacle that took place. Although his party’s government made a mess out of the situation, Nawaz taking a backseat made him look good compared to others who chose to exploit the disruption in the country for political point-making. Nawaz Sharif should not let that goodwill go to waste and realise that the large consequences of attempting to blot the judiciary with PCO.