Only two Chief Justices of Pakistan (CJP) have dared to defy executive authority. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah(Sindh) and Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry(Baluchistan) achieved this unique distinction. Shah Sahib stood up against Nawaz Sharif and was made to bite the dust on December 02, 1997, while Chaudhry Sahib was instrumental in launching the Lawyers Movement in March 2007 which not only led to the restoration of judges but also caused the downfall of General Pervez Musharraf. In both cases the beneficiary was Mian Sahib and his party PML-N.

In 1997 President Farooq Legahri dismissed the government on charges of corruption and promised “Ehtesab”. A Commission was set up under a retired justice of Superior Judiciary. While references were filed against Zardari clan, an ordinance was issued under which loan/tax/utility defaulters were debarred from contesting elections. Political cleansing had started. Khakis under General Jehangir Karamat were solidly behind the President.

As described by Dr. Mubashir Hasan, Farooq Legari was a bureaucrat. Unfortunately, Baboos play it safe. Sensing collaboration of the corrupt, the President caved in and the ordinance was withdrawn enabling Mian Sahib and his clan to contest the elections. With the establishment tilt in favour of PML-N it was a landslide victory for the party. In order to fulfill his dream of becoming Amir-ul-Momineen, Mian Sahib decided to remove all the obstacles. On a visit to Faisalabad he ordered the arrest of Administrator FDA for negligence. Bail was granted by the Supreme Court as the PM had clearly exceeded his authority.

Having absolute majority in the parliament, Mian Sahibnow decided to go after the President, CJP and COAS. The infamous 8th amendment under which the President was empowered to dismiss the PM and dissolve the parliament was the first to be amended. Tax evasion inquiry was started against COAS while CJP was asked to behave. It is interesting that most defiant judges have come from smaller provinces. Sajjad Ali Shah proved a hard nut to crack. When the legal battle was getting out of hand, the goons of PML-N attacked the Supreme Court. The judges had to run for cover for the first time in the history of the country. CJP requested the COAS for protection and even re-equipped the President with the 8th amendment.

Both the President and COAS decided not to side with the embattled CJP. Now it was one on one, the CJP versus the PM. Even then Shah Sahib held his ground. Finally Abba Ji’s approach was adopted. Instead of lifafas, suit cases were stashed with currency notes and delivered to the Quetta and Peshawar benches of Supreme Court. The Quetta bench held the appointment of CJP in violation of the Judges Case decision as he was not the senior most judge at that time. The currency notes proved effective and Sajjad Ali Shah was made to step down.

Then came Legari Sahib’s turn to face the wrath. Fearing impeachment he had to resign. Rafiq Tarrar the most ordinary judge of Lahore High Court and then Supreme Court was rewarded for his Quetta trip and elected head of state. According to Ardeshar Cowasjee, Justice Tarrar only decided two cases during his stay at LHC, which were both over turned by the Supreme Court. Finally it was COAS who came under fire. While addressing a training seminar at Naval Staff College situated near the canal water at Lahore suggested formation of National Security Council in which the civil and military leadership could co-ordinate. As it was a Supra Constitutional body the PM was furious and forced the COAS to go on retirement, again a first in the history of the country. Now the PM was the Ghanta Ghar, his own President, CJP and COAS it was time to become Amir-ul-Momineen. The resolution passed through the National Assembly but could not impress the Senators. Mian Sahib had out done himself.

In 2007, General Pervez Musharraf the fourth Khaki dictator was at the peak of his performance when he decided to take on Iftikhar Chaudhry the CJP. The move back fired and triggered the lawyer’s movement. As activists we decided to march against the dictator in support of rule of law. On these marches I was repeatedly asked about the sources of funding as the lawyers were on the roads not appearing in the courts. Later on it became evident that PML-N was a key player in the uprising. Instead of rule of law the country continues to endure the rule of mob by black coats.

As the first generation of Pakistan we were taught that crime never pays. PML-N has always succeeding in proving otherwise. Recently in the case of the signal free corridor on Jail Road the LHC ruled that only the city government is authorized to initiate such projects and stopped the work. The Supreme Court ruled that in the absence of local bodies the provincial government can pursue such projects, it tantamount to rewarding the culprits. According to clause 32 of the constitution, the Punjab Government has not ensured promotion of local government and has been in violation of this clause for the last seven years. Yet it was given relief.

PML-N is not a political dispensation; it is a party of interests. Everyone is focused on making money. Institutions, rules, regulations mean nothing to them when it comes into conflict with their interests. On his last day as Chief Minister Punjab Mian Sahib doled out plots to his favorites, the list has never been published. Asif Zardari always tried to convince Benazir Bhutto to follow politics of Sharif brothers and make money instead of giving blood sacrifices. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto went to the gallows to save his honour. While the Sharif family apologized and then lie about their agreement of self exile. Today they are back at the helm and building their empire while they flout the constitution.

Pakistan has a track record for manipulated elections with 2013 being the tenth in row. PML-N has succeeded in dodging justice and fair play once again without credible elections there can be no democracy. In other words PML-N is the biggest threat to the democratic order that has to be dealt with. Even the judicial commission has highlighted election irregularities. In the next thirty days a fool proof electoral process has to be developed followed by credible elections. Strict adherence to constitutional clauses 62 and 63 is the only way forward. So far PML-N has succeeded in dodging all efforts at cleansing by following Abba Ji’s approach, every person has a price, pay and get your way. Unless the forces of status quo are cornered democracy and the country has no future. Kaptaan, Shaitan and Sharif (Raheel) have to fight it out. Political cleansing followed by credible elections is the way forward.

The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.

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