The Supreme Court has reacted strongly to the government’s inaction on its judgment dismissing the review petition, filed against the court’s earlier verdict declaring the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void, ab initio. It warned the government on Tuesday that unless it met ‘all the requirements of the verdict’ within a week, to be precise by January 10, ‘action would be taken against all those who failed in their duties’. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, presiding over the bench, also took umbrage at the non-preparation of the required summary by the Interior Secretary, who is travelling abroad, on as important a case as the NRO. Justice Khosa also ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the appointment of matriculation-pass Adnan Khwaja as MD OGDCL and convict Ahmed Riaz Sheikh as Additional Director of FIA.

The repercussions of defying this deadline may turn out to be serious, as the court’s mood reflected that it would no longer brook any delay or defiance. Noteworthy, and at the same time ominous, was its observation that however high in status a person might be, he/she would be held accountable for this failure and action would be taken against him/her. And the action it takes might surprise all those who have become used to hearing it pass judgments and the government tactfully ignoring them, or launching a media blitz questioning the jurisdiction of the court on the issues involved. Or failing that, trying, in vain, to find loopholes in the judgments themselves. In contrast with the government’s attitude, its functionaries have persistently maintained that it respected the judiciary. Once the deadline of a week expires, this duality may not pass. The Supreme Court would no longer, it appears, like to be seen as helpless to take any concrete action against the culprits. Already, it has taken a serious view of Mr Babar Awan’s press conference, held after the review petition was dismissed and has issued contempt of court notices to him as well as Ministers Khurshid Shah and Dr Firdous Awan, PPP’s Secretary Information Qamar Zaman Kaira and Mr Babar Awan’s brother Mr Farooq Awan.

One cannot predict what course of action the Supreme Court might take in the context of failure to implement its NRO verdict, since it has more than one options. There is a possibility, though, that as in the case of Mr Babar Awan’s press conference, it might issue contempt of court notices to all concerned, including the chief executive. Apparently, the situation leaves no other choice for it but to go ahead with implementing the judgment, including, of course, writing to the Swiss authorities about $60 million owned by the President. One would hope that this time around, the government will choose to abide by the law and the Constitution rather than create a crisis situation for the country.