The Chief Justice of Pakistan was emphatic with reason, on Saturday when he said that no one was above the law. In making this observation, he cited the clear and unambiguous basic law of the land and the example of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that in case his daughter were to commit a crime she would get the same punishment as any other mortal. He asked the gathering at the Multan Bench of the Lahore High Court, which had assembled there to watch the oath-taking ceremony of the office-bearers of 39 bar associations of south Punjab, to go through Articles 5, 9 and 45 of the Constitution to confirm the truth of his statement. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry reminded that democracy had arrived; and that the days of dictatorship when one man’s word was law were over. The wave of political awakening has swept the entire world. And no one was Caesar’s wife now!

Justice Chaudhry pointed out that the judges were responsible for dispensing justice impartially and urged them to dispose of cases without regard to anyone’s social or official position. Without mentioning as much, he rebutted the charge of those who were accusing the judiciary of overstepping the limits prescribed for it, by saying that when the state failed to protect the life and property of citizens – a responsibility assigned to it by the Constitution – the courts had to step in. He called upon young lawyers to play their due role in upholding the rule of law and, for this purpose, pursue the examples of senior colleagues. He praised the legal fraternity for not only making Pakistan, but also saving it and bringing about a revolution in respect of the rule of law, a pointed reference to the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of deposed judiciary.

It is evident that Justice Chaudhry had in mind the ruling PPP’s recent move that pushed through the Parliament the contempt of court law that only a day earlier was thrown out of the Statute Book by the Supreme Court as ultra vires of the Constitution as well as its behavior of persistent defiance of judicial verdicts. One really wonders what good the leadership of the party could have in mind while making such an ill advised attempt, except for saving Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and thereby sticking to power at all costs. If the PPP wants to regain the confidence of the people that it has lost owing to corruption, bad governance and neglect of people’s problems by the government it leads at the Centre, obedience to judicial commands and respect for the rule of law would be extremely important. It would have to get out of the mindset of ‘exceptionalism’ that some holy cows are not accountable for their acts. Otherwise, Mr Zardari’s boast of another term of office for the PPP would be just hot air.