JUSTICE Javed Iqbal, while talking to a delegation from the National School of Public Policy which called on him at the Supreme Court, stated that the state institutions had failed to deliver justice to the people. In his view, that was why people were turning to the Supreme Court with a last hope of getting speedy justice. This is the unfortunate reality of Pakistan today where state institutions stand dissipated and where institutional processes have been all but destroyed through nepotism, corruption and a personalised style of decision making that has come to mark our rulers stints in power - be they military dictators or civilian democrats. Justice Iqbal also pointed to the critical role Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has played in turning around the apex court and its perception within the Pakistani nation. But it would be wrong to ignore the contribution of the other judges of the higher judiciary who chose to stand their ground against dictatorial machinations. This has allowed democracy to be strengthened in the true sense of the word as the people have a sense that now their voice can be heard and justice will be done. But this is a tall order. Undoubtedly, the many suo moto actions taken by the CJ and the Supreme Court in the public interest have heightened peoples expectations of getting justice especially against the excesses of the state. But it is not fair to have the Supreme Court shoulder all the burden, even though it is the custodian of the constitution. All state institutions must deliver on their mandates to the people; otherwise we will continue to see a situation where some Supreme Court decisions are either being thwarted or simply not being enforced. The NRO is the most vivid example but other instances continue to abound. The Supreme Court cannot function in exemplary isolation in a corrupt administrative environment. Justice Iqbal explained that the SC was working on a four point agenda: supremacy of the constitution, rule of law, preservation of the democratic system and strengthening of institutions. Perhaps it is the last that needs to be dealt with on an emergency footing since if institutions work effectively, the other three agenda items will perforce fall into place or at least be easier to tackle. In the present environment of the country one cannot help but welcome the judicial activism one is seeing. By a high public profile it is giving hope to the people that government repression or abuse or injustice will not only not go unnoticed, it will be countered by the judiciary. For the people of Pakistan there really is no choice if they are seeking relief against the excesses of the state, but to turn to the senior judiciary. However, in the final analysis the Supreme Court will need to effect change in all the state institutions, including the lower judiciary, if we are to move towards a society truly based on justice and fair play.