In an obvious reference to the proposed PPP-sponsored bill on contempt of court that would exempt the Prime Minister, Ministers and some other top figures in the political hierarchy of the country from the purview of contempt, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry warned that the Supreme Court would strike down any legislation that was repugnant to the Constitution. “Whosoever one might be or whatever position one might be holding, in the eyes of law they are at par,” declared Justice Chaudhry, adding that there could be no compromise on the independence of the judiciary. He was addressing a ceremony held at Karachi on Saturday to award practice licences to lawyers. He reiterated, in plain terms, that the Constitution, not Parliament, was supreme, came as a blunt clarification in the aftermath of the push and pull between the Parliament and Supreme Court of recent weeks over the NRO implementation and other verdicts. The temptation to indulge in confusing rhetoric trumpeting the notion of either Parliament’s supremacy or of the Supreme Court’s is unhelpful in either improving governance or in dealing with the thousands of case files gathering in its courtrooms. According to the Constitution, which all and sundry claim to hold sacred, all institutions have been given their space in which to operate. Notwithstanding any of them, the institutions in Pakistan must cease this detestable game of asserting supremacy, one over the other and get on with the main intention making life easier for the common man. The Parliament is bestowed powers by the Constitution to legislate, the same way the court is granted powers to ensure the legislation stays within certain norms. The issue of “supremacy” is redundant. With clear directions as to how the courts and Parliament are to interact, the debate is nonsensical. The only thing to accept is that absolutely no one is allowed an unquestioned free ride. And that is the spirit of the Constitution as well.

Where the government lets itself down, is in doggedly pursuing only that legislation which it finds necessary for its own political convenience. Similarly, the courts are overwhelmingly bogged down in political matters and less and less time is given to discussing questions of law; instead the beleaguered court time and again is forced to protest at its orders not being obeyed.

One wonders how at this critical hour in our history when Pakistan is facing daunting challenges from all sides, our high and mighty could even be thinking of waging a war over “supremacy”. Better sense must prevail and the government must drop its ridiculous policy of exempting itsel from court contempt, while the Supreme Court must graciously accept the Parliament’s absolute right and privilege to draft and amend legislation.