The Pakistani Supreme Court has never ruled like this before. A decision with such vast public approval has never come to the fore. The layman on the street is quite content with the judgment, a scarce emotion in relation to the courts of law in this country. Yet the ruling is immensely polarizing. Numerous sections of the society have reservations over it, most vocal of them being the lawyer community, a community I happen to be a part of.

In total, there were thirty challengers who petitioned the apex court over the legality of the 18th and the 21st constitutional amendments, the number of petitions that were merged for hearing is a clear indication of the significance of the judgment. Despite widespread applause, I feel like the judgment has left many questions unanswered, it has inherent flaws that I believe is a natural result of the Supreme Court’s willingness to uphold obsolete constitutional doctrines.

The Nadeem Ahmad case, which became the basis for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, was cited as an authority. It was upheld, yet the honorable Chief Justice while holding that Parliament had unlimited power to amend the Constitution, annihilated the very principle the case was based on.  The judiciary in that case had directed parliament to amend the constitution, or otherwise face the striking down of the 18th Amendment by the Supreme Court . In fact, much jurisprudence of the Supreme Court in the era of Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry went in the same direction, since his retirement the judges have returned back towards conventional jurisprudence. This unnecessarily creates uncertainty as to the legality of the plethora of legal principles developed and/or used by the court in the era of Justice Chaudhry.

These need to either be overruled or upheld; and in the case that their legality is reaffirmed the court cannot issue judgments like they did, especially so when they are in direct conflict with the legal principles being upheld.

This also ultimately has a direct bearing on the accusation that the judicial institutions are more lenient towards Prime Minister Sharif than his counterparts belonging to the left. Whether it’s the leakage of the alleged telephonic conversation between Shahbaz Sharif and Malik Qayum or the disqualification of Yousaf Raza Gillani, the sedated hearings of the Asghar Khan case or the hanging of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, recent decisions like this recent one add substance to such accusations, since when the Pakistan People’s Party had a majority in Parliament, the Parliament was impliedly held to be subservient to the constitution. Now that the PML-N enjoys the majority, the exact opposite has been held. This has a disastrous effect on the reputation of the judicial institutions and the populace’s confidence on the justice system is shattered.

Further, the case in my opinion opens up the possibility of an extra-constitutional measure in the future; Pakistan’s parliament has always acquiesced in such extra-constitutional steps whether perpetrated by a military ruler or at the behest of a civilian leader. Now that the Supreme Court has signified its reluctance to review such measures, this leaves Pakistan’s democracy and the liberties of its citizens at the peril of being suspended.

In my opinion, this judgment has pushed Pakistan fifty years back in its constitutional history. This decision, which looks like a victory can in an instant turn into the reason that results in political turmoil and constitutional chaos, if and when it does, it may not be remembered in such great light that it is being propagated to be right now. What would the Supreme Court do when something like this happens remains to be seen?