A battle royal has been raging in Pakistan between the federal executive and the supreme judiciary.

The Supreme Court is accused of overstepping its jurisdiction. (Some of the court’s suo motu initiatives have been considered controversial, as indeed has been the case in India.)

Many of its verdicts and directives are not being implemented. The NRO was declared null and void ab initio three years ago. The Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was asked to write a letter to the Swiss court nullifying an earlier communication, which purported to the withdrawal of a money laundering case against Mr Asif Ali Zardari. The court’s order was disregarded. The Prime Minister refused to comply with the directive. He was given a long rope, many adjournments and opportunities to carry out the verdict. He, guided as he was by his boss sitting in the presidency, stuck to a denial of the desired action and after a lot of prevarication, was charged with the contempt of court, found guilty, was declared disqualified as a member of the National Assembly and consequently ceased to hold the office of Prime Minister. His successor too has taken the same position. No letter, he says, would be written. PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court on August 27 to explain his unacceptable conduct.

Much is being said and written about Raja’s fate. Will he go the Gilani way or will a middle path be found for him to avoid disqualification and removal from the prime ministership.

Of late, there has been a sharp escalation in the PPP’s defiant stance vis-à-vis the higher judiciary, as manifested in the recent remarks and statements of the party leaders.

One may here recall that a new contempt law was hurriedly passed by Parliament saving the Prime Minister and a number of other senior officeholders from the long arm of the existing provisions of the law relating to contempt. This move, however, has come to a quick end with the new legislation struck down. The executive has now raised the question of supremacy of Parliament. This has been questioned by the Supreme Court. Which has been asserted that the final and authoritative interpretation of the Constitution rests with the Supreme Court.

A new development is a string of blatant attacks on the person of the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He has been accused, of involvement, to some extent, with the shenanigans of his son Arsalan, as publicly highlighted by a real estate tycoon, who is said to have close links with the top political bigwigs. It is speculated that he has been used to malign and weaken the Chief Justice. A close aid of the President, who is also a Senator too has held sensational press conferences and participated in some TV talk shows hurling lethal charges against the CJ using strong language. Also, noteworthy are the critical comments emanating from Aitzaz Ahsan and Asma Jahangir - the leading lawyers of Pakistan - who had earlier played an important leadership role in the movement for the restoration of the senior judges. Lesser partisan legal luminaries have also been targeting the Supreme Court and especially the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan has thus come under increasing pressure from different quarters, including a section of the media. One will not be surprised if more weapons from the arsenal of the involved political party’s leadership are not put in place to further demonise the judiciary and seek to weaken its will to act independently and vigorously to interpret the Constitution and the law. It is surprising and indeed most unfortunate that the opposition parties, especially the PML-N, which had played a leading role in bringing the judges back to their seats have failed to rise to the occasion and stand firmly with the judiciary to politically counter the anti-judiciary forces and their unsavoury broadsides. Where is Mr Nawaz Sharif, who had led the long march of the lawyers to a successful outcome? And what exactly is the declared protector of the judiciary, PTI’s Imran Khan, doing to fulfil his pledge to safeguard its (the judiciary’s) stature and independence.

How myopic, indeed, the two leaders and their parties are vying with each other to denounce each other; thus leaving the field open for the present rulers to strive to consolidate their ingenious plans to somehow make a successful return to power after the forthcoming general elections not withstanding their record of poor performance.

Mired as the country has been in multiple crises - political and economic, internal and external - for quite some time, the spiralling institutional clash is bound to push the country further to the brink.

We owe this sorry state of affairs mostly to the last military dictator, who in cahoots with the US-British high command midwifed a tainted, vulnerable and incompetent successor government, which has created a new record of economic and governance disaster. In this descent into darkness, the bright lights are the higher judiciary and the media. Both are under assault!

The forces at work against the judiciary are also actively endeavouring to manipulate the media. Unconfirmed reports of luring and buying print and electronic media personnel have been rife for some time. An anchor was found asking for a favour from a billionaire during a talk show (the anchor later explained that he was just cracking a joke). Some leading comperes have been replaced. A few brave ones are still around. The TV channels’ role in exposing scandals, misconduct and corrupt practices has been of crucial importance. If intelligently done, the discussions held on various issues can provide the much needed information and analysis to the inadequately informed viewers whose numbers run into millions.

At this critical time, TV producers and anchors have a historic and far-reaching role to play to educate the masses. Hopefully, they will resist pressures and temptations and do their duty to help build up institutions and also work for the nurturing of healthy and wholesome traditions and institutions. To do this job sagaciously, they will have to watch their steps and resist pressures. The stakes are high and alluring are the baits and temptations.

A third bright light in this scenario is the new consensus Chief Election Commissioner. He faces a daunting job. He shall be rendering a great national service, if he ensures free and fair elections. Hopefully, he shall deliver. Early and fair elections are, indeed, the hope for a viable future of this benighted country.

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary

    and ambassador, and political and international relations analyst.

    Email: pacade@brain.net.pk