The Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case continued, with former COAS Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg saying that he should be tried under military rules for violating the Constitution, and there should not be what he called a ‘media trial’ of military officials. However, on the same day, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while addressing the Abbottabad Bar Association, said that the system must run under the law and Constitution, and that no one dared derail the system. General Beg, along with former DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, has had an investigation ordered against him for having been behind the distribution of money to PPP opponents in the 1990 elections. Chief Justice Chaudhry thus not only made clear the basis of the decision, but also indicated how General Beg and General Durrani should be treated: according to law. General Beg may be angling for special treatment, but he must be granted it only if the law so provides. That might very well raise questions about why such special treatment exists, and indeed, whether such discrimination is constitutional or not.

Chief Justice Chaudhry has been as firm in ruling out the possibility of any clash of institutions following this verdict, as has the current COAS, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani. The clash foreseen is between the military and the judiciary. Whereas the Chief Justice’s declaration that no on dare derail the system is taken to mean that no future military rule will have any legal cover given to it, as happened in the past; General Kayani’s statement about the Asghar Khan case is being taken to mean that there will be no takeover. Chief Justice Chaudhry’s remarks should also be taken to mean that the usual plea of ‘national interest’ will not work, and the Supreme Court will test every action of executive authorities by the Constitution, and any law under it. That means that the rule of law is to be implemented.

General Beg’s claim implies that he expects more favourable treatment under military rules. However, his claim that this is the practice in all civilised countries implies that he accepts the final appeal that they give to the highest civilian court of the land. If he does not want to be investigated by the FIA, he would probably find that he is not alone in his reservations. The government must also take note of the rules governing its military confirm to the Constitution. It should also ensure that its own behaviour is in accordance with the Constitution. It cannot very well demand obedience to court orders if it is in defiance of any itself. It must also consider the flaws in its administration of justice which allow General Beg to make such a statement, in which special treatment is seen as something which may be claimed, implying that the ordinary law of the land is inadequate.