The manner in which the rulings of the Panama Tribunal of the Supreme Court of Pakistan have been flouted is making headlines all over Pakistan. The way events are unfolding is cause for concern. Despite judicial activism, overactive and aggressive Bars, the sociology of the bench and bar has not reformed over seven decades. 

 The article is therefore captioned on a book ‘Law Courts in a Glass House’ authored by Late Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. The landmark book rots in dustbins. The fact that the book has no review reflects the sad conditions of the judicial system and why the system is resistant to self-appraisal. The Bench-Bar Combine has seldom shown urge to self-correct. 

This tragedy is explainable in the interrelationship of ‘Raw Power’ in Pakistani politics. Short public memory eclipses facts and truth. People tend to believe perceptions than hard facts. The fact that segments of media and opinion makers also support such lies, people cannot discern fact from fiction. 

As the best lesson, it reminds us that nations that forget history continue to suffer indignity and pain. Most dangerously, it represents a collective flexible conscience of the elites malleable when self-benefits can be reaped. In nutshell, it explains the state of affairs in which ‘Perversion in Rule of Law’ reflects a system exposed to manipulations inside-out and outside-in; between the honourable judges, political power and money. 

 After all, it is the remnants of the same judiciary whose benches rebelled against a sitting Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. The willpower to resist brief cases of hard cash was too tempting to resist. Barring a few judges, majority swore under the PCO of 1999. 

Amongst the honourable benches, the sense of right and wrong manifested itself once again; or did it? On 31st of July, 2009, for the second time in Pakistan’s judicial history a few PCO Judges of 1999, removed a large number of their own brethren. Precisely, 14 judges of the Superior Court sacked over 100 Judges without hearing them. Unfortunately, this led to a divide between the Bench and the Bar that continues even today. Amongst these 14 judges were many who themselves were beneficiaries of 1999 NRO. 

Justice Iftikhar, going against his own judgment in Zafar Ali Shah violated a previous law set by him to be a winner of both. Though the Chaudary Courts maintain that Tikka Iqbal Khan Case was thrown out, the factual position is that Tikka Iqbal Khan Case is not set aside. It is a case of judicial activism against a judgment that judges once removed, cease to be judges.

 Readers will be surprised that against common belief, Justice Iftikhar Chaudary was not restored but reappointed without due process of law. He had to wait for Justice Dogar to retire who against common perception was never dismissed.  Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar retired on Saturday the 21st of March 2009 on completion of tenure without the traditional full court ceremony.

Eminent Jurists maintain that the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudary was neither legal, nor constitutional and devoid of political consensus. It violated the universally accepted maxim “Audi Alteram Partem”. Otherwise there was no reason for the Parliament not to have given legal cover to the said restoration.

The present controversy surrounding a judge of an accountability court in a case overseen by a judge of Supreme Court is another reminder that courts in Pakistan are amenable to manipulation. Earlier, a bench of Supreme Court defying rulings placed ‘Hudaibya’ the final nutcracker of Panama ‘out of bounds’. These show there are no limits to political manipulation of justice. 

Though the accountability court judge denies the veracity of the video leaks, the event has but a smokescreen before the judicial process. As PMLN and Maryam Safdar claim, their media team will keep coming up with incriminating videos and settle all issues outside the courts. 

There are many questions. Why did accountability courts cede to Court 1 and Court 2 drama? Why were the cases filed in accountability courts in perusal of Supreme Court Judgment weak and not efficiently prosecuted? How come that allegedly, a judge of an accountability court in a historic case fell prey to conduct unbecoming and creating a situation with potential to put the entire judicial system in a spin? Finally why are Bar Councils supported by PMLN and PPP itching to become unruly on the streets? 

PMLN’s past conduct with respect to judiciary is disgraceful. In the 90s, they loaded lower courts with favourite judges. Some of them are now honourable judges of the apex courts. In 1999, they physically attacked the Supreme Court followed by buying off judges with brief cases. Their full support to Justice Iftikhar resulted in a biased election commission and departure of the Chairman NAB, Removal of Chairman SECP and resignation of governor State Bank. Along with a strong media group and support from an influential bank, they engineered a quartet of power that made President Zardari ineffective. But then the President himself was exploiting the system to his own benefit.

 In the interim, PMLN got support from accountability courts and the referee judge to not open Hudaibya. Chairman NAB appointed by PMLN did not appeal and the case purportedly became time barred as ruled by a Supreme Court bench. Such events do not take place by chance; they are managed. 

Maryam Safdar is probably privy to a can of worms that in some cases have outlived utility in terms of time. What is the logic for such threats and slander? The motive is clear. Stir up as much dirt as possible and rally public opinion to lock down Pakistan to the steepest instability descent. In the ensuing chaos, she wishes to engineer, Pakistan’s entire system could become a casualty thereby making her father a hero, securing her future and closing Hudaibya forever. 

Meanwhile Judge Arshad Malik has been removed from the accountability courts and placed at the disposal of Hugh Court. His revelations on how he was chased, hounded and threatened come as no surprise. It has happened in the past and God knows how many judges may have benefitted from such tactics. It is most likely that a stinking can of worms will open when investigations get into full swing. 

 That apex courts seem under siege is an understatement. It is the duty of the government and media to adopt the high moral ground and give full backing to the judiciary. The law must take its course with respect to political parties that maintain incriminating evidence and videos against government servants and judges, so as to blackmail, coerce and force favourable advantages.