The rise of constitutionalism under the new and independent judiciary is a case in point, since the emerging situation appears to be moving in the direction of clearing many misconceptions in the legal and constitutional domain. One thing that has now been established, and even acknowledged, beyond doubt is that the Constitution is supreme, as also repeatedly declared by none other than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, himself, who symbolises the supremacy of the Constitution and thus of the law of the land. This is a rare moment in the country’s history; more so, in its constitutional and political history, when almost all state institutions seem to be on the same page on this particular topic. Obviously, when we say that the Constitution is supreme, we simply mean that the people’s will is supreme. Even otherwise, this is the basic and underlying principle of democracy and democratic systems draw power, authority and legitimacy from the people’s will. For the people, it is indeed good news! This scribe discussed the matter with more than a 100 people from different walks of life. Most of them belonged to the thinking and opinion-making sections of the society. They were asked to give their views candidly without any fear or prejudice. The crux of the opinion of a vast majority of the people interviewed came to the fore in the shape of a demand. In fact, it was not a demand, but an appeal that they very humbly wanted to make to the Supreme Court judges – that is, to pass an appropriate order to clear the confusion surrounding the contempt law, or the contempt ordinance. According to some experts, the ordinance has expired or automatically lapsed (to use the technical jargon), as it was not authenticated or validated by Parliament. Others say that it continues to date, since case law or the verdicts of higher courts continue to rely upon the contempt laws by serving contempt of court notices on contemners and so forth and so on. But the most noteworthy point in this situation is the hearing pending for the last three years whose finality, or the final verdict, can untangle all constitutional knots and confusions that appear to have been created by design by vested interests. Here, the higher judiciary can do a big service to the nation by keeping up with its mission of ensuring the true rule of law in accordance with the Constitution. It means it can rid people of excruciating confusion that some quarters are trying to exploit in order to create instability in the system. But if this situation persists and leads to instability, it will bring the entire democratic system crumbling to the ground, thus leaving no space for an independent and dignified functioning of the national institutions. Picking up facts from the country’s legal history, the first legislation on the contempt laws was done in 1976 that was changed in 1998 and subsequently in 2003. The law was promulgated again in 2004 through a Presidential Ordinance by annulling earlier legislation; it was during General Pervez Musharraf’s tenure. However, it lapsed automatically after it was not endorsed by Parliament.Another important point worth mentioning, in this context, is that a 16-member bench of the Supreme Court deferred proceedings of a contempt case due to the absence of a legal statute. That case is still pending for the last three years due to this technical hitch and lacuna, thus giving rise to legal and constitutional controversies. As said earlier, the judiciary is more powerful and free from past influences and pressures. A cross-section of public opinion is now convinced that if the judiciary of the past has been showing any lethargy on this most vital issue, it can now be resolved in one go! They believe that the independent and vibrant judiciary, which also enjoys wide public support and trust (due to the learned judges’ transparent and quick decisions), will finally deal a death blow to all kinds of controversies and confusions revolving around the contempt law. Otherwise, the clash of institutions might never come to an end and the people will continue to suffer because of biased interpretations of the Constitution and consequently at the hands of vested interests. The present PPP-led government is also in a state of constant anxiety over these controversies. The PPP leadership too wants the superior courts to take stock of the situation. In the same breath, the Attorney General, who happens to be the highest law officer of Pakistan, has raised the issue with the sole objective of getting the higher judiciary’s verdict that would solve the riddle. Of course, it is yet another act of reposing faith and confidence, on the part of PPP leaders, in the present judiciary whose verdict is being sought to put the country on the path that is free from clashes and conflicts. It is in keeping with the PPP traditions that gave the unanimous 1973 Constitution and also restored it in its original form; though after many years during its present tenure. In this constitutional endeavour, the PPP and its founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed, were not alone. Both the PPP and Bhutto Shaheed rather succeeded in building up national consensus with the collaboration of almost all other democratic forces and stakeholders of the country.Even in their latest initiative of passing the contempt of court act that the government and its allies thought had become essential in view of absence of any relevant law, no new provisions have been added. Only that bill was tabled and then passed, which had already been legislated by Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government, but later overturned by the dictator in connivance with the help of a pliant judiciary.The writer is a freelance columnist.