LAHORE -  Long after the nine-judge Supreme Court dismissed Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s petition against the martial law imposed by Gen Ziaul Haq with the direction that the CMLA hold elections within the shortest possible time, this scribe (then working for a news agency) approached Justice Anwarul Haq, who had headed the bench, to ask if the time mentioned in the judgment for the polls had not arrived. “Read the judgment”, replied the chief justice. “If I say something now”, he said, “It would mean our judgment is not clear enough”.

The decades old episode came to the writer’s mind after going through incumbent CJP Mian Saqib Nisar’s address to lawyers in Lahore on Saturday by which he offered various explanations and made some claims.

“All the judges have been working independently without any sort of pressure. We take decisions on merit and you should be proud of the judiciary which we have made independent. Every judge is independent,” he has been quoting as saying.

Rejecting allegations that the judiciary was influenced, he said no one who could dictate the courts was born yet. “Judiciary is not part of any design or plan and the judges are working independently”.

These explanations mean that the PML-N strategy to put the judiciary on the defensive has brought the desired results. Otherwise there was no need to say what the CJP said. Complete silence on the subject would have been a better option.

Since the PML-N leaders face various cases at present, their policy of criticizing the judiciary and keep judges under pressure would continue in the future. Another objective of this policy is to make court’s decisions controversial so that voters don’t give them much importance at the time of next elections – which the prime minister says will be held on July 15.

The CJP’s assertion that no one was born yet who could dictate the courts was, ostensibly, against the facts. He has, probably, forgotten the characters that had influenced the judges back in April 1999 to have Benazir Bhutto convicted. The conversation that went on between a judge and then Ehtesab Commission chairman and others was available even on Internet.

In April 1999, a Lahore-based judge found Ms Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, guilty of taking a $4.3m commission after awarding a pre-shipment inspection contract to the Swiss firm Societe Generale de Surveillance.

The couple were fined $8.6m and jailed for five years.

"We are convinced that the trial in this case was not fair and on account of bias of the Ehtesab Bench the trial of the appellants stands vitiated," the superior court said.

The court found the judge and his wife had applied for diplomatic passports on April 17, 1998 after taking up the case.

On April 27 the judge issued an order freezing the properties and assets of Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari. After three days he and his wife were given diplomatic passports by the government.

It is also a fact that in the past courts helped military dictators advance their agenda. If today the CJP has succeeded in making judiciary independent, it should be matter of great pride for the nation. But any effective check for the independence has yet to come.

ADVICE TO PML-N: This party is ruling the country even after the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was handpicked by the three-time prime minister as his successor. All decisions are taken by the government with the prior approval of Mr Sharif, for which purpose the prime minister had to fly from Islamabad to Lahore and London. Still, the economic situation is worsening by the day. Foreign exchange reserves have gone down and rupee is rapidly losing its value, as a result of which prices of various items, especially the imported ones, are going up. Who is responsible for landing the country in this situation? Why the system in place is not delivering?

There is no doubt that the economy was doing well when Mr Sharif was the prime minister. But does this mean that everything will come to a standstill in his absence? What are the cabinet and parliament doing? Are they justified in receiving their salaries and other perks and privileges? Should they not be disqualified for their failure to perform the duties they were elected for?

The contribution made by the former prime minister apart, the country has to go on even after his disqualification. Nobody is indispensable. There is urgent need for an alternative leadership which, unfortunately, has not been allowed to emerge.

Many believe that Shehbaz Sharif can be a better alternative in the prevailing situation. He has a long experience of running the country’s biggest province and may also be acceptable to the establishment for a more important role at the federal level. But, as of now, his elder brother has a different thinking and Shehbaz is in no mood to do anything against his consent. He has repeatedly stated that his elder brother is not only his leader but also like his father. He also doesn’t want to distance himself from his elder brother, who is an irritant for the establishment.

In such a situation it’s not clear what role he will be playing in the future.

Maryam Nawaz is being groomed as the political heir to her father. But for the time being she is not in a position to play any role because of the allegations in the Panama papers and court cases she is facing.

Kulsoom Nawaz could be another choice from the family, but she has serious health problems and is unable to shoulder any responsibility. Elected as MNA from NA-120 on Sept 17, she has not been able to take oath so far. She is being treated for cancer at a London hospital and nobody knows how much time she needs to recover.

There’s nobody else in the party who is experienced enough to run the country, although anybody assigned this role will happily accept it without giving a serious thought to his eligibility.

The situation the country has been through for the past some time needs a competent and efficient leader at the helm who can take decisions. A PM who proudly says that his prime minister is Nawaz Sharif cannot be expected to take independent decisions. Compared to all others Shehbaz Sharif can be a better choice.

Nawaz Sharif should now think of the country’s interests rather than his own. He started his career as the Punjab finance minister and then twice served as the Punjab chief minister. Then he thrice remained prime minister, an honour nobody else in a country of 210 million will ever be able to dream of.

He should now call it a day, hand over even the party headship to somebody else. New leadership should independently run the country, without being required to travel to London or any other place to seek instructions.