In the last year, we have witnessed several contempt of court cases. They have highlighted how respect for the judicial system is lacking and the policymakers, journalists and media house owners involved do not completely understand what comprises of contempt unless they are actually charged with contempt. In order to counter this confusion, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) has decided to include judicial reforms as part of the party manifesto for the next tenure, as claimed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Judicial reforms are the need of the polity to better understand the injunctions of the legislature and abide by them.

Such an intention by PMLN should be commended, however, the steps leading towards its materialisation need effective planning and a framework based on a workable plan. Just mentioning judicial reforms because they are the need of the hour will not automatically bring in the required reforms. The party has conveniently skipped the introduction of several reforms into the system despite several promises before. A case in point was the introduction of military courts into the system. Military courts had to be taken up by the system because the current judicial setup was in-adept in dealing with cases of extremists and a speedy trial was required in their cases which would not go through the mechanisms of a fair trial in the cases of terrorists. The idea was to keep these courts until the original judicial makeup is empowered to deal with these cases. However to date, we have only witnessed the extension of military courts due to the absence of the promised reforms in the judicial setup.

Another case to be considered is that of the introduction of electoral reforms into the system. The last four years witnessed only the extension of meetings and sessions arranged to discuss the matter, to the point that most of the times, the federal government could not manage to get the required decorum in the House. Electoral reforms were pushed to the last minute and working on it was delayed, to the point that the 2018 general elections are almost here and there is still no clarity as to what procedures will be followed, especially since the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recently refused to follow committee’s guidelines on delimitation.

With such dynamics at play, PMLN needs to ensure that it is more than just a game of words this time.