Judiciary on defensive

When the government blames judiciary and the military for exceeding their limit, one laughs. When the judiciary blames the government for exploiting its mandate, one laughs. When the military advises the government to adhere to its constitutional limits, one laughs. There is hardly an institution in the country that is working according to its mandate or constitution; still, each one of them is asking the other to behave according to the rule of the game. Prolonged military regimes and government’s deliberate attempt to keep the country structurally weak has given rise to an attitude of distrust. The result is that every now and then the chief of the army staff has to reiterate that he and his institution support democracy. The Prime Minister has to reinforce his government’s penchant for saving democracy from derailing. Lately, the judiciary has to come out and swear to God for not meddling into the affairs of the state and being independent of any influence. For years now, especially since the lawyer’s movement for the restoration of judiciary, judges have become vocal and desirous of playing to the gallery.

Since Panama controversy, which ultimately became the reason for Nawaz Sharif’s removal from the premiership, the courts have been in the limelight for every wrong reason. The Nawaz brigade would lambast against every proceeding outside the apex court; ridiculing the judiciary and their manner of dealing with the case. Apparently, the message was that hand in glove, both the military and the judiciary were taking the proceedings of the case in a direction from where all the roads led to Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal. That what exactly happened. Nawaz Sharif was dismissed for hiding salary that he had been receiving from his son’s company abroad. Because he was not dismissed on any corruption charges, the Nawaz brigade accused the judiciary becoming a stooge in the drama the establishment had staged to get rid of the PML-N. While this enactment was on its way, another theatre was set up, on the Faizabad Bridge in Islamabad where a firebrand cleric opposing PML-N’s attempt to amend the rules in the Khatme Nabuwat clause of the electoral bill, openly abused the judiciary along with other institutions. In utter disgrace the state, including the military, the government, the court and the parliament, caved in to the demands of the handful of clerics turned vagabonds, and accepted to dismiss a sitting minister of law, while giving a legal passage to Labaik Ya Rasool Allah. Till now, not a single FIR has been filed against any of these clerics neither has the courts issued any directive in this regard. Then enters Imran’s vs. Jahangir Tareen’s case. The court disqualified Jahangir Tareen for life from politics, while giving a clean chit to Imran Khan for not hiding assets or being involved in financial corruption. A leading newspaper headlined this judgment as a balancing act by the judiciary. It was a direct allegation of becoming politicised to accommodate the interest of a particular group. Sensing the wrong, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar, spoke out, swearing that his courts have been honest in their dealing. This further raised eyebrows and went on to confirm that the water has indeed been muddied. An outsider view of the situation is that the country is suffering from a power hungry elite infested with distrust against the other.

When the lawyer’s movement began in 2007 Pakistan started looking a state with an objective. Justice, as we all believe, is the cornerstone of democracy; therefore, suddenly people began to think that with an independent judiciary at the helm, Pakistan will move from an unruly state to a state that upholds the rule of law. The movement was entirely without violence on the part of the lawyers. State resorted to violence, but the lawyers forbore all with complete equanimity. However, all that changed, once the Chief Justice was restored, and the judiciary was declared independent. Today the lawyer’s community is the most volatile group, resorting to violence at the drop of the hat. There is no tolerance, patience or forbearance left. Should we expect justice prevailing, in this situation? The only thing that had happened in the wake of the lawyers’ movement is the consolidation of power. The apex court is more assertive and aggressive but not for the people of the country. The poor lot still have to run from poll to pillar in courts across the country to get justice. The lower judiciary is still infected with corruption. There is a backlog of millions of cases that could not be cleared because of lack of judges and proper judicial setup.

We may have progressed in technology, but with every new day, we are getting closer to building a ruin of an anarchic world around us. The problem with Pakistan’s format of a nation-state is that it is fighting a war for survival within. Each pillar of the state is busy consolidating its power for political expediency. It is this state of affair that makes one laugh.

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