THE Chief Justice of Pakistan, in a speech to the Pakistan Tax bar Association, Karachi, made it clear that it is the judiciary that sets the legal limits for state organs. Indeed it has to be since it provides legal interpretations and adjudicates between the state and the citizens, especially in terms of rights, duties and obligations. As such, in the words of the Chief Justice, the judiciary acts as a guardian of the constitution. This view has also been reiterated by Senator Rabbani, himself a legal mind and a member of the ruling party - as well as the chairperson of the Committee that drafted the 18th Amendment. He has stated that the judiciary had the power not only to interpret the constitution but also to do a judicial review of any of the constitutional amendments. His words are a welcome change from the general banter coming out from other government ministers including the Law Minister who actually had the gall to declare that ministers were not answerable to any courts. The position of the superior judiciary is not only absolutely clear on the distribution of powers amongst state organs; it is rightfully cognisant of its responsibilities to exercise these powers in the interests of the nation. Unfortunately, the Executive is unable to understand the constitutional limitation on its powers since it has, over the years, been manipulating other state organs at will. Now that there is an independent judiciary that is prepared to exercise its constitutional powers, the Executive and the President are finding themselves unable to work within the prescribed limitations. So they seem to be deliberately creating a situation that will lead to a direct clash between themselves and the judiciary. By dragging their feet in implementing Supreme Court decisions, by circumventing the decisions of the courts through presidential interventions and by building up a political populist rhetoric against judicial decisions, the present rulers hope to gradually gain public support for their eventual clash with the senior judiciary. Meanwhile, the Executive and the President are ensuring that all allegedly corrupt officials and cronies continue to maintain their positions of power regardless of the damage being done to the state. The worst of it is the message going to the nation at large that as long as one is in power or has friends in power, the law can be ignored if not openly violated. This will be unfortunate for the country since the people struggled long and hard to finally get an independent judiciary and thereby restore a balance of power amongst the state organs. It was hoped that a democratic government would respect these realities so that substantive democracy could finally be restored to a nation craving for this for over six decades.