Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee

Johne Donne

I quoted this in December 2016 in ‘Pity the Nation’. Like most Pakistanis, my initial hope and excitement were short lived. Come Panama, I was compelled to write that the scandal is tantamount to a political Buzkhashi in the playing fields of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. 

This ‘tossing the carcass’ to evade responsibility, and reluctance to bring corrupt to justice has been going on for two decades. Buzkhashi has now assumed a feverish pitch hell-bent on saving the face of the master convict and who the Supreme Court ruling in 2016 equated to the Sicilian Mafia. But words have not been complemented by actions; most likely to pollute politics, governance and justice in Pakistan forever. This is the shame it brings.

The bell tolls neither for the crooks nor the dark power corridors. It tolls for the people of Pakistan. This is the journey from ‘Pity the Nation’ (Justice Khosa’s remarks on dismissal of Prime Minister Gilani) to Shame the Nation. The carcass tossed around is not that of the convicts or culprits but the people of Pakistan. Language deadwood can make judgements flowery but cannot dispense justice. 

Three years hence, the carcass is still being tossed around while the entire state machinery is at a standstill. The interplay of cantankerous political dimensions has engulfed the legislature, executive and judiciary. Fact and truth are the casualties. There is an orchestrated and complete dysfunction of the state on this core national issue. It suits the crooks. 

Panama investigations remain inconclusive. Is the nation, not known for sustained struggles tiring and stuttering? Has it lost the sense of right and wrong? 

In continuation of the decades old efforts to avoid inquest, Nawaz Sharif’s treatment abroad has opened a Pandora’s Box, exposing the ‘citadels of high priests’ to be ‘mere sand castles’. Why blame Imran Khan in his short stint when th e game began before he joined politics. How the inquest has been stalled, evaded and impeded for past two decades is forgotten and dusted. 

The additional function assumed by the Supreme Court of acting as investigators (JIT) and jurists in 2016, put an added burden on the apex court. This is evident from a half cooked judgement itself turned around by a bench of Supreme Court (Qazi Essa Judgement on Huddaibya). The referee judge and the judgement were inconsequential. The prime witness Ishaq Dar was surreptitiously slipped out by the Prime Minister. The secondary case that could have led to Huddaibya came to a dead-end. 

Readers must remember that when Huddaibya is closed, there is no way Mian Nawaz Sharif can be investigated and punished. 

Judges are neither seen nor heard. Their judgements speak. Most recently, the ping pong of Nawaz Sharif was played between Islamabad High Court, Lahore High Court and outspoken judges with callous remarks in full public view. It confused the entire scenario and generated public perceptions of ‘an innocent victim of blind justice’. 

Justice Asif Khosa’s statement in some ways vindicates the humanitarian angle of Prime Minister Imran Khan who granted the ultimate ‘right of exit. So if the learned judge is to be believed, everyone who accused the Prime Minister of denying succour to a dangerously sick, baby faced and innocent ex-prime minister has to shut up! 

But this is not so. The way public will be forced to see it through a biased media is that Imran Khan betrayed his own cause. This theme has no sense of rightness. Rather it shapes an environment to demonise and frame Imran Khan through yarns that keep popping up from Pakistan’s Kufa; Islamabad. Dismissal, dissolution, no confidence, midterm polls and national government are the archaic buzzwords of this rumour mill for half a century. They are incapable and cannot think beyond dusting old narratives. 

It also sets aside propaganda against PTI by self-centred human rights experts and liberals like Abbas Nasir, who called it ‘No end to PTI madness’. 

This high priest of liberal right and left forgot that he was applauding a convict against whom mega corruption cases are stalled because they were blocked by the Supreme Court and ex-Prime Minister Abbasi. 

He also chose to ignore annals of anti-judiciary and anti-state actions by Nawaz Sharif that began with loading of handpicked judges from 1990 to date, the storming of Supreme Court, bank rolling a judicial coup in 1997 against an honest Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Qayyum and Arshad Malik scandals, and Changa Manga. 

He also chose not to recall that it is the courts that granted repeated reliefs on Huddaibya Case.

He also chose to ignore the lament of Chairman NAB, that courts are stalling investigations by providing bails and relief to accused. 

Before writing this caustic piece, did he even realise that these investigations were carried by a democratically elected government of PPP and that its chief investigator was pleading for protection of the Supreme Court and Military against the Sicilian Mafia. 

When Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented the lack of action by the judiciary against mega corruption, he was using the ‘exit’ as an effect to highlight the larger context of corruption stated above. To the holiest cow, this became sacrosanct!

Despite his high stature and good reputation, Justice Khosa’s retort has created confusion and doubts. He highlighted judicial power in dismissing two prime ministers and about to punish an ex-President. What did he mean by referring to a case whose judgement is still not finalised?  

He said that the courts since 2009 are different. However, this reference to 2009 opens a can of worms, one cannot resist. So what actually happened in 2009? 

On 31st of July, 2009, for the first time in Pakistan’s judicial history 14 judges of the Superior Court sacked over 100 Judges without hearing them. There were constitutional violations, aberrations, deceit and self-interests in this landmark judgement that according to Chief Justice Khosa revolutionised the courts in 2009. 

Similarly Justice A H Dogar was never removed but retired when his tenure ran out.  

 Not all the 100 judges who were removed had taken oath under a PCO. They had been appointed in 2009 after due process of law when Justice A H Dogar was the Chief Justice. Interestingly prior to the 2009 appointments, Justice Saqib Nisar and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa were reappointed since they took fresh oath in 2008 under Dogar Court. Justice Dogar was consulted with regard to these fresh appointments of Justice Saqib, Justice Khosa and some other judges similarly placed. 

In 2009 judgement of 31st of July, these two were prominent exceptions while those appointed in 2009 were shown the door notwithstanding the fact that the subsequent appointees never took oath under any PCO but Justice Saqib etc. earlier in 2000 had been confirmed as judges of the High Court after they took oath under General Musharraf’s PCO. 

As for Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, against his own judgment in Zafar Ali Shah Case (in which he ruled that a judge who is not given a PCO oath ceases to be a judge) a minority of judges (themselves questionable), adjudged in 2009 that any judge who had not taken oath under the PCO 2007 would remain a judge. This way he violated a previous law set by himself to be a winner of both. 

Unfortunately, the entire procedure of appointments, reappointments, oaths, dismissals and judicial nepotism led to a divide between the Bench and the Bar. Eminent lawyers who led the lawyer’s movement regret their involvement. 

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa is one of the ablest judges of Pakistan’s judiciary. At the twilight of his illustrious career, he needs to address double standards and restore judiciary from a post 2009 body to unites the Bar and Bench over longstanding legal issues, and what his adoration of ‘Pity the Nation’ by Khalil Gibran really means.