Like an overdue ‘shot in the arm’, a wave of judicial activism is sweeping the country, thanks to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and his honorable colleagues. Sending out a clear message of ‘enough’, Pakistan’s apex judiciary has embarked upon a journey to cleanse a rotten system and levy retribution upon individuals responsible for the decay. As expected, voices have been raised in criticism by political quarters and even some members of the legal community, labelling the move as intrusion into government’s administrative domain. In general reckoning, these ‘voices’ have ‘skeletons in their cupboards’ or suffer from a mindset, which makes them oblivious to what is happening in the ‘Land of the Pure’. The critics from the legal community are perhaps politically inclined or simply ignoring the fact that prevailing conditions require extraordinary radical measures. There is need for them to carry out a reality check and see the writing on the wall, which says ‘do something - anything to stem the rot or perish’.

The period covering the Dawn Leaks, Panama Disclosures and the Supreme Court verdict disqualifying Nawaz Sharif has been nothing less than trying for the Army and the apex judiciary. Faced with the stark reality that Dawn Leaks was (and will remain) a blatant breach of security, with a trail leading to the corridors of political power, the Army is fighting on three fronts – against domestic machinations, trans-border sponsored terrorism and an international nexus with the mission to keep the Line of Control, Working Boundary and the Pak – Afghan Border hot. Leading the onslaught at home is a coterie of politicians, who appear hell bent on creating conditions conducive to deprive us of sovereignty, strip national pride and widen the chasm between the haves and the have nots. With attractive slogans of nationalism, rosy promises and skillful maneuvering, these individuals have even ‘slept with the enemy’, while blind, intellectually bereft and naively unaware of their leaders’ true nature, the nation will vote them into power again and again.

Institutions with inbuilt accountability have withstood the rot in a relative manner. One of these is the military, which has stood firm as the national center of gravity, in spite of attempts to irreparably damage it. We should perhaps be grateful to our enemies, who sired and raised terror groups in order to spread mayhem in Pakistan. In doing so, they actually helped restore the nation’s pride in their armed forces and battle inoculated them to a state of excellent battle readiness.

It is said that a building cannot stand on weak foundations. Perhaps our enemies realized this very early, focusing their attention to weaken the three traditional pillars of state i.e. Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary. Regretfully, our judicial system dates back to the nineteenth century wherein many laws and their application require change. A deterioration in our national character, manifested through frivolous petitions, perjury and non-availability or hostility of witnesses due to coercion or monetary gratification and politically motivated appointments with lack of moral ethics stereotype our system today. Some members of the higher judiciary also succumbed to pressures and history recorded their shortcoming without mercy. Happily, such cases were far and few and the history of our Bench and Bar is replete with iconic names such as Justice Kiani, Justice Ghulam Mujaddid and a list too long to reproduce here.

The verdict in the Panama Case was enough to prove that members of our Apex Judiciary are men with moral courage, extraordinary legal awareness and a deep rooted sense of distinguishing right from wrong. It is these qualities that are now driving the Chief Justice to root out evil and restore faith. Judicial activism, the likes of which, being witnessed by a grateful nation, would not have become necessary, had our political rulers displayed qualities of heart and mind essentially required to bring good government to the people. It was a few days ago that sitting at a ‘dhaba’ in search of grist for my weekly write-ups, I fell into conversation with a daily wage worker. I steered the discussion to the ongoing judicial activism, expecting a bland response. What I got was a succinct reaction, “Theek karda pia e, gund kud ria e” (he is doing the right thing, he is disposing off the filth).

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.