Imran Khan’s speech in Bhawalpur, fiery, even threatening, was an unprecedented show of aggression, even by Khan’s own standards. However, it is not so much his fiery demeanor, but instead the substance of his four demands that is the real cause of concern for relevant political and judicial quarters.
Khan and PTI, over the past one year, have consistently agitated nuanced electoral rigging, as the primary cause for victory of PML(N) in the 2013 general elections. During this time, members of PTI have approached our courts of law, including election tribunals as well as the honorable Supreme Court, to probe into and remedy the alleged electoral rigging. Faced with an unsympathetic judicial system, Khan and his party, at least semantically, relented in their demands by asking that the electoral process be probed into, and judicially determined, in only four constituencies. Even this demand of PTI was ignored by the Chaudhary Court, and Khan’s party was confronted by statements such as ‘we have 20,000 pending cases’, as a result of which the court did not have the time, or ambition, to address PTI’s grievances in an expeditious manner. This attitude of the court provoked contemptuous statements by the angry Khan, resulting in a near show down between PTI and the Chaudhary Court.
In the face of apathy as well as impunity by the political government, along with (alleged) collusion by the judiciary, Imran Khan has now put forward his four questions that need answering. Almost all of his questions strike at the heart of a perceived conspiracy between the Chaudhary Court and PML(N), designed to rob PTI of its electoral victory. These include: 1) who prompted Nawaz Sharif to deliver a victory speech so early on election day? 2) what was the role of Iftikhar Chaudhry in the elections? 3) why did the returning officers not report to the Election Commission, and who changed the electoral lists? 4) what role did the interim government play in the elections?
Amongst all these questions, only one (against the interim government of Najam Sethi) does not relate to the judiciary. Each of the other questions of Imran Khan are designed to uncover the role of Iftikhar Chaudhary, and his associates, in ensuring a PML(N) electoral victory.
The first of these questions (pertaining to the early victory speech of Nawaz Sharif) is a jab at Justice (R) Khalil Ramday, who had set up an “Election Cell” to monitor returning officers and guide PML(N) candidates through the election. The second (relating to Iftikhar Chaudhary’s direct role in maneuvering Nawaz Sharif’s victory, and ensuring that the rigging cases of PTI are not expeditiously decided by the honorable Supreme Court) was substantiated by Imran Khan as a ‘quid pro quo’ transaction by the now retired Chaudhary, at the paltry price of getting his prodigal son appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Balochistan Board of Investment. The third question (relating to the role of Returning Officers, as well as the changing of electoral lists) is also an indirect allegation at the Chaudhary Court, since the Returning Officers belonged to the judiciary, and all of them had been specifically addressed by Iftikhar Chaudhary, leading up to the 2013 general elections.
As a result, this planned million march by Imran Khan is not simply a march against electoral rigging. At the core of it, the planned PTI march is against the role of judiciary, and in particular that of Iftikhar Chaudhary and his allies, in allegedly robbing the public of its fundamental right to choose a government through equal and uninfluenced adult franchise.
Despite the holier than thou sermons of Iftikhar Chaudhary during his (absolute) reign of power, the moral lectures delivered from his seat of justice, the constant supply of taglines for news tickers, and the overt comparison of himself with Hazrat Umar (R.A.), there can be no denying the fact that the now retired Justice Chaudhary had definitive partisan inclinations. Even the most ardent of Chaudhary’s supporters cannot deny the targeting of certain political parties and leaders by his Bench (eagerly aided by those who shared the Bench with him), to the exclusion of other political leaders, which is now a permanent part of our jurisprudence. The unabashed support of one particular media group above all others (culminating in the unexplained leak of his farewell reference video), is a matter of public record. And the protection, by his Court, of his prodigal son (who admittedly has gone from rags to riches during the few years since Iftikhar Chaudhary’s restoration), all cast a grave shadow on the integrity and independence of Iftikhar Chaudhary’s decisions as well as conduct.
In this backdrop, Imran Khan’s allegations against Iftikhar Chaudhary and his friends need to be taken seriously; not only to protect the integrity of our electoral system, but perhaps more importantly, in order to safeguard the sanctity and independence of our judiciary.
The thing about power is that power is loyal to no one. It does not rest with any one person or group forever. It does not protect any one ideology or code for too long. And when it finally decides to escape the grasp of the mighty, it is replaced with a tangible realization of mortality.
No one in Pakistan would be more acutely aware of this fact today than Iftikhar Chaudhary.
As a nation, as a democracy, the only thing left to do now, by the State functionaries as well as the judiciary, is to protect the ship of State, and the empire of our Constitution. And prudence dictates that, for this to happen, a million people need not gather outside our cathedrals of power and justice.
It is time for the post Iftikhar Chaudhary judiciary to spare themselves the embarrassment of people shouting slogans outside the gates of the Supreme Court. It is time that a new judiciary preempts the irresistible clamor of public voice, to initiate an accountability process that looks into and dispassionately judges the conduct of (retired) brethrens.

 The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He  has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School.

saad@post.harvard.edu

@Ch_SaadRasool