Hussain Haqqani is unpopular in Pakistan, among liberals and conservatives alike. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) instigated the Memogate case against him, and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also called him out for treason. However, it has been four years since Memogate, and since then Haqqani’s sin is only being an annoying inconvenience and writing books criticising Pakistan, and it makes no sense to suddenly drag his name into anything.
This is why it was surprising for the CJP to bring up his name suddenly in a matter completely unrelated. While hearing the petitions for granting right of vote to overseas Pakistanis, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) questioned whether people like Husain Haqqani, who claims to be a Pakistani but have stakes somewhere else, should be given the right of vote and summoned details of the Memogate case.
There are several problems with CJP’s comment. As a CJP, his words matter, and the examples he uses are important since they decide the legal precedent for the country. It may have felt satisfying to hit a bone to Haqqani, who has been capitalizing on writing books against Pakistan but perhaps CJP did not think through the precedent this sets. Saying “Some Pakistanis have their heart set somewhere” and using Haqqani as an example makes things extremely complicated and dangerously equates Haqqani with 7.6 million Pakistanis abroad – who may now be disqualified from voting over the yet un-enunciated benchmark of “loyalty” to Pakistan.
Moreover, an officer of the highest court of the country should not make remarks which do not serve as deterrents. Bringing out Haqqani’s name and asking for the Memogate file case achieves no purpose, and will not change the status quo at all. Haqqani will definitely not come back, will not be extradited, and will still keep writing books, as he has the right to do.
It is a remarkable sign of advancement that we have reached the point of introducing foreign nationals into our voting system, and to trivialize the issue by bringing Haqqani into the mix is not the high standard of the judiciary that the court has set. The only thing the CJP may hope to achieve by processing the memo file again is some popularity within the anti-Haqqani groups, which indicate a dangerous steering of the court into populism. Yes, Haqqani is problematic for Pakistan diplomatically, but it is an exercise of haphazard judicial activism to take up this dead issue, when there are many more important and urgent matters left.