Ominous standoff

Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s remark that the government wants to avoid any clash with institutions, there is enough evidence to establish that it has, in fact, taken up arms against an important pillar of the state: the judiciary that is charged with ensuring that the rule of law prevails in the country, protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens, dispensing justice, etc. When the government keeps defying the Supreme Court’s clear and unambiguous verdicts, even when the lapse is pointedly and repeatedly brought out by the court, the media and almost every section of society, there is no other conclusion that could be drawn, but that the executive is in open confrontation with the judiciary.

Somehow, the political leadership fails to realise that the drift of the ominous standoff of the two institutions carries within itself the germs of countrywide chaos. The lawyers bodies, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Lahore High Court Bar Association, have warned the government that if it does not implement its orders they would adopt any means to assert the authority of the court, including the movement like the one launched to restore the illegally deposed judges. Opposition, retired judges and civil society have counselled obedience to the court. The government must remember that it is unheard of in the democratic world that orders by the highest judicial authority in the country are disobeyed.

While there are all the indications that the army is in no mood to intervene in the matter to let the democratic process sort things out, the PPP government by carrying the matter too far might by default be compelling the armed forces to act. Otherwise, letting the confrontation go on would be an open invitation to the disregard of the law of the land by the rest of the country. Former COAS General Aslam Beg believes that the army would readily respond to the SC’s request to intervene.

Though the NRO was pronounced null and void end-2009, several other instances of SC’s defiance have occurred since then, building up tension between the executive and the judiciary, though the court has all along showed remarkable patience. The one question that lies at the root of all these cases is billions of rupees’ corruption by those occupying the top position in the governing hierarchy. Things began heating up when the Haj scandal case came up for hearing again in which billions of taxpayers’ money was siphoned off by influential persons to their own bank accounts. The bench ordered that FIA’s investigator Hussain Asghar, transferred as IG Gilgit-Baltistan, be brought back. As the Establishment Secretary issued notification accordingly in compliance with Articles 5 and 190 of the Constitution, he was sidelined as OSD and Mr Asghar prevented from boarding the plane to Islamabad. Now, with the PM dilly-dallying in informing the SC about why all this happened, the government has decided to take the matter before the Parliament. Yet, the SC has provided it a breathing space to retrieve the situation, by ordering it to give Secretary (now OSD) Suhail Ahmad another assignment and place Hussain Asghar in FIA when he gets back from GB. Could one hope that the government would show political wisdom and maturity and bow before the Supreme Court to save the nascent democracy and prevent chaos in the country? – Nation