Cosying up to the judiciary

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 28.03.18

Sycophancy is a curse practised conceitedly in Pakistan. On March 21, during a press
conference in Islamabad, Sheikh Rasheed of Awami Muslim League beseeched Chief
Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to impose judicial martial law for three months till the time the
general elections take place.

Such an unscrupulous statement was expected from none other than Rasheed. The next
day, he was found clarifying his statement by saying that his words were misconstrued.
Nevertheless, by issuing such a statement, Rasheed tried to appease the higher judiciary
deciding on his case of under declaration of assets.

It is known that the Constitution of Pakistan is contemptuous of any kind of judicial martial
law. Article 6 awaits to grab any judge overstepping the constitutional limits of his chair. The
same is the dispirited shove of Article 6 for a military general, no matter how many
democratic credentials he claims to have decked his shoulder. Nevertheless, the
wrongdoing preying on former General Pervez Musharraf is that his act of the abrogation of
the constitution on 3 November 2007 could not seek protection under any constitutional
amendment. General Mushrraf had to run from pillar to post to circumvent the affliction of
the high-treason charge until the court arraigned him. To avoid the ensuing trial, General
Musharraf had to brandish his hospital attire to flee the scene. No new general is ready to
join the ranks of absconder. This is why the option of military martial law is closed.

However, the will to humble the parliament has not died entirely. It is smouldering for its
forceful revival. The anti-parliament school of thought has found a way out by believing
that, under the option of protecting fundamental rights of people, the judiciary can
intervene in the executive domain through enjoining upon the military to do its bidding. That
is, in the best interests of people, the higher judiciary may issue orders to be abided by the
military.

A glimpse of this initiative can be found in the keynote address of Chief of Army Staff
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, when he addressed to a seminar “Interplay of Economy and
Security” in Karachi on 11 October 2017. The seminar was jointly organized by the Inter-
Services Public Relations and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and
Industry. In his address, General Bajwa laid bare his understanding of economy and its
relationship with security by forging a bivariate relationship, as if this were a simple cause-
and-effect relationship. This happens when the text is read out from the written material,
instead of pondering over the basics, as was apparent from his address. Having
established the theoretical relationship, General Bajwa reveled in the connection
overlooking the importance of a multivariate relationship challenging the cause-and-effect
presumption imbuing the whole seminar. In its wake, the actual promoters of the theme
came to the fore, appeared on the media and started defending the stance of General
Bajwa until the government intervened by inviting General Bajwa to a briefing on economy
and hence putting to rest his perceived anxieties.

Another glimpse of the same initiative can be found in Justice Nisar’s springing into action
by issuing a plethora of suo moto notices in public interest especially after 15 December
2017. The hyper-activity of the higher judiciary in the name of public interest is projected as
the indispensable overarching domain of the judiciary. From probing hospital waste in
Lahore to cleaning roads in Karachi, all weaknesses in the work of the executive and local
administration are being exploited, under certain illusions. For instance, the courts are
dispensing justice without fail; the venal and inept judges have been culled out; corruption
and anomalies in the judiciary have been stamped out; and people are overly delighted with
the judiciary.

It is obvious that, in the guise of the public judiciary, an effort is underway to attune people
to the judicial public service. The resulting perception encompassing judiciary’s service for
the public will help the higher judiciary justify any of its acts personifying any form of judicial
martial law by calling out the military to its help in the public service domain. What General
Bajwa resorted to gain petulantly in one stride on 11 October 2017, Justice Nisar has been
trying to achieve the same patiently and incrementally since 15 December 2017. The public
service is just a subterfuge; the real target is to achieve an oversight of the parliament, be it
a military oversight or a judicial one.

The undercurrent is confirmed by General Bajwa’s talk with a select group of journalists in
early March this year, when, after inviting them, he offered an unsolicited support to the
higher judiciary. Interestingly, the higher judiciary supported by General Bajwa has an
intriguing family of judges. For instance, on the bench, there is a judge that remained an
armchair lawyer throughout his career deprived of any experience of a trial court. The
judge is former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Mansoor Ali Shah, who as a practicing
lawyer hardly ever appeared in the lower court. His curriculum vitae is bereft of any cases
he contested and won as a practising lawyer. At the high court, he just appeared for a
couple of public interest petitions. That is it. He became a judge just because of his some
role in the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the judiciary. Justice Shah now adorns
the league of the judges of the Supreme Court, which is being fully supported by General
Bajwa, who believes that this crop of judges can take on the parliament which is full of
incompetent and unwanted politicians. Interesting!

The dream of imposing judicial martial law has been lingering on since 2014, as revealed
by a veteran politician, Javed Hashmi. However, on March 21 this year Sheikh Rasheed
uttered the same words to express his obsequiousness to the higher judiciary to seek
favour in the case against him. This is where he lay the blunder. He brought into lime light
the otherwise hidden nexus between the judiciary and the military to circumscribe the
parliament.

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