Déjà vu: The Letter once again
Dr. Rasheed Hasan Khan
The jubilation had hardly died down when the Supreme Court of Pakistan instructed the Attorney General of Pakistan to enquire from the new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf about his position regarding the writing of the letter to the Swiss Authorities in the N.R.O. Case. It was with a feeling of Déjà vu that the people of Pakistan heard the pronouncement of the august Supreme Court. For nearly three years past the political horizon of Pakistan was overcast with the clouds emanating from the contest between the Judicial and the Legislative branches for establishing their writ over the issue of Presidential Immunity. The Judiciary exhibited an astonishing overreach by declaring the elected Prime Minister disqualified from holding office at the conclusion of the last episode. This took place with the backdrop of a sordid drama in which a billionaire power broker and property tycoon accused the son of the Chief Justice of extorting millions of rupees from him. The case is now sub-judice and hopefully the true facts will see the light of the day soon.
Absolute justice resides with God almighty alone. Human society must and does dispense justice that is relative, within the limits of time and space. Each age, social formation and civilization has its own norms of justice and fair play. Thus what was a just measure in a slave society would be considered the height of inequity in a bourgeois society and what the society sanctioned in a feudal social formation would be considered anathema today. From the all powerful Kings of the feudal age who’s every wish and whim was Law, man progressed to the bourgeois society with its Parliament, Law Courts and Executive Bureaucracy. It was not an easy or peaceful transition. It needed a revolution and untold sacrifices for the basic human right of the people to govern themselves and regulate their affairs according to their own wishes, to be recognized.
The Westminster Model of Parliamentary Democracy as adopted by India and Pakistan after 1947 clearly lays down certain ground rules and areas of authority of the various institutions that constitute a bourgeois state, in England these conventions are unwritten ones. The former Colonies have framed Constitutions and written laws which delineate the powers and the duties of the various institutions. In Pakistan the Constitution remained mostly in abeyance and the laws were tailored to fit the regime in power, which happened to be a military dictatorship for most of its history. Therefore the acquisition of a democratic and balanced equation between the state institutions remains a difficult question. After the acquisition of judicial freedom during the last days of Musharraf regime, the nascent free judiciary had a heavy responsibility to discharge. They had to clean the Augean stables of the past as well as lay down new precedents for the future, in the face of stiff resistance from the entrenched vested interests this was no mean task. If truth be told, the Superior Judiciary did an exemplary job. It called to account many “untouchables” and tried to correct decades old injustices. Who can forget the Steel Mill scam of Shoukat Aziz, the Mehran Gate Scandal, the IPP Scandal, the Missing Persons Question and sundry small and big issues which involved the Sacred Cows of Pakistan and which no Judge belonging to the higher judiciary had dared to touch in the past? The people of Pakistan can never forget these signal actions in the interest of Justice and People’s Rights.
However, it must be kept in mind that without a tradition of free judiciary to set a precedent and act as a guide, the possibility of an error was greater than would otherwise have been. Moreover, vested interests and those threatened with loss of royal prerogatives did everything to create confusion to side track the judiciary. The hysterical airing of the scandal involving the C.J. son is a case in point. But at the end of the day, the Superior Judiciary has to bear the burden of charting the correct course of action for the future. This is a far more onerous task than that of its adversaries. Their brief is simple; to block the judiciary at every step and things would revert to their previous state, where any petty bureaucrat or any tin pot in khaki could violate the Constitution and the law and remain unscathed. The only losers would be the long suffering and oppressed people of Pakistan. The ruling quadrangular equation presents the alignment of the ever powerful Civil and Military bureaucracy. Whereas the weaker pair comprising of the Judiciary and the Political parties are unfortunately at loggerheads. One can easily see the outcome of such a contest. Therefore in the interest of the people it is necessary that the situation is reviewed by all concerned and the deadlock is broken. One prime minister has already been a casualty, but a greater tragedy would be if there is any damage to the institution of the Judiciary.