Did the match between President Zardari and CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry end in a draw?

Here are two thought provoking articles on this topic. The first one is by Zafar Hilaly in Daily Times, and the second is by Cyril Almeida writing in Dawn.

The game not worth the candle — by Zafar Hilaly

Mr Zardari has shrewdly portrayed himself as a champion of provincial rights, a stance that finds considerable resonance in Sindh. Increasingly, politics and public sentiments in Sindh are focusing on greater provincial autonomy

One has to hand it to Mr Zardari. He loses no opportunity to put his opponents on the back foot. As they swivel to hook his bouncers, they can never be sure whether they will be caught. And if the current bouncer is hit for a six, yet another will be on its way. That is how Mr Zardari bowls; he keeps hoping that the batsmen will get a top edge and lose their wicket. It is an unusual and expensive way of getting a wicket, but it works now and then.

And it seems to be working for Mr Zardari. He has politicised the judiciary. He has acquired a measure of sympathy in the media. Some anchors have broken ranks. Even some lawyers are receptive. Clearly, he is getting a better hearing. And demonstrations by his supporters in other parts of the country notwithstanding, it is in Sindh that Mr Zardari seems to be gaining most traction.

In rural Sindh, according to reports, the population saw the just resolved judicial crisis as another conspiracy against the PPP. But it was among portions of the Sindhi middle class that the anger was most palpable. It was somewhat disconcerting sitting next to a Sindhi lawyer in a talk show to see him frothing at the mouth as he castigated fellow lawyers from Punjab for supporting the chief justice and opposing the government. The fact that the Sindh member of IRSA asked his province to call him back in protest over the authority’s decision to allow Punjab to draw 6,000 cusecs of water from the Indus zone may not have been heard over the din of the confrontation with the judiciary, but it resonated in Sindh. Bold actions by timid committee men is a sign of the times and the rising temperature of the debate.

Mr Zardari has shrewdly portrayed himself as a champion of provincial rights, a stance that finds considerable resonance in Sindh. Increasingly, politics and public sentiments in Sindh are focusing on greater provincial autonomy. And on this score, right thinking Sindhis seem determined not to be denied the right to be heard. And with Mr Zardari in control of the Centre, now, they sense, is their best chance. Groups are being formed to ensure for Sindh a better deal in the constitution, a fairer share in the services, control over natural resources and a far bigger slice of the cake than that allotted to Sindh in the NFC Award. Whether it will bode well or ill for the federation will depend on how it is handled.

To those who feel that Mr Zardari has no clout anywhere outside the presidency and scoff at him for “playing the Sindh card”, one can only say that they are mistaken. Talking to a cross section of Sindhis gives a very different impression. Sindh is stirring. No longer will a battalion of Rangers suffice to keep Sindh quiescent.

The demand for greater self-rule should not come as a surprise. The 1940 Lahore Resolution envisaged Pakistan as an entity that comprised virtually, some would argue actually, independent units. And whenever attempts were made to buck this consensus by letting power accrue to the Centre rather than the provinces, trouble has resulted. Admittedly, the dispute concerning the appointment of judges had little to do with provincial rights, but because the tussle involved a Sindhi leader on the one hand, and the Punjab-dominated establishment on the other, many viewed it in the Punjab vs Sindh context.

Mr Zardari’s opponents, and they are legion, are so blinded by their hatred of his person and all that he epitomises that their judgement becomes skewed. True, Mr Zardari has done little to endear himself. Often it seems that he is running a circus from a monkey cage. Whatever good instincts he may have learnt from his wife, he seems to have, by painstaking effort, unlearnt. But it is in the manner of his staying, as much as eventually in his going, that he would have lit the spark that will either consume Pakistan or put it on the path that was envisaged by those who drafted the 1940 Lahore Resolution.

For instance, had Sheikh Mujibur Rehman been treated in a manner different from that of a common criminal much before being tried, Pakistan might have remained intact. His six points were negotiable. And so too whether he should become president or prime minister following the elections. In either post, he would have had to deal with the question of autonomy on which his party had placed such importance. And it is inconceivable that as an incumbent he would have chosen to preside over the disintegration of Pakistan. Hence, any solution arrived at would have been better than the humiliation and defeat that we had to undergo.

Similar is the case of Mr Zardari. If he is allowed to complete his term, the outlook for the federation would be rosier than if he is thwarted. If, for example, Mr Zardari were to be deposed, arrested and shunted off to jail, like some people wish, then the impact would be entirely different from that of losing a fair election. And if his party once again becomes the target of a cruel and mindless vendetta, there is little hope that things will ever be well thereafter. And if not, what is there to guarantee that as a political martyr he will not again have a great say in national matters. The frequency with which traitors and criminals emerge as heroes and saviours in Pakistan is alarming. Hence it is the manner, sensitivity and political skill with which matters are handled that will be the determining factor.

We hear ad nauseam that justice is blind; but does it also have to be deaf to the calls of the populace? At a time when the country is at war with ruthless and determined fanatics, facing by far the greatest challenge to its existence since independence, the people are least concerned which sitting High Court luminary gets to become a judge of the Supreme Court. They prefer peace, stability and good governance. The game that was played out in the media, the streets and the courts was simply not worth the candle.

The writer is a former ambassador. He can be reached at charles123it@hotmail.com

Source: Daily Times

Another week, another clash – by Cyril Almeida

PM Gilani meets with CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry at the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad February 17, 2010.—Reuters
Was this round ever going to end any differently? Never say never in Pakistan but the odds were heavily against it. Here’s why: none of the jobs of the big players were on the line.

Be honest. Does anyone even know what justices Saqib Nisar and Khwaja Sharif look like? Justice Ramday may be a slightly more familiar figure because of the lawyers’ movement but he’s still more likely to be mistaken for someone’s grandfather than a central figure in a near constitutional crisis.

This is Pakistan. Nobody is going to risk their jobs for the sake of some second-tier figures. Sure, it may be worth a kerfuffle or two, a chance to kick some sand in your nemesis’s face, but no more.

President Zardari wasn’t going to stake his presidency on this, Gilani wasn’t going to let yet another marvellous opportunity to play peacemaker — fire-fighter may be more accurate — slip by, and CJ Iftikhar didn’t have to say or do anything other than have the Supreme Court take another look at the process of judicial appointments.

So then why hold the country in the throes of a constitutional quasi-crisis for days?

Honestly, I don’t believe we will ever know. Sure, there will be intense speculation, countless people will swear their versions come straight from the ‘inner circle’, some will look to the stars, others at their hands, but I’m not convinced anyone, perhaps even Zardari himself, knows what exactly the presidency was thinking.

I’m not even sure it matters. The trend that the latest row fit into and the manner of the détente suggest that inevitably there will be another clash. The details of any given eruption or paroxysm aren’t all that important anymore.

Think about it this way. You believe Zardari did A — issue notifications of judicial appointments without consulting CJ Iftikhar as required by the constitution — because he hoped to achieve B — change the topic de jour from corruption to something, anything, else.

Or you believe that Zardari did A because he hoped to achieve X — shape the judiciary to his liking — so that it could lead to Y — a judiciary that is less likely to harass him or his government.

Or you believe that Zardari did A because he wanted J — to diminish CJ Iftikhar’s star a bit by exposing him to be power hungry and stubborn like any politician — so that it could lead to K — where CJ Iftikhar would have to become more cautious in his dealings with the executive to maintain his sky-high popularity.

Anyway you cut it, though, you’re left with two institutions, the executive as headed de facto by Zardari and the judiciary as headed de jure by CJ Iftikhar, that simply appear unable to get along.

The judiciary seems to want to do the executive’s job, the executive seems to want to wish judicial oversight away and yet neither can succeed because of the framework within which they are operating.

Disaster is not inevitable; these could yet turn out to be the birth pangs of a healthy and necessary tension between two state institutions in a system of checks and balances.

But disaster is widely anticipated for two reasons. One, this is Pakistan and we always seem to find a way of committing political suicide. Two, the personalities of Zardari and CJ Iftikhar: while survival is key for both, other factors militate against that imperative.

Zardari is a street fighter, a political brawler who is very comfortable with the wheeling and dealing and glad-handling necessary to his craft in this part of the world. But what works at the level of the street or between politicians doesn’t necessarily work when it comes to relations between institutions of the state.

Impetuousness and rashness are forgiven and forgotten more easily in the rough and tumble world of politics, where having an ally the next time is always more important than nursing a grudge over the positions taken the last time.

CJ Iftikhar, though, is man who clearly believes that he has the winds of history at his back. The old CJ Iftikhar, the one who meekly took an oath under Musharraf at the start of the millennium, the one who prized incrementalism and stability, is gone. The new CJ Iftikhar is fired by a messianic zeal that has infected the entire court.

Speak to any advocate of the Supreme Court who has appeared before its judges recently and ask them about the court’s mood. The aggressiveness, the unhappiness, the impatience is palpable.

Yet, it’s impossible to predict which way the war between Zardari and CJ Iftikhar will end because so little is known for sure. For example, while personalities dominate at the moment, is this really a structural fight being fought instead? Is the court taking on the institution that is the executive or is it taking on the executive as led presently by Zardari?

Even if it is the latter — a personal as opposed to structural struggle — there’s still hope for the half-filled glassers. Four times the judiciary and the executive have clashed over the last year and the results aren’t quite as disastrous as people appear to assume.

Where only one side could win — the appointment of judges — a complete victory has been won by the judiciary, while the executive can mollify itself with the belief that the judiciary’s near unanimous support has been dented a bit.

Of the other three issues, at least two can be declared draws. The judiciary tried to fix the price of sugar and petrol, won the people’s gratitude for trying to do so — and yet sugar and petrol are as expensive as ever, exactly what the executive argued they should be.

If applied to the NRO case, a similar ‘draw’ can be had. For striking down the NRO, the judiciary clearly won public approval. For going further — parading the NRO around town, facing backwards on a donkey, to paraphrase the trenchant lawyer Feisal Naqvi — the Supreme Court won some extra brownie points. If the court doesn’t push too hard on the issue of the Swiss cases, though, the executive may learn to live with the other consequences of the NRO judgment.

Both sides, then, would live to fight another day but armed with the knowledge that fighting doesn’t necessarily mean scuttling the democratic project.

The worry? People here don’t play for draws.


Source: Dawn



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