Who is Supreme – Parliament or The Supreme Court? – by Farhad Jarral

It’s been a trend in Pakistani media to make headlines and breaking news on television that the Government is unstable and rumors of the imminent military coup are always floating around. The headlines and breaking news syndrome gained further hype when the opposition along with some other anti democratic entities were forced to acknowledge that the Senate elections will result in a majority of seats for the PPP and its coalition partners in Government.

While one can criticize certain aspects of governance by the PPP-lead ruling coalition, even as they have to acknowledge the severe constraints (primarily by the judiciary), no one can fault the current democratic governance on its impressive legislative record- a record that will be further strengthened with the Senate elections in March.

In the light of this backdrop, the PPP-lead coalition has just averted two crisis mounted by the Judiciary and supported and cheered by vast sections of the media and right-wing Punjabi political groups like PML N and PTI.  The current crisis, largely manufactured against the elected Government highlighted deep problems where the Judiciary seemed to be going against the Constitution itself in its zeal to topple the elected government and once again plunge the country into a crisis.

It was here that the PPP-lead coalition distinguished itself from the rabid right wing coalition baying for its blood. It based its stance on the Constitution.  When the Pro-government  resolution was moved by Asfandyar Wali Khan, it was passed in majority by the Parliamentarians.  It was a message to the undemocratic forces that the Parliament is sovereign and supreme and no one can bypass the Parliament. While on the contempt of court notice PM responded gently and announced on the floor of the house to appear before the courts on 19th January PM.  Once again, the PM placed his faith on the Constitution and his counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan stuck to the law and did not pander to the lowest common denominator

It was not the first time when a PM was served a contempt notice from the Courts but in Past Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also got the contempt notice. It is the responsibility of a Prime Minister to respect the institutions and to strengthen them so is for the Judiciary. The Supreme Court which took the NRO case for hearing in 2009, did not yet declared a single verdict in this case in last 4 years and just a single case have been discussed in the courts in these years which is Swiss case. Swiss Case in not only the NRO but there are other 8041 beneficiaries who have been blessed by this NRO.  Clearly, for the neutral bystander, the allegation of Judicial bias cannot be ignored.

As for the Swiss Case, the other respondents have been found innocent and in the 30-odd cases against the PPP, the majority of them have been politically motivated and no evidence has been found after nearly two decades!

The Judiciary is a respected institution but only if it works impartially and follows the spirit of the Rule of Law.

In Pakistan a PM got contempt of court notice a few weeks ago whereas, In Philippine impeachment motion passed by the Parliament against the Chief Justice on the same day. It’s not that we also pass an impeachment motion against Iftikhar Chaudhary but from the day this judiciary is restored not even a single judgment issued in favor of the general masses. From past 2 years every case took by the Supreme Judiciary is political which has nothing to do with the masses of Pakistan.  The lower courts are facing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases but our Superior Judiciary is more intent on playing the role of political opposition as opposed to conducting urgently required judicial reforms.

The Supreme Court simply cannot compare itself to the elected Parliament.  The latter shares a far better record.  The latter has been a victim of military coups which have been rubber stamped by the former.

Apparently, a three-member bench of Supreme Court, comprising CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez, heard a petition filed against the possible removal of COAS and DG ISI. The CJ demanded from Attorney General to provide in written statement that the Government will not sack Chief of Army Staff and DG Inter-Services Intelligence. Now, what Supreme Court has to do with these kinds of decisions? PM have absolute powers to appoint, extend or sack head of any Federal department so it has nothing to do with the Supreme Court to dictate Government in this case which is a very sensitive case in Pakistan where we experienced 4 Military Takeovers.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani proved that the Parliament is sovereign and a lot bills have been passed by this Parliament in last 4 years so, you can’t say this Parliament is a rubber stamp. PM also quoted that he is on the seat of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and he will protect their legacy and vision. He also mentioned that he was the one who restored the Judges on very first day he was elected as the Leader of the House; he also reminded those who forget the past that he had to take oath next day from General Musharaf when he restored the Judges. If the Parliament has no respect for the judiciary then why the Prime Minister said that he’ll appear before the court? Why the Ministers of this Government face the cases even though they are in Government. There’s no conflict created by the Government between the Institutions but there are some groups who want to destabilize the Democracy in Pakistan.

This is a time for reflection.  Those on the Far Left and Far Right who constantly abuse politicians need to reflect on their own activism.  By persisting with the Lawyer’s Movement after the 2008 elections, they have facilitated a Judiciary that feels it is not bound by the Constitution – rather it is only subservient to the military establishment and the baying of the Right-wing ideologues and their warped urban manifestos that are at odds with a pluralist, democratic and economically prosperous Pakistan.



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