Is the Judiciary Overplaying Its Hand in Pakistan!
The sudden spurt of suo moto cases initiated by the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan on matters that appear clearly outside the judicial purview has surprised the pundits in the country. The first salvo fired by the supreme judiciary targeted the PTI government under the leadership of Imran Khan. It was berated for its poor performance in handling the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The qualification of the top point person of the government overlooking and implementing the strategy to counter the Coronavirus threat was questioned, and he was labelled as incompetent for the task and deserved to be fired. Only on the request of the Attorney General, representing the state, the dismissal clause was not included in the final judgment.
The startling actions of the Supreme Court had put the experts in the print and electronic media in a bind. That the very custodian of the country’s constitution was apparently violating the constitutional clauses dealing with the separation of power among the various legal power brokers of the state, seemed obvious; the Damocles sword in the shape of ‘contempt of court’ held by the judiciary, however, kept their disagreements to a low key. The social media, on the other hand, displayed no such restraint, ridiculing the judiciary, particularly the Chief Justice, to an extent where the government had to intervene. The relevant authorities were ordered to clamp down on those deriding the judiciary. The virulent attack on the top judges in the social media has since practically disappeared.
The government’s response and stance against the accusations hurled by the Supreme Court were even more perplexing. Instead of defending its constitutional right, it meekly accepted the court’s action as legal and has gone the extra mile to prove that it has done its best, given the resource constraints and the magnitude of the menace. Their lordships have, for the moment, closed the case after a reprimand and severe warning to the Federal Government to get its act together. And having disposed of the Federal Government’s alleged incompetence in handling the Coronavirus crisis, they have turned their attention on the Provincial Government in Sindh being headed by the PPP.
The charges labelled by the higher judiciary about the PPP mishandling the Pandemic in Sindh are even more severe. The PPP leadership is under the mat and is trying its best to convince the judges that it too has tried its best under very trying circumstances and has not indulged in any malpractices. The trial is still ongoing, and the final verdict is awaited.
What exactly is going on, one wonders. How does one explain the Supreme Court’s actions that are difficult to justify under the Constitution, and why has the Federal Government meekly caved in? Is there a method to the madness? Perhaps there is.
The power troika currently running the country, it appears, is not comfortable with the manner the Covid-19 crisis is being handled in Sindh, particularly in the manner funds and rations are being handed out to the needy. Numerous reports by the private TV channels belie the PPP’s claims that the funds and rations are being correctly distributed. Citizens in both urban and rural Sindh are coming out in droves making a mockery of the lockdown, and claiming the dry ration the Provincial Government claims to have distributed in their community is a hoax. TV channels regularly telecast the sight of the poor displaying expired and putrid food items in several areas where these were distributed. It has heightened the impression of the prevalence of a high degree of incompetence and corruption among the rank and file of the PPP hierarchy.
Imran Khan, the country’s Prime Minister, may have many flaws but is universally accepted as incorruptible on financial matters. His party’s rallying cry was and still is to fight against the corrupt mafia that he and a vast majority of Pakistanis believe has ruined the national economy since the past four decades. Unfortunately, his party failed to win a simple majority in the 2018 General Elections that would have allowed him to freely follow the policies the party had espoused during the electioneering. To be able to form the coalition government, he had to accept members from other parties, many with a tainted reputation.
Currently, his party enjoys a very slim majority in the Parliament that limits his options of cleansing his stable of the corrupt elements, without triggering a crisis threatening the collapse of his government. But if the corrupt elements in all the parties are identified, charged and convicted by the superior judiciary, he will be comfortably placed to get rid of the unsavoury elements from within and also fulfil his party’s rallying cry of battling against corruption without the opposition parties accusing him of one-sided accountability.
Is this the game plan the powerful troika has come up with to ‘kill the snake without breaking the stick’? Has the highest judiciary consented, provided it has a free hand to go after corrupt elements regardless of party affiliation? Has the wily Khan has come up with the perfect ‘heads I win, tails you lose’, strategy?
If this is true, well played Imran Khan.
**The views expressed by author are his own and Strafasia bear no responsibility