If anyone thought that the judiciary in Pakistan was independent, he should think again. It is a handmaiden of the deep State, that is, of the Rawalpindi-based cabal of generals who virtually command it to do its bidding. Some years ago, after Pervez Musharrf was virtually forced out of the President’s office by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, people had begun to accord it respect for being bold and free. But it is not.
Even at that time, unknown to most people it merely fulfilled the unspoken wishes of the Rawalpindi GHQ. As it has done now by prohibiting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office or contesting elections for life. Judges are behaving like dictators, without any concern either for fairness or justice. Frivolous grounds were cited to first drive out Sharif from the office of prime minister a few months. Last week, in its final order the Supreme Court outright disenfranchised Sharif, banning him for life from contesting elections and holding any public office.
That the generals nursed a grudge against Sharif, including, among others, for his wanting to take a conciliatory approach towards India, is a public secret. In other ways too, Sharif was not always amenable to do the army’s bidding, being a popular leader who had come to power through the ballot-box. But the judges failed to appreciate that by banning Sharif, they virtually struck at the roots of the democratic system or, rather whatever passes for it in that country. As the most popular leader of the Muslim League, Sharif was the rightful claimant for prime ministership in case ML gained parliamentary majority. Judicial intervention or rather interference disrupted the popular will for reasons which are not rooted in justice or equity. Relying on a vaguely worded clause in Article 62 of the Constitution, a five-judge bench unanimously ruled that it was not for Parliament to decide the length of disqualification of an MP found to be in violation of the stipulation requiring him to be ‘sadiq and ‘ameen’(honest and righteous).
The Constitution did not specify the duration of disqualification, but the court, in its wisdom, made it life-time for the three-time prime minister of Pakistan. It is another matter whether any MP or anyone in the Rawalpindi GHQ or, for that matter, in the higher judiciary can meet the ‘sadiq and ameen’ test himself. But, let us not labour the point any more . By doing the bidding of the generals and disqualifying Sharif for life, the Supreme Court has driven a big nail into the already gasping democratic system. An honest option will be for the generals to tear the mask and take charge of the country up-front and do away with elections and the façade of an independent judiciary.