Another black chapter in Pakistan’s judicial history
Pakistan is a country where getting justice is a luxury and laws are tailor-made for the convenience of the ruling elite. The judicial system of Pakistan can be described as a dual standard justice system that has a black history of aligning with dictators and those in league with them.
Members of the higher judiciary are expected to fix the legal system, but for the past decade, they have been busy addressing the administrative and political issues of the country instead, which is clearly outside their domain.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif was controversially removed from office and disqualified from holding any public office by the judiciary. Since then hyperactive Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and his colleagues have taken charge of the executive and political affairs of the state, and it seems that he is now the chief executive of the country.
Sharif never accepted the legitimacy of the decision and called it a conspiracy against him. As a result, it turned in to a personal conflict between the Supreme Court and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
This has resulted in the politicization of the institution of the judiciary, and the current judges are deemed supporters of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government by supporters of the PML-N and the other political parties.
Khan has been treated favorably in cases against him. He did not declare Tyrian White as his daughter in the nomination paper to contest elections. As per Article 62 of the constitution of Pakistan, he is not eligible to hold any public office as he lied to the election commission. But the petition to disqualify him was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
The same happened when he was accused of owning an undeclared offshore company; the judiciary provided him with relief. His residence of Bani Galla was proven to be illegally constructed, but the court allowed him to make it legitimate by applying for the correct documents and following other necessary procedures.
The foreign funding case against him and his party has been pending for four years but the court seems to be in no hurry to hear the case. Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, owned undisclosed property worth billions of rupees in Dubai and she was also treated leniently. She merely had to pay a fine for not declaring her assets. The judiciary did not order a joint investigation team to find out how she had been able to obtain the money to purchase such an expensive property.
However, it is pertinent to note that when it was revealed that Sharif’s Mayfair apartments were found to be in the name of his children the court disqualified him.
This dual standard of justice has raised serious questions about the credibility of the higher judiciary
This dual standard of justice has raised serious questions about the credibility of the higher judiciary. Then there is another dimension: the judicial activism that has almost created a sense of deprivation among public servants and private businessmen.
Nisar has been busy visiting different hospitals and educational institutions and has a keen interest in political developments. He has fired many of the chancellors and vice-chancellors of the universities in a single hearing, and he has ended careers with his verbal attacks. Recently, Hussain Naqi, a veteran journalist who is widely respected in Pakistani media, was unnecessarily criticized and degraded by the chief justice. The Punjab Health Care commision board was later dissolved by the chief justice just to get rid of Naqi, who was an elected board member.
Nisar is also busy collecting donations for the construction of the DiaMer-Bhasha Dam, and he has been violating the code of conduct of the judges mentioned in the constitution. He meets government ministers, and these days he is seen in London and pictures have emerged of him sitting with Khan’s sister Aleema, the right-hand man of the premier, Aneel Mussarat, and the lawyer who fought the case against Sharif.
Still, Nisar demands respect from the masses and journalists. But respect is not demanded – it is commanded. And it is commanded through actions and fair judgments. It is not possible for a person or institution whose main responsibility is to interpret the constitution and dispense speedy justice but does not fulfill this duty or take an interest in political and administrative affairs to be respected.
Because the judiciary has the power to charge anyone with contempt or treason, the masses and journalists, therefore, restrain themselves from criticizing poor judgments and their undue influence on political proceedings. But the honorable chief justice should realize that one day he will retire and then no one will be afraid to criticize him for the role he played in undermining democracy and interfering in the executive domain.
History never forgives anyone and it always gives its verdict without fear of contempt or punishment. History does not remember many of the decisions of the judiciary in Pakistan in golden words and it clearly tells us that the judiciary in Pakistan always paved the way for the undemocratic forces to tighten their grip on the power chessboard. Perhaps this chapter of recent judicial activism will also not go down well in the history books.