The political leaders in power see the judges as an obstruction in their way, therefore, try to portray their legal verdicts as “attacks on democracy.” The working classes are fed up with this game of empty democratic rhetoric. It simply does not translate into roti, kapra aur makan
“I am certainly aware of the speculation that the present apex court has the backing of the army, but it is just that – speculation” says Hassan Gardezi.
A Professor Emeritus of Sociology, a previous chair of sociology department, Punjab University, Lahore, now living in Canada, Hassan Gardezi is a noted public intellectual. Author of several articles and books, he frequently contributes for the Viewpoint too. In an interview with the Viewpoint, he discusses the political developments in Pakistan in the wake of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani’s disqualification. Read on:
The opinion on Supreme Court’s verdict on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani’s disqualification is divided. In general, the Opposition is hailing the verdict while the PPP and liberal circles are presenting it as a coup by other means. How do you assess the situation?
I am not in a position to second guess the propriety of Supreme Court’s decision as many people are doing. Judiciary is the proper institution to interpret legal and constitutional questions involved, and in my opinion the present court is doing quite a competent job of it. The verdict of the Supreme Court on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani’s disqualification is not as much of a political event as it is being made to appear by the PPP and its liberal allies or their opposition
What is a matter of concern to me is that some of the well informed and educated media persons are also getting sucked into it and blowing it up as a major issue. This amounts to playing in the hands of the ruling class, diverting attention from the real issue of the material deprivations being suffered by the poor and powerless people of Pakistan.
It was not at all entertaining or enlightening, for example, to read Najam Sethi’s Friday Times’ editorial of the June 22 issue, trying to depict the June 19 decision of the Supreme Court as a soft coup, vendetta judgement, political victimization etc., followed by all kinds of wild insinuations holding the Supreme Court responsible for undermining the integrity of the parliament and future of democracy in Pakistan.
It seems the democratic process is going on. Under a democratic set up, cabinets and prime ministers even governments get replaced. But if there is something special about Pakistan that a ‘routine’ democratic practice be construed as an attack on democracy?
You are quite right. The democratic process, as we know it, is going on and it will even be strengthened if the PPP government cleans up its act, with or without the involvement of higher judiciary. What is special at this stage in Pakistan is that the political leaders in power want the whole cake and eat it too. They see the judges as an obstruction in their way, and therefore try to portray their legal verdicts as “attacks on democracy.” The PPP politicians may have the support of some parasitic allies in this, but the public in general, the working classes, are fed up with this game of empty democratic rhetoric. It simply does not translate into roti, kapra aur makan. Let’s go to your next question before I am accused of siding with the army.
President Zardari was reluctant from the beginning to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Do you think the PPP knew from the beginning that a judicial coup was possible?
Whether the Supreme Court actions regarding the flouting of its orders by Prime Minister Gillani could be termed a “judicial coup” depends on who you are talking to. But President Zardari was certainly reluctant to restore Iftikhar Chaudhry to his position. He had even commandeered containers from highways to surround the Presidency in Islamabad to keep the pro-restoration protestors out of sight. Zardari, it appears, was reluctant to reinstate a chief justice who had acquired reputation for probing into corruption in high places, for example in the Pakistan Steel Mills privatization case under Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. What the PPP government should have known from the beginning was the capacity of Pakistan’s higher judiciary to act independently whenever it could, without the sword military rule hanging over its head.
Do you think the crisis is over? Or will the SC ask the next PM to write to Swiss courts? If so, will PPP accept such a move lying down as it has apparently done in case of Yusuf Raza Gilani?
If there is a crisis of governance in Pakistan, it is the creation of PPP itself which thrives on promoting its image of martyrdom. One of its top candidates picked to replace Prime Minister Gillani was about to be arrested in a drug case, and the other, Raja Ashraf who got elected to the office faces charges of embezzlements since his tenure as minister in the Gillani government. Was the choice of these tainted individuals as candidates for the high office made to protect the government from legal challenges? Or was it an act of provoking the judicial arm of the state?
Nawaz Sharif in this case joined hands with Imran Khan. While Nawaz Sharif has been opposing army’s role in politics, Imran Khan is seen as pro-establishment. What sort of interests or forces brought this collaboration between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, both otherwise at daggers drawn?
When the ruling party, PPP, provides the opportunity to its competitors, the parties of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, they will take advantage of it. Their defence of the Supreme Court and its decisions in motivated by their own political interests.
Are we witnessing a repeat of the 1990s with the difference that the Chief Justice---in the absence of 58-2b--- is playing the President this time around?
There is no comparison with the situation in the 1990s when presidential powers were used to dismiss elected governments and dissolve the parliament. The Supreme Court has no such powers and the office of the chief justice cannot be compared to that of the president by any stretch of imagination. The judiciary has in fact no apparatus to enforce its own legal decisions and orders. In a country like Pakistan its orders are routinely flaunted and even ridiculed by the some powerful executive officers. I am certainly aware of the speculation that the present apex court has the backing of the army, but it is just that – speculation.
Adnan Farooq has worked with daily The Nation, Lahore and daily Jang, Lahore. He has also volunteered for Milieudefensie, Amsterdam. Friends of the earth, Europe, on environmental issues. He has been working with ON FILE, an Amsterdam-based publication run by journalists from all around the world. He studied Conflict Resolution at University of Amsterdam. He is the editor.