According to the commitment made to the nation by the Pakistan People”s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in Bhurban on March 9, the November 2, 2007 judiciary will be back in their courts by April 30 — three days away — or will they? At the time of writing this article there appears to be no agreement on the resolution. The committee constituted by the PPP and PML-N has for some unfathomable reason been holding closed door meetings. At the end of each meeting, and there have been at least half a dozen so far, the story is the same, there is complete accord and the nation will get good news soon. The nation, in desperate need of not just good news but delivery on governance issues, is increasingly wary of the unwillingness of these two political parties to conclude this matter. There are so many issues that need to be dealt with on an urgent basis and we are stuck on the simplest of them all. Simplest in that the mandate to resolve it is there, the method is clear and the promise to do so was unequivocal.
Why is it then that these political parties are finding it so difficult to deliver on their first promise? The all too obvious disrespect for a judiciary that has for the first time in this country”s 60-year history refused to bow to a military dictate is not just shocking it is puzzling. Are they afraid that this new-found independence will not bow to the new civilian dictate? Is this why there is no empathy for the criminal detention of those judges and their families who stood firm against a dictator? Today we have a judiciary that has done the right thing. And what does our new elected government seek to do? Rather than respect the birth of an institution it appears the intention is to victimise it.
To prevent independence from taking root it has come up with the brilliant notion of having a controlled rather than an independent judiciary. Politicians who have spent years in jail or exile should welcome rather than fear a system that will provide justice. Of course there are those not willing to take their chances on truth and justice but would rather go the Pakistani way and depend on the NRO.
In that case what hope is there for the mother who lost two of her minor daughters, six-year-old Samra and eight-year-old Sama, to gunmen as they walked home from school in Lyari? Or for 11-year-old Mohammed Salman killed by a bullet in the chest during the commission of a street crime in Karachi”s Surjani Town. Or eight-year-old Iqra who was kidnapped, raped and murdered, whose tiny body was chopped in to pieces so as to be disposed of. Or the many faceless victims of Vani, Karo Kari, religious bigotry and sectarian violence who just fall through the cracks in the system. Or the victims of corruption like the children who die as a result of drinking high cyanide content water, or water mixed with sewerage. Is this lack of empathy the reason why what we call the system is riddled with cracks?
And as a nation are we so desensitized that we don”t find the need to address all these and many other injustices. What would you do if you were at the receiving end? Where would you go for redress? If our system is based on the notion of power, privilege and influence what happens when you run up against someone who is more powerful, more privileged and more influential? Where do you turn and is it too late for you at that time?
No one is fooled by the delay and its implications. As the clock ticks we see images of the president and prime minister evolve from frosty to perfectly cordial. It”s all smiles these days and it appears that the president has much to smile about. The nation sacked him on February 18 but rather foolishly, even naively, relied on their elected representative to make sure he left the building. Unfortunately our elected representatives have done what they do best which is to act in their selfinterest as opposed to the interest of those who elected them.
Tragically for the democratic process punishment is being meted out to the judges rather than the military dictator whose illegal acts saw the destruction of institutions, the brutalization and arbitrary imprisonment of thousands of lawyers and activists. Which brings us back to the promise made on March 9 in Bhurban. The political parties now hugely engaged in collaborative politics are messing around with the psyche of the nation and need to come clean and tell us that despite having our mandate they are not willing to deliver on their first promise to put the deposed judges back in their courts.
Given the nature of the political game they are playing, why should we imagine that they will deliver on anything? Like wheat and other essentials at affordable prices, jobs for the unemployed, security for all citizens, education for all, a health care system that works and all those most basic rights enshrined in the Constitution. By putting a spin on what should have been a fairly straightforward action they have not fooled anyone, rather they have further increased the trust deficit. Despite all the rhetoric it shows a complete lack of will to deliver on the many promises made.
Restoration of the judges coupled with a constitutional package that seeks to undermine the independence of the judiciary will be as dark an action as that taken on November 3 by General Musharraf. Judicial control packaged as judicial reform will not wash. Our politicians may have wiped the slate clean with the NRO, but if we are to have any kind of future, then we don”t just need, we demand an independent judiciary so that we never have to enact another NRO.
The writer is a corporate lawyer, host of a weekly talk show on satellite television and a freelance columnist. Email: ayeshatammy @gmail.com
Source: The News, 27/4/2008