Myths do not go away because this or that fact contradicts them; they usually lose their hold when the whole picture alters. Till the elections we were living in a political landscape shaped by the president’s arbitrary usurpation of power and the chief justice’s defiance. Now it seems the current government wants to change it
What exactly is going on regarding the issue of the deposed judges?
Constitutional and political readers of the daily negotiations between PPP and PMLN see both hope and despair. The coalition might fall; the coalition may backtrack and lose credibility; the coalition might realise that there is life and strife beyond the judges’ issue and tiptoe around it for a while longer; the coalition may graduate to greater maturity and a more responsible consensus on this matter as a result of the current, more earnest negotiations.
These are all possibilities that have been voiced. But a simpler question that I have not see addressed head-on is, why, when the two coalition partners are agreed on the basic minimum of restoring the deposed judges, is there a deadlock?
The short answer — the threatened constitutional package — doesn’t explain much. First, we still don’t know what’s going to be in it, despite indications in the press that it will possibly curb judicial activism and affect the judges’ tenure. It might be good, it might be horrid. But it seems that it isn’t the content of the judicial package, nor the prospect of judicial reform, that the lawyers and the PMLN oppose, or not yet. It is its use as an instrument to reinstate the judges. They don’t want the question of reform and reinstatement to be tied together.
What is needed, as lawyers’ representatives and even some judges have indicated, is to recognise the illegality of the PCO and simply reverse the situation. The PPP seems to be of the view that reinstatement should be carried out in a manner that recognises the events of last year as more than an aberration. What more was there to them? This is the question that the package will ostensibly answer through the reforms it proposes. Whether it will turn out to be a contentious document or a useful one remains to be seen.
But this way of bringing about reinstatement carries an implication for the lawyers’ movement that they will naturally want to resist. Involving the status of the judges in considerations of the past and future conduct of the judiciary — considerations it will get increasingly mired in as memories of March 9 and November 3 fade — will diminish the almost mythical significance of the chief justice’s defiance of the president.
I don’t mean mythical in the derogatory sense, as a baseless story but myth as a narrative that explains an origin and shapes a subsequent course of events. The myth is that the chief justice’s action was without precedent; it established a new reality for the judiciary, one that cannot be explained with reference to what happened before or after it.
Myths do not go away because this or that fact contradicts them; they usually lose their hold when the whole picture alters. Till the elections we were living in a political landscape shaped by the president’s arbitrary usurpation of power and the chief justice’s defiance. Now it seems the current government wants to change it. It wants to place, or replace rather, the judiciary in the ‘system’ it has helped form along with the other organs of state. Is the myth strong enough to endure? Can it serve a useful purpose?
Whether or not it is, it should be acknowledged that it has already done much work. It is being pointed out with increasing force that the judges that took on the president were not always inimical to the military regime. Well, exactly, and perhaps they did so because they were able to feel that they were acting in radically changed circumstances. If there had not been the sense of a decisive break, then many actions and energies would have lost focus.
Clearly, defiance of the ‘establishment’ will lose strength as a call-to-arms now that an elected government has joined it. Nor will an installed elected government welcome it for long, even if it feels obliged to own it initially as part of the forces that brought it to power.
Anyone inclined to speculate beyond the daily news cycle might want to link all this to a more general question: What happens to radical, change-bringing episodes when they have run their course? How are they owned or disowned, contained or accommodated?
The writer is former Assistant Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times and loves to find affinities in objects where no brotherhood exists to common minds
Source: Daily Times, 1/5/2008