26th Feb, 2023. 09:05 am
Targeting the judiciary
The superior judiciary is under attack in Pakistan. An organised smear campaign has been launched by some of the leading figures in the Shehbaz Sharif government to tarnish the image of some respected judges of the Supreme Court (SC) and provincial high courts. Convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif’s political heir, Maryam, is the face of the propaganda blitz launched against the honourable judges. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) allied media and even a section of the legal fraternity are serving as cheerleaders of this unfortunate defamation campaign, targeting the past and present judges, who took a stand against corrupt public office-holders, including the Sharif family and some of their close aides.
For performing their duty and administering justice, the upright judges are now being targeted by Maryam and her bandwagon openly in public rallies. The photographs of judges are displayed in these rallies in which speakers, especially Maryam, openly threaten and criticize them. This is the new low of Pakistani politics, in which the ruling party is trying to stoke the peoples’ sentiment against the superior judiciary. The objectives of this anti-judiciary campaign are obvious.
Firstly, the Sharifs want to settle old scores not just with the SC and provincial high court judges but also against senior military officials, who dared to challenge and block their attempts to transform Pakistan into a family fiefdom. But while the Sharifs are targeting individuals for now, their real aim is to dominate the two key institutions – the Pakistan Army and the superior judiciary — and make them subservient to the corrupt political order. Although Nawaz Sharif’s rise in politics is owed to former military ruler General Ziaul Haq, the entire family keeps a strong grudge against the army as an institution that not just countered their moves in giving one-sided concessions to India but also tried to resist their corruption. Nawaz Sharif blames the military and judiciary for his three ousters from power. While he and his political heir are for now targeting individuals of both these institutions, they would eventually open a front against them. The military and superior judiciary should remain beware of the Sharif family’s designs.
Secondly, in the current political context, the ruling coalition, especially the PML-N leadership, stands dead opposed to holding provincial elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa provinces – supposed to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial assemblies. At the same time, the PML-N is indicating that it does not want general elections on schedule in 2023, let alone holding them early. And to avoid elections, it is ready to go to any extent. But while the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is dancing on the government’s tunes, it fears that the superior judiciary will uphold the law and is likely to push for elections as mandated in the constitution. This is why the PML-N leadership is coming out all guns blazing against the honourable judges at a time when a nine-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, has taken up a suo motu notice to determine who has the constitutional responsibility and authority to announce the date for elections for a provincial assembly following its dissolution in different situations. The other members of the bench are Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah. While the entire nation is looking towards the SC, whose ruling is likely to break the political logjam by paving the way for elections as defined in the constitution, the PML-N is targeting select judges individually in an attempt to pressurize the court and prevent justice from taking its course.
The government’s dirty tactics are pushing the country towards a greater and graver political and constitutional crisis that has all the potential to derail the system and even create chaos and an anarch-like situation in the country. The only way to avoid this scenario is by upholding the constitution and taking the country towards free, fair and transparent elections both at the Centre and the provincial level. The Bol Media Group condemns every effort aimed at undermining and tarnishing the image of the superior judiciary and calls for upholding the law and the constitution in the country. Timely elections are a constitutional obligation and, under the current circumstances, offer a way to break the current political impasse and take the country forward.