Why govts and the judiciary mostly remain at odds?

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Why govts and the judiciary mostly remain at odds?

Why govts and the judiciary mostly remain at odds?

In a serious blow to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led ruling coalition, the Supreme Court on July 26 struck down Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ruling on the election of Punjab chief minister, paving the way for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to ascend to the throne in the country’s political heartland. The SC’s decision, however, whipped up a storm as the ruling coalition, while openly criticizing the verdict, decided to legislate on the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction on suo motu notices and the powers of the chief justice to constitute benches among others. This situation has once again brought into the spotlight the uneasy relationship between the executive and the judiciary in the past few decades.

Abid Zubari
Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan

Political matters should not be brought to the courts. They should be solved in the parliament. Obviously, when a court decides in the favor of one political party, the others start blaming the court. The top court’s prime responsibility is interpretation of the Constitution and all the political parties are bound to follow it.


All political parties should respect the courts and judiciary rather than giving remarks against the judges. The parliament is the appropriate platform to resolve political issues but everyday a new political matter lands in the top court which starts a debate in political circles and the media. Meanwhile, some political workers take advantage of the situation and start defaming the judiciary on social media. Judiciary in Pakistan has emerged as an assertive and active center of power. The 1973 Constitution enhanced the judiciary’s powers of review. The Constitution granted the high courts the jurisdiction to enforce the observance of fundamental rights by state institutions.

The Supreme Court could now also issue orders for enforcement of fundamental rights. Public interest litigation began in the late 1980s and advanced significantly after 2006, becoming a tool the court has used to intervene in the domains of the executive and legislature. The chief justice takes suo moto action often based on newspaper and television reports. The discretion about when to use suo moto powers lay with the chief justice, enabling him to respond to popular sentiments and maximize the court’s visibility and impact.

The judiciary separated itself from the executive and took control of judicial appointments. The formal role of executive institutions was first reduced through judicial action in the 1990s and then again through a constitutional amendment in 2010. The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) – which handles judicial appointments and promotions – is composed of multiple stakeholders but is dominated by the chief justices of the Supreme Court and high courts.

Khawaja Naveed
Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan


Every government in the country thinks that it has supreme power in every matter and can make unconstitutional decisions according to its will. However, every government soon feels that courts are a hindrance and starts harboring enmity towards this state institution.

Every government makes fake cases against media personnel, journalists and their political opponents and when these people approach the courts, they get justice and relief.

The government also uses other departments and institutions like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for political purposes and the judiciary often puts hurdles in this unconstitutional manipulation of institutions.  This also results in a conflict between the courts and the government. This conflict sometimes gets downright ugly.

In November 1997, during the second term of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, the ruling party workers had stormed into the top court, forcing the then chief justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, to stop contempt proceeding against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The present government is bringing constitutional matters to the courts and is putting pressure on them to get desired verdicts. However, such matters can be solved in the parliament. It is unfortunate that social media is being used to discredit judges and judiciary.

Whenever a court takes up a political matter and decides in favor of a certain party, the supporters of other political groups start defaming the judges by accusing the courts of biasness and even corruption. This is a very alarming situation as people are losing faith in courts due to such smear campaigns.


The need of the hour is to create a society where all people respect the state institutions and where all state institutions stay within their constitutional limits. A confrontation among state institutions can only lead to chaos which we cannot afford right now.

Irfan Qadir
Former Attorney General of Pakistan

In my opinion, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led coalition government is strengthening the judiciary by bringing reforms in the judicial system as there is great room for improvement in judiciary as well as other institutions.

I personally believe that it is very important to form a larger bench to hear political matters as the decision of one person can be wrong.


That is why we requested the apex court to form a larger bench when it was hearing Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s plea against the ruling of the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker.

It cannot be denied that every judge has his own political affiliation and that political forces exert pressure on them. That is why they took time to give their verdict in political matters. Sometimes due to political pressure, the judiciary makes wrong decisions in political matters.

I believe that all state institutions must stay within their jurisdictions and try not to interfere in each other’s matters. The parliament and the executive are also as respectable parts of the state as the judiciary and the media, which is often regarded as the fourth pillar of state due to its vast importance as a watchdog and whistleblower.

However, political parties must also try to resolve political issues in the parliament which is the supreme forum as it represents the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the parliament has weakened in the country in the recent past, primarily due to the shortsightedness of political parties.

This weakening of the parliament has allowed the other pillars of the state to assume more powers, creating an imbalance in the system. We must therefore ensure that no institution transgresses its constitutional boundaries and encroaches on each other’s territory.


Raja Amir Abbas
Political analyst and former NAB prosecutor

This Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led federal government is targeting this key pillar of the state as it wants to turn the judiciary into kangaroo courts. The Supreme Court had also given a verdict against the ruling of former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri when he threw out a no-trust motion moved by the then opposition parties against former prime minister Imran Khan.

At that time, these parties which are now part of the ruling coalition had distributed sweetmeat and declared it a landmark verdict.

The courts were also “independent and fair” when they had allowed PML-N supreme leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel to the United Kingdom for medical treatment in October 2019.

But the same parties started raising questions about the impartiality of the judiciary when the apex court gave a verdict against the ruling of the deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly, a verdict that resulted in ouster of the PML-N led government in the province.


I believe that the government is now targeting the judiciary so that the latter may second the controversial amendments it made to the law that governs the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s top graft buster as well as the government’s decision to roll back the amendments that allowed overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.

The government has started putting pressure on the judiciary and started talking about judicial reforms and reducing the powers of the chief justice of Pakistan to form benches and take suo moto notices in order to control the courts.

However, if the parties in the ruling coalition accept the court decisions which are in their favor then they should also respect its rulings which are against them.


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