April 6, 2008

PPP and judiciary

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 12:48 am
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APRIL 06, 2008


Sunday, April 06, 2008
The reports that at his party’s central executive committee meeting in Naudero, Asif Ali Zardari, in an animated attack on the deposed judges, issued a virtual charge sheet against them are alarming. The reports gave rise to suspicions that the PPP-PML-N coalition which signed the historical Murree Accord pledging to restore the judges within 30 days, may come under strain. But the PPP leadership has quickly taken action to control the damage. A PPP spokesman firmly asserted on Saturday that the party was committed to the Murree Declaration and the restoration of the deposed judges. Mian Nawaz Sharif has also expressed the confidence that the Murree Accord will be honoured by the PPP.

In a direct response to a call from lawyers’ leader Aitzaz Ahsan’s to restore the deposed judges, Zardari is said to have lashed out bitterly against them, stating that the same judges had earlier taken oath under the PCO. He seemed especially embittered over the fact that they had failed to provide him relief during his years in jail. This personal experience of the PPP leader apart, the party has officially stated after the CEC meeting that manipulation of the judiciary at the hands of the executive in the past had weakened the institution and it was time that the judiciary was strengthened to serve as a bulwark against dictatorship. Zardari told the CEC that the people wanted the judges to honour their oath to preserve and protect the constitution instead of taking fresh oaths of allegiance to an individual. No body, he asserted, should dictate to the PPP as to what to do in this regard.

But surely Asif Ali Zardari must realize that, at the present time, the issue goes beyond the actions of particular judges and revolves around the principle of judicial independence. Whereas the PPP co-chairperson has a point when he says that rather than any individual he is interested in granting autonomy to the institution, he must realize that, to achieve that, it is necessary first of all to undo the wrong done to the judges by the presidency. Within this broader framework, questions of individual decisions taken by judges are irrelevant. The talk of a parliamentary scrutiny process for judges, or a ‘minus-one’ formula in which deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry would be ousted, has created more doubts in an already murky situation. The PPP has a valid point when it says that something has to be done about the judges who break their own oath. The sensitive balancing act that has to be carefully played out in parliament is how to restore the deposed judges as well as put a package together which ensures that judges remain independent and do not betray their oath of remaining loyal to the constitution. This probably is the biggest challenge facing the PPP-PML-N coalition. The encouraging sign is that the top leadership of the two parties is confident that the Murree Accord will be implemented, as agreed, and reforms would also be undertaken. The alternative may cause great damage and leave Pakistan in even greater darkness than before if a new era of conflict and confrontation begins.


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