April 27, 2008

Noughts and crosses (JUDGES RESTORATION)

Filed under: Uncategorized — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:59 am
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APRIL 26, 2008

THE issue of judges’ restoration has virtually turned into a Gordian knot and there seems a deficit of will and courage on the part of certain sections of the new leadership to cut through it. It is sad to learn that even the latest round of talks between the PML(N) and the PPP have failed to bear any fruit. It would not be out of place to call these sessions mere debating-club sessions, as up until now they have not only failed to yield any result but also promise little for the future as well.

The present scenario is however poles apart from the earlier unanimity of thought and points to the seriousness of the stalemate. The PPP, it seems, is fast veering off from the commitment it made in the Murree Accord to the PML(N), which has remained steadfast on the matter and vowed to break ranks with the coalition and quit ministries in case the Accord is not implemented. Not to mince words, from the position it has adopted so far, the PPP equates the restoration of the judiciary to putting its head in a noose. It is for this reason that it has placed certain conditions in the proposed constitutional package and made it clear that it will not restore the judges until the PML(N) agrees to them. The PML(N) however has rightly refused to countenance such an arrangement, saying it would amount to deceiving the public. Reportedly, among others, the focus of the PPP’s proposed package is to turn Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry into a toothless lion. Measures like cutting down his tenure, which would hardly give the Chief Justice a year in office, are being cooked up. There is also a suggestion to clip his power to form the benches of the Supreme Court for the hearing of cases. In the same vein, a safety valve is being thought out which might restrict the Chief Justice’s authority to take suo moto actions. Apart from the Chief Justice issue, there are other judges as well against whom the PPP has serious reservations. If one recalls the aftermath of the February 18 elections, it appears as if the issue would have taken a few days to resolve. The impression that there was no stumbling block in the way of a successful conclusion was likewise optimistic. That said, it would be a sad day, when the parties break their words. The question of a free judiciary no doubt forms a fairly large part of the mandate accorded to the parties in the February 18 elections. The parties, particularly the PPP, would have to gird their loins and end the piecemeal approach they have adopted so far as any back. Backpedaling on the issue would only mean, losing the electorate’s support.


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