June 25, 2008

Nawaz and PCO judges

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 11:07 pm


JUNE 26, 2008


Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday put off the election in NA-123 following a petition filed by the federal government against the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif by the Lahore High Court. The SC judges, in an interesting observation during the proceedings, remarked that if Mr Sharif had personally appeared in their court, they would have disposed off the case in two or three minutes. That appears to be the crux of the entire matter. Mr Sharif refuses to recognize the judges who took oath under the PCO of November 3 while the PPP, the federal government and now even the Supreme

Court itself want him, may be just once, to recognize, even implicitly, that he can work with the PCO judges. The petition in the SC was filed not by Mr Sharif or his party but by the government because the PPP-PML-N coalition has come into severe strain after the disqualification of Mr Sharif. In an angry reaction to the disqualification his party MNAs staged a walkout of the National Assembly on Tuesday. This was the first boycott of proceedings by the party inside the NA while others staged protests across the country, some supporters appearing outside the Lahore High Court wrapped in chains. What the LHC judgment has done to the overall political situation in the country is worth noting. While the lawyers’ movement was facing some fatigue after the long march and people were confused at the sudden wrapping up of the otherwise magnificent show in Islamabad, the LHC decision against Mr Sharif has again provided robust momentum to the country-wide movement against the PCO judges.

As it has done since the coalition was formed in March this year, the PPP immediately entered into parleys toto the Supreme Court which put off the election, providing a temporary relief but the standoff continues. Mr Sharif still refuses to appear in the SC and the PPP will have to get a decision in his favour if the coalition is to be saved. The question is, how long can this process continue? There is a limit to PML-N’s patience, which now indeed seems to be running out. The party believes the disqualification of Nawaz is a result of presidential game-playing and is deeply frustrated by the PPP’s reluctance to either remove the president or restore the pre-Nov 3 judges. Within the party, the hardliners ā€“ buoyed by recent surveys that show a rise in PML-N popularity ā€“ are also suggesting it may be time to part ways with the PPP. It is even being said that Nawaz Sharif had never okayed the increase in the SC bench included in the finance bill, but had in effect been duped into supporting it.

All this having been said some of the points raised by the LHC in its detailed judgment are cause for thought. The court has stated Sharif, now a vocal advocate of judicial independence, had in the past ridiculed the institution and had filed a false affidavit with his nomination papers, stating he was not disqualified from contesting elections. The problem is that the lack of confidence in the independence of the judiciary complicates the situation. As it stands at present, the picture is a rather cloudy one. The PPP-PML-N partnership is once more under severe strain, the courts are perceived as not being neutral, the president is suspected of pursuing his own agenda ā€“ and given this set of grim circumstances, it seems the political crisis we are caught up in is not likely to vanish any time soon. One quick resolution of the crisis would be for the PPP to move quickly and swiftly on its constitutional package, so that the restoration and appointment or continuation of the PCO judges is done and over with.

attempt and pacify its disgruntled partner. After discussions with Mian Nawaz Sharif and PML-N leaders the government went


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