War Against Judiciary
The recent judgment in Panamagate by the Supreme Court has driven Pakistan into a state of democratic turmoil. The decision against the Prime Minister with his consequent disqualification has brought the judiciary under attack.
The judgment was based on the controversial articles of the Constitution that have since sought to be revoked. Even though the Parliament may debate on the removal of any provision of the Constitution, it does not seem appropriate to strike it out for the protection of one person.
Moreover, the de-seated Prime Minister on his homeward journey has consistently vowed to fight back against the ‘conspirators’ that have hindered the economic progress of the country. Such allegations, that the judges have ‘conspired’ to derail democracy is an obstruction of justice. It mainly signifies to the public at large that the esteemed judiciary does not adhere to the principles of justice, giving them a reason to challenge any judgment put forth.
In order to overcome such turmoil, the Senate sought to arrange an intra-institutional dialogue, with an aim to bring together the powerful institutions of the state to strengthen democracy. It is unclear as to what is to be achieved by calling the Chief of Army and the Chief Justice. Furthermore, there has been a failure to recognize that the imbalance of power among the institutions is symptomatic in this power structure.
The judiciary, as a separate branch of the state, is not answerable to the executive or the legislature. Therefore, the Chief Justice being called to Parliament does not set a good precedent as it connotes the supremacy of Parliament over the judiciary.
Even though it is right for all institutions to be required to work within the constitutional framework, the virtually dysfunctional Parliament and the absence of an institutional decision-making process has caused the widening of the power imbalance within the democratic structure of Pakistan.
It would be highly inappropriate to blame the judiciary when it is being approached on even such issues that can be dealt with by the Parliament. The Panama Case is an example of such an issue.
The power imbalance could be overcome with the Parliament focusing on its own shortcomings rather than summoning other branches of the system. However, currently, the focus is mainly on the disqualification of the Prime Minister rather than reforming the democratic system while aiming for political stability.
Surely, there is a great need for reforming the political system in order to strengthen democracy but this does not require the institutions to engage in an unproductive dialogue, rather requires strict adherence to the Constitution itself.
Additionally, the mandate of the people does not give the political or civil leaders immunity from the law. Democracy can only survive when all three heads of the system are respected.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.