Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who will implement Supreme Court’s Decisions?

December 21, 2009
Who will implement Supreme Court’s Decisions?
By Saeed Qureshi
It’s auspicious that the Pakistan’s army is not meddling in the contentious poltical affairs. The army might be keeping a vigil from a distance but so far all is quiet on their front. The Supreme Court’s appointed benches have started reviewing the NRO cases that were swept under the carpet of amnesty. The party in power is ambivalent on the Supreme Court’s judgment on NRO. The PPP government is blowing hot and cold at the same time thus emitting mixed signals of both compliance and non compliance of the court’s ruling. Initially they announced acceptance of the court’s decisions what these might be. But the implicit fallout on the ministers accused of misuse of power and bribe, has provoked stiff and defiant reaction from the government.The government’s stance is that the accused ministers will not resign their posts. Their only recourse is left to get themselves bailed out from the relevant courts as law minister Babar Awan has done well in time.
But the situation is not that much placid: it is simmering with dormant turbulence that can explode in the time to come. Such a chaos can burst out in case of a clash between the court’s orders and the executive's refusal or foot dragging on following those orders. It is foregone that the Supreme Court’s landmark decision would rock the government and the things are not going to be peaceful or amicable. The government stalwarts are already throwing hints of hostile action or interference by the forces which were outlined by the government’s defense lawyer Kamal Azfar as ISI and the army. This disclosure must have created strong ripples in the army which has so far demonstrated allegiance to the incumbent government. The preemptive apprehensions and warning shots by the government look premature and childish.
The case of the defense minister Ahmed Mukhtar is indicative of the government’s resolve to fight back if there was a situation of protecting the common cause and monolithic interests of the ruling cabal. The defiance bordering on unusual bravado displayed by the moderate prime minister in the brief encounter with the journalists the other day betokens the mood of the government. The prime minister was in an aggressive posture and categorically ruled out the arrest of the NRO affected ministers including the interior minister Rehman Malik. Rehman Malik showed prudence by pledging to respect the court’s proceeding and directions whatsoever.
The PPP inner cabinet met the other day and ended on a defiant note by hurling accusations at the forces that were out to derail the democratic process. They refused to accept that with the powers of 58-2/B resting with the president, the country is still far away from a real brand of parliamentary democracy. The PPP”s claim that it brought the democracy back to Pakistan rings hollow because when the civil society was up in arms against dictator Musharraf , PPP was busy in closed rooms to strike a bargain under the NRO. PPP government later remained as hostile to the restoration of the senior judges as was Musharraf. The stormy agitation of the lawyers and political workers sans PPP cadres and media forced president Zardari, at the last moment, to restore the sacked judges. So PPP does not a valid claim of fighting for the revival of democracy and restoration of the removed judges. It did manipulate its victory in the elections that were won on the slogan of changing the status quo, revive 1973 constitution and make policies for good of the people and the country. However, it didn’t make good its promises made to the people of Pakistan and to its own poltical allies. Instead it unleashed such governance which was worse even than that of Pervez Mushrraf. The PPP”s performance and credentials pose a big question mark.
If PPP delays, defies or sidetracks Supreme Court’s orders per say for arrest of some top notches in the government, there is going to be a real problematic situation. If such a standoff takes place and government sacks the bureaucrats obeying the court’s orders as was done in case of defense minister, then who is going to ensure the respectability and compliance of the court’s fiat? Will it be done by street protests by the lawyers, the civil society or by the armed forces? It is possible that the court in that situation asks the army to pressurize the government behind the curtains for enforcement of the court’s orders with regard to the detention, arrest, or jailing cabinet ministers or similar stalwarts. That would be a simple application of pressure and not take-over. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court can only issue orders. It doesn’t have physical force to get those orders complied with. That can be viewed as a kind of intrusion by the army as variously pointed out by the PPP ministers and party leaders.
The Sindh card is a very clumsy and counterproductive bid to demonstrate PPP’ prowesses to counter attack the political adversaries. But if late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not cash on the Sindh card that he had also threatened to use against his incarceration and army, how can Mr. Zardari or PPP burdened with innumerable controversies and rock bottom unpopularity can use it to their advantage. This would be injurious to the national unity and may even backfire against its promoters. At least MQM would never be part of it because it being an ethnic entity can also become one of its targets.

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