Contempt Of The People (FreePakistan Newsletter # 140)
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CONTEMPT OF THE PEOPLE
By Yaqoob Khan Bangash
[The writer is the Chairperson of the History Department at Forman Christian College Lahore. This article first appeared in The Express Tribune on July 16, 2012.]
Recently, a lot of ink has been spilled to remind the learned judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that while the Contempt of Court law exists in most countries, it is seldom used. While I agree with the commentators that the courts in Pakistan are invoking the contempt law a bit too much and are involved in judicial activism, let me make a couple of points.
First, to point out that the contempt law is rarely used elsewhere is to simply ignore the reality in Pakistan. Nowhere in the world there exists a situation where a government wilfully ignores and publicly ridicules Supreme Court judgments. If the US president ignores a judgement of the US Supreme Court and publicly mocks it, he will be charged with contempt immediately. In civilised countries, courts are respected and it is almost inconceivable that a court order will be publicly flaunted and as such, the contempt issue simply does not arise.
Secondly, it is clear that sending the damned letter is not equivalent to prosecution — against which the president is protected. The letter the apex court has asked the government to write is simply to cancel the previous letter and nothing more. Therefore, the most the letter can do is initiate ‘investigation’, not ‘prosecution’. And there is ample evidence — from the Watergate scandal to the Monica Lewinsky case — that investigation for a crime can indeed take place against someone enjoying immunity. While the courts should now utilise one of the other six options they gave in the original judgment in order to ease tensions, the point the courts have tried to make has hopefully been understood: that it is impossible to call a country civilised or a government truly ‘democratic’ if they deride the judgments of the courts.
The great scholar John Rawls once noted: “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” Truly, justice is the firm basis of the social contract (which is the foundation of government) and is also found in natural law. Without justice, there can be no virtue, fairness or legitimacy in society. Therefore, the yearning for justice is the basic pre-requisite for the development of social institutions and setting up of a government — i.e., of civilisation itself.
And what is justice? Very briefly, justice is equality and fairness. No government, courts or any other force should be able to undermine these concepts. Otherwise, the basis of modern society and thought will be overthrown. The concept of modern democratic government is also premised upon the concept of justice. Therefore, while it used to be argued that parliament is sovereign, it is now generally agreed that it is sovereign within the bounds of justice and a country’s constitution. This simply means that no parliament, no matter how democratic, can legislate to take away basic human rights from the people. So, tomorrow morning the Pakistani parliament cannot, for example, legislate for the existence of slavery and argue that it has a right to do so since it is elected by the people. As soon as parliament impinges upon the inherent rights of the people and compromises the basic concept of justice, it forfeits its right to represent the people.
Coming back to Pakistan, what must be ensured in the current tussle between the judiciary and the executive is that the concept of justice should be upheld, both by the courts and by the government. Hence, the courts should not be seen as political and the government must not be seen as only using its legislative powers to protect itself. There cannot be a law, which protects the high and mighty from disregarding the directives of court, just as the courts should limit their interference in legislative and executive matters; all of these actions compromise the equality and fairness understandings of justice.
Ultimately, the question is about the people and their rights. Unless the idea of justice is upheld by all, this aga might just show the contempt that these institutions have for the people and their interests. [Courtesy The Express Tribune]
POOR PEOPLE’S PARTY
[Dr Irfan Zafar, Islamabad]
Peoples Party has always portrayed its image as the party of the poor people. In it’s 4 years of rule (read misrule), it has astronomically added the number of people falling in the category of being “poor” through unmatched incompetency aimed at increasing it’s vote bank. Nice strategy indeed.
[A Placid And At Peace Citizen, Karachi]
As a common citizen with modest education, means and mediocre attributes, I am happy, contented and serenely at peace with my conscience. Thank God, I am not the army, air force or the naval chief, for, my inculcated middle class family values, upbringing and, above all conscience, would have never allowed me to salute and shake hands with the likes of Asif Zardari, Yousuf Raza Gilani and now Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Kindly note that this is no reflection on any one, individually or collectively, since this is strictly a matter of personal choice and, after all, this is a free world! [Business Recorder]
[Dr Muhammad Yaqoob Bhatti, Lahore]
Former PM Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that he drunk a cup of poison like Socrates to uphold the rule of law in the country although he knew that the decision to disqualifying him had already been made beforehand. The comparison is, however, not valid since Socrates was awarded death penalty by an autocratic regime. But the former PM was disqualified by the Supreme Court of a democratic government in a contempt case for not obeying the apex court and interpreting the constitution as per his own liking while that is the domain of the Supreme Court. He only wanted to safeguard the co-chairman of his party forgetting his oath of office. He did not realise that he was the PM of the 180 million people of Pakistan and not just of the PPP voters. Now whatever laments he might have in prose and poetry are of no use as he did not uphold the law of land like Socrates but only became a silent sacrificial lamb. [Pakistan Today]
'CORRUPT WAPDA AND PROSPEROUS PAKISTAN'
[Mohammad Khan Sial, Karachi]
I was amazed to read Wapda's advertisement appeared in various newspapers claiming 'Wapda - committed to a Brighter Pakistan' (July 14). As a matter of fact, the role of Wapda has generally remained highly controversial for the last four decades.
Wapda, among others, is directly responsible for the man-made extensive destruction of Indus delta - the sixth largest in the world. I request the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu action against a very high level of corruption in Wapda and its long standing policies against three out of four provinces. [Business Recorder]
POT. KETTLE. BLACK.
[Raja Shafaatullah, Islamabad]
The leader of opposition in the National Assembly has been quoted by the electronic media to have said that the PML(Q) was product of General (R) Mehmood and PTI is the creation of General (R) Pasha, and that these two parties do not have their own manifestoes. It is for the leader of these parties to deny or accept these allegations. However ,one is reminded of a bold confession made by a lawmaker Mahmood Khan Achakzai who in early 2007 on the floor of the house stated that “we all are a product of martial law and have all been supporting it at one or the other time ……… therefore, blame game would be futile. Since we all know each other”. This prudent advice has been ignored by the politicians in the past and efforts are again being made to revive the 1980’s decade of politics of hate and animosity, while paying lip-service to democracy. The PML(N) should forget its origins and it is no secret that it too was stitched together by the late General Zia-ul-Haq. This is indeed a case of pot calling the kettle black. The ‘democrats’ of today would do well to concentrate on their present action rather than digging up past graves. [Pakistan Today]
[Engr Abdullah Saqib, Islamabad]
The conclusion of poll results in NA-151 for the seat of the former Prime Minister Gilani proved that most citizens of Pakistan value personality over ideas. Abdul Qadir Gilani is known mainly of his last name and that too, due to its allegiance with the Bhutto chain. Whatever the case, this is true for the majority of Pakistani political parties whose rallying call is based on their leadership brand.
From a single dictator to a group of dictators ruling on the basis of self-benefit and compromise, upon which the PPP has rightfully claimed victory in Multan. On the contrary, true leadership is not to dominate but to motivate a nation in achieving her goals. Personalities die or falter due to inherent imperfections in each of us, but ideas live on. The solution-oriented manifesto of each party should be the basis of decision-making while popularity should never be judged by the scores of people in rallies but by the dedication and commitment to the correct ideology in serving the people of Pakistan and beyond.
Letters to FreePakistan
ANOTHER EPISODE BEGINS
[Ahmad Kamal Khattak, Peshawar]
Sometimes it looks funny to look at things and the behaviour of the people towards world. Our governement is all set to open NATO Supplies through pakistani land. We teach our children in schools that we parted from indians because we had to live as muslims, politically religiously distinct from hindus. this is what we teach in the school. We should amend our curriculum at least. We must teach them that we parted from India because we wanted to polish the affluence of few families within this pak land and even to an extent that we will not hesitate to help other countries of the world attack our muslim neighbours from our soil if we are paid dollars for it.
Since CSF is dollars so everything is okay with whatever happens to afghans across the border. If their children are killed in night raids, its okay, who cares. at least not Hina khar or her Zardari because they have exchanged pleasentries with Ms. Clinton and why should they restrain from accepting dollars, they need it, they are hungry for it, they have to win next election, afterall they cannot bring all the swiss francs back from switzerland, not atleast to solve this pity energy crises, poor law and order, if they bring it back how would bilawal and asifa enjoy their vacations abroad.
But no! All you blood sucking politicians remember. Not so long ago there was one of you fella Fauzia Wahab too who was openly winning the case for the murderer from America and now she is six feet beneath earth. All the drama of the world is over for her. All the luxuries passed. What left is accountability to Allah. The accountability for actions and deeds. Those who pass away to hereafter in the Nato bombings are innocent people and have never attacked any country. We can guess from our little knowlegde that they will pass the difficult phase of entering Jannah quickly but not so later all the filthy corrupt politicians of pakistan and their supporters will follow them and will have to asnwer before Allah why they helped the western barbarians to help kill all the muslim faithful. Lo and behold. stopping Nato supplies is a duty of every muslim. it should not move one inch on our soil.
THE MIGHTY AWAAM
[Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd), Rawalpindi]
The ruling elite maintains that the parliament is supreme, can legislate any law, amend the constitution or decide whatever it likes – be it the acceptability of Dual Nationality or the status of a contemnor of the of a Court. Their main argument for it is that in a democratic set up it is the people (Awaam) who are ultimately the supreme. And as the parliament is formed by the representatives elected by them their such power is transferred to the parliament which ultimately becomes the supreme.
As an ordinary awaam my head went dizzy after knowing my real worth and such importance. I never realised my prowess and power, only, if the Patwari and the SHO are also notified of my these, apart from my “representative” granting me an audience of only a few seconds once in his 5 year term and not shooing me away from the gates by his doormen!! After all I am a part of the Mighty Awaam. Viva lademocracy
NO GENEROSITY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
[Ahmad Kamal Khattak, Peshawar]
As now I am reading an article of Rahim Ullah Yousafzai in the news and I am extremely angered by how these senior journalists try to make a case for whatever the governments do wrong. For instance Mr. Yousafzai states ‘it must have been music to American ears that Pakistan won’t be charging any new fee for NATO cargo. Contrary to what impatient Panetta had described as attempts at “gouging” by Pakistan on the price for allowing the nato supplies, here was the poor country generously waving off a transit fee that ought to have been paid by one of the richest countries in the world’.
Then Mr. Yousafzai goes on to describe what Pakistan charges from NATO i.e. US $250 per container and describes the dilapidated condition of Pakistani roads.
First of all it was the cowardice of Pakistani diplomacy to open NATO supplies at all. The people of the country would have been much happier without receiving 250 dollars for the PPP accounts and to sustain whatever hard time as nations we would have to. Secondly even if they have opened and trumpeting 250 dollars and poor roads song every now and then when they are reportedly delivering NATO containers to Afghanistan in the security of not only one force but three forces i.e. khasadars, FC and army. I just wanted to laugh out loud at the chivalry of Pakistanis as well as Americans who show themselves brave second to none in the whole world.
Their containers resemble babies who by no means get ready to jump out of their moms’ laps.
If they are really serious about the whole affair, Pakistanis should stop every nato container every 50 kilometer and charge them hundred dollars as they charge us the common people every second step shamelessly. America will not fall if they pay for the damage they are incurring us.
By any means there is no generosity in international affairs. If Mr. Yousafzai thinks there is some between Pakistan and US, I think he has wasted all his years in Journalism.
[Sher Gondal, Mandi Bahauddin]
Definition of democracy as taught in schools and colleges is “government of the people, by the people, for the people. It isfurther explained that this definition is meant “rule by the (simple) people”. This definition does not cover democracy being practiced in our country. The democracy being followed currently does not involve common and the downtrodden people in decision making. No parliamentarian consults with people of his respective constituency for taking their opinion. Their claims that they had mandate of 18 crores of people are false. Rights of people to live, to work, to express, to preach their religions freely are not protected. They have no say to decide and plan their future. They are treated like herds of animal through terror of security forces. The democracy practically seen is a maid servant of elite class and it is used in a way to exploit the ruled class and provide benefits to the ruling class and their cronies.
The rulers have invented strange techniques to prolong their rule in the name of democracy. They, in order to secure points blamr each other through media although none of them is sacred cows and they are product of scandals. The other way to befool people is that they have turned superior courts as their battle field to get their scandals decided through litigation on the cost of public money. They know that litigation will never end and by this way they would succeed to complete their tenure. They also propagate against marital law and army despite the fact they were grown up under the patronage of GHQ. What people should do to get rid of these false democrats? The best thing is that all old democratic leaders should say goodbye themselves to politics seeing their failure in their performance and for destroying the national institutions.
The other way is that people should stand up to field candidates from amongst themselves who bear good character and are capable of running government for the betterment of masses. They should boycott all those candidates who purchase party tickets for contesting elections on payment of heavy amounts. If the people do not do it the same old corrupt rulers would come in power in the upcoming elections and masses will remain hostage to them. There would be no collective progress and what ever is left in form of half dead institutions would be completely wiped out.
Issue of the month: Legislating the contempt
EQUALITY BEFORE LAW
[Dr. Muhammad Yaqoob Bhatti, Lahore]
The National Press has reported that the Cabinet has approved a draft bill for new contempt court law that makes the President, PM, CMs and Ministers immune from Contempt of Court proceeding under Article 204-1. However Article 25. Equality of citizens. (1) states that “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.” Article 8 states in respect of Fundamental rights that Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights to be void.” How can the immunity extended to above mentioned persons be declared in respect of Contempt of Court. This would mean that these Government functionaries could indulge in Contempt of Court to their hearts content thus flouting the Article 25(1) of the Constitution embodying a fundamental right. This would be negation of the basic fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution which could not be abridged by any amendment which could otherwise be subject to judicial review. The so-called wizards of Government ought to realise the tenuous nature of their new amendment that may not stand the scrutiny of Apex Court. [The Nation]
SUPREMACY OF CONSTITUTION
[Malik Tariq Ali, Lahore]
In a constitutional democracy, it is the Constitution which is supreme and not parliament, or the executive, nor armed forces and neither the judiciary. The 1973 Constitution is a written document, with a preamble laying down the principles on which the nation is to be governed. There is no provision in the Constitution for either martial law or rule by non-elected technocrats, nor assuming any powers by the executive beyond that defined in the Constitution.
It creates the offices of the president and prime minister and the Supreme Court/High Courts, National Assembly, Senate and federal/provincial cabinets, the executive branch, and vests powers in each to be used within defined corridors. Once the Constitution has been written and approved by the people, parliament is not above the Constitution, since it is a creation of this document.
A government that is formed and functions in accordance with the Constitution is legal, otherwise it becomes unconstitutional, hence illegal. This is what differentiates a constitutional rule from dictatorial rule. If any law is legislated, which is in conflict with the Constitution, it can be struck down by the Supreme Court. [The Express Tribune]
CONTEMPT OF COURT
[Tariq Nazir Syed, Rawalpindi]
It took the National Assembly only 68 minutes to pass the new Contempt of Court Bill 2012! Instead of calling it the new contempt law, we should call it the no-contempt law as it confers freedom on a select group of people to say anything they please without any fear of retribution.
If nothing else, the 68-minute-long charade confirms our parliamentarians “rubber-stamping” qualifications as they couldn’t have read the bill in such a short time let alone understanding it. Such inane mutilations of the constitution deserve to be punished, and such trash, along with its authors, should be thrown out. [The News]
[S. Z. Alam, Scotland]
The honourable CJP has given Pakistan an honour while the corrupt government of ruling coalition has brought us only disgrace, dishonour and misery to my beloved nation.The core evil of Pakistan's problems is the person of president, his horrendous corruption, Swiss accounts and blackmailing, opportunists associates who must for mutual interest stay together no matter they kill each other every day in thousands by now[Karachi].The CJP again upheld the rule of law as his motto and disqualification of Gilani is true proof. I assure the honourable CJP, it is right time to disqualify the president for his wrongs. Inshallah country will heave a sigh of relief as 98% people hate him. Democracy and Pakistan will be strengthened otherwise he will sink us fully. [The Frontier Post]
[Munawar Ali Malik, Mianwali]
The Contempt of Court Law 2012 is another act of contempt. It is an amusing manifestation of President Zardari’s 3-D policy vis-Ã -vis the judiciary, “duck, dodge and, when cornered, defy. Interesting developments are likely to follow. It seems the infamous six-million-dollar question will have to be answered at last. [The News]
THE ACT MADE THE PRESIDENT VULNERABLE
[Dr Ghayur Ayub, London]
The pinhead lawyer who had drafted a law to save the PM and other corrupt executives from contempt cases and demeaned the judges of the superior courts has actually exposed the President from the immunity he had under Article 248 (1) of the Constitution. How?
When Aitzaz Ahsan was asked in the Supreme Court by an honourable Judge whether he wanted to discuss the Article 248 in defence of the PM, he immediately replied in the negative. Aitzaz understood that by addressing the said Article, he would have opened a Pandora's Box, making the immunity of the President discussable and so questionable. Hurriedly passed Act has done what Aitzaz wanted to avoid.
Whoever drafted the Act cannot be considered a friend of Asif Ali Zardari. I wonder how many black goats will be on their way to the Presidency. [Business Recorder]
CONTEMPT OF COURT BILL
[Aurangzeb Memon, Nawabshah]
Recently, a cabinet meeting approved a bill to amend the contempt of court law. This move by the cabinet may prove a wrong decision in future, for there is already a cold war between the two rivals.
Supreme Court Bar Association’s President Yasin Azad called the act as mala fide. He is right in saying this.
At a time when a case regarding the parliamentarians’ dual nationality is in the apex court, this step taken by the cabinet seems retaliatory.
If not retaliation, it might set some new hurdles in the way of a normalisation of relations between the judiciary and the executive. [Dawn]
Basic social services to all
It is for the people, especially for the think-tanks and NGOs, and no doubt for media also, that the big issue for the next election should be the provision of basic social services (water supply, sanitation, public transport, roads, paved streets, street lights, libraries, parks or playgrounds, and noise and pollution free environment) to all the citizens in Pakistan not only ensured in the constitution but binding on the next government also. If achieved, that will be a great step forward towards the unification of the ordinary and elite Pakistans. Is there any political party ready to take up this at the top of its agenda? [Editor]
[Syed Hassam Ahmed, Karachi]
The duty of providing potable water where required is becoming too difficult all across the world. In recent decades, countries have made necessary investments in infrastructure designed to alleviate water shortages. But the reply has for the most part unnoticed the crisis posed by the worsening state of aquatic resources. If the increasing water crisis is to be effectively addressed, actions will need to link water use with environmental care.
In many places, even where water is still abundant, environmental damage has made water too expensive to use. In some others that enjoy a good supply of water, it is used improperly. Priorities can be so crooked that while cities remain desperate for water, farmers are irrigating fruits or cotton in the desert. Even less acceptable, fresh water is used to preserve gardens and maintain golf courses while the urban poor are forced to pay high to buy drinking water by the bucket.
As a result, more than 700 million people in over 40 countries are affected by water shortages. Human encroachment on water environments is also a growing problem. The challenge remains of meeting today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements. Not enough measures have been taken to solve this issue, while sometime the efforts which are made seem to be difficult to translate into action. When the authorities sit down to bargain about the allocation of water, the environment gets short shrift.
Edited and prepared by
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