The article, Packaging it maliciously, argues that the constitutional package brought in by the Pakistan Peoples Party at best seems to be a ploy to fizzle out the rule of law movement by creating uncertainties, confusion and useless debates hovering around the real issue, dragging the issue to an ad infinitum where it loses its force. The package is an attempt at amending the constitution maliciously. Supposedly if this package goes through the parliament in its original form, what will it achieve? Nothing of the sorts needed at this time. Will it resolve the issue of judges’ restoration to the satisfaction of the lawyers’ associations and civil society? More importantly, will it resolve the judicial crisis to the dictates of the constitution? Also, it is just unintelligible how reducing the term of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will help reform the judiciary!
By Dr. Khalil Ahmad
It was a very heated discussion. The participants of this TV talk show were Urdu newspaper columnists. There was enough of emotions, outrage, and disappointment, but few arguments. The argument that succeeded in silencing all other participants was like this: Yeah, you have voted your representatives into the Parliament, now give them a free hand, and wait and see what they do.
Of course, both practically and constitutionally no ruling party is all that free in its actions. There are internal mechanisms, such as an opposition, an upper house, and the constitutional provisions and a way of amending the constitution that stop the ruling party from running amuck. But, on the other hand, a perennial trend of manipulation may also be observed.
For instance, we have a crucial issue that needs urgent settlement, the issue of the restoration of the deposed judges. We have an opposition both in National Assembly and Senate which comprises Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Both had made a ruling alliance in the previous government. And a very amorphous Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam (Fazlur Rahman) which was part of the previous government and now again is part of the present government and makes an interesting study into the dynamics of political opposition in Pakistan. They collaborated in an anti-constitutional game with a military dictator throughout the last 8 years. How can they come to a constitutional innings? Also, while their godfather, General (Retired) Musharraf, is still alive and kicking in the saddle, how can they go against his wishes? They will but help PPP not to restore the judges.
As to the Pakistan Muslim League (N), as PPP is pushing it to the wall and if the same thing happens to it in Punjab, though it may turn into a mighty opposition party, but it will have no other option other than the external mechanisms.
Also, as it is every party be it in government or in opposition always plays out of the ambit of the constitution, and if the PPP also resorts to every fair or foul means, horse-trading and sale-purchase of portfolios, apparently to meet the constitutional requirements in clear disregard of the moral hazards of achieving ends without any consideration for the means, it will play with fire.
The last great hurdle for all the governments to overcome, be they civilian or military, is the constitutional provisions. Thank God! They do not do away with the constitution altogether. We must appreciate they have learned at least to conceal their utter disregard of the constitution in the guise of some regard for the constitution. Thus, they always seek strange and inventive ways not to look constitutionally incompatible. Those who excel in this are on the increase in numbers. Previously till recently we had Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Wasim Sajjad and Malik Muhammad Qayyum on the list. Now are being added to them Dr. Babar Awan, Sardar Latif Khosa, and Farooq H. Naek, all from the Pakistan Peoples Party.
So, how this new lot of constitutional experts is busy sidetracking the real issue of restoring the judges who were ousted on November 3, 2007 is more than what is termed hair-splitting. They are betraying those riding on whose shoulders they have got into the government. The new constitutional package brought in by the PPP is an attempt at amending the constitution maliciously. Supposedly if this package goes through the parliament in its original form, what will it achieve? Nothing of the sorts needed at this time. Will it resolve the issue of judges’ restoration to the satisfaction of the lawyers’ associations and civil society? More importantly, will it resolve the judicial crisis to the dictates of the constitution?
The PPP’s constitutional package at best seems to be a ploy to fizzle out the rule of law movement by creating uncertainties, confusion and useless debates hovering around the real issue, dragging the issue to an ad infinitum where it loses its force; while at the same time it addresses the issues that do not need to be addressed now and here.
In simple rustic terms, imagine a goon who by force kicks out the head of the panchayat whose judgment he preempts will lose him his booty, and puts his own man in his place to have a judgment of his favor. What do we need to do to counter such a move? Do we need to send home the old head of the panchayat? Do we need to retain both the old and new heads of the panchayat? Do we need to throw both the old and new heads of the panchayat out of the village? Do we need to reemploy the old head of the panchayat? Do we need to retire the old head of the panchayat after a week or so we restore him to his position? Do we need to reconstitute two panchayats to accommodate both the old and new heads of the old panchayat? Do we in any case need to retain the new head of the panchayat who was put in place by the goon?
All these options show the evolution of PPP’s stand on the issue. The minus-one formula and all that talk of reforming the judiciary without restoring the ousted judges is what PPP’s law experts are good at! The simple wisdom is just not able to understand how reducing the term of the head of the panchayat will help reform the judiciary! However, it unveils the PPP’s love for the goon and his act of throwing the head of the panchayat out. This is corroborated by the PPP’s asking the goon to go home, or otherwise they will make him go home. What a favor for the goon! And what a boon for the head of the panchayat and for the villagers as well!
Under the circumstances, what the simple rustic wisdom calls for is this: kick out the head of the panchayat put in place by the goon. Restore the old head of the panchayat to his due position. Arrest and bring the goon to the panchayat to be tried for the crime of thwarting the whole system justice: peaceful resolving of the conflicts between the villagers. Is it hard to understand or hard to swallow? The points of the PPP’s constitutional package that concern with the issue of the restoration of judges or judiciary as a whole prove that for the PPP it is hard to swallow because probably it has a share in the booty that goon made and want to retain by escaping any trial.
It must be known to the PPP that it is not all free to do whatever it likes. If it goes against the simple wisdom, in our case, the constitution, it will lose the support of the villagers. If it exhausts the internal mechanisms through manipulation, external mechanisms will by themselves come into force. Under such circumstances, the authority reverts to the villagers, in our case, the people. This is what is described as the breakdown of a system. To avoid this, the PPP ought not to amend the constitution maliciously. It should follow the constitution strictly to undo the acts of the goon. Verbal bickering against the goon cannot salvage its image; it must be seen parting ways with the goon to be really a party of the people of Pakistan.
This article appeared in The Frontier Post on May 28, 2008.