Holding the string of power by a single institution exists in Pakistan. The eventuality is confrontation among the different bodies. All try to show strength and prove the other weak
Who runs Pakistan? Is it Islamabad administration, Pakistani army, the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) or the non-state actors operating from its soil? This has been debated over and over again. But it is still hard to reach a definite conclusion. The fact is since Pakistan emerged as a nation, it has been only ruled and not governed. Governance is still a far cry there. Perhaps, this cannot be expected from the radical social order and radical administrative system of Pakistan. Conflicts of all sorts are the realities of this country.
Conflict among power-mongers in Pakistan is also today‘s reality. Pakistanis accepted it as destiny. This is the reason there has been so many coups during the last six decades. Democracy and martial law continued playing hide and seek game. It has restricted Pakistan to evolve as a nation in the true sense.
All these are familiar facts. But judiciary of Pakistan is still unknown to the outsiders. Recently, judiciary of Pakistan got much-media coverage as it gave verdict to remove Yusuf Raza Gilani from the office.
This increased the apprehension of a judicial coup in Pakistan. But can there be a term like “judicial coup.” Does it not sound ridiculous? Or is it new coinage in text of state affairs? Because spirit of Judiciary and the approach of grasping power forcefully exist in two opposite poles. This is a million dollar question now: is Pakistan heading towards a judicial coup?
Question is not removal of someone from the office. Change of leadership is a common phenomenon, particularly in democracy. Question is the way and the ground on which Gilani has been removed. Gilani perhaps still enjoys support of the majority in the legislature to head the executive. He is not removed through any no-confidence motion. He has been removed as the Pakistani Supreme Court does not want him to remain in power. The PPP has decided not to challenge the ruling of the Supreme Court and to accept its verdict despite its serious reservations over its validity. The Election Commission, apparently with the prior concurrence of Zardari, promptly carried out the directive of the court to declare Gilani disqualified to hold the post of prime minister and to function as a member of the Parliament.
There may be allegations against Gilani. But can the Judiciary direct the legislature to elect someone as its leader to lead the executive body? That is the question. This is related to the concept of Separation of Power. So Gilani‘s removal from the post of Pakistani Prime Minister cannot be just a political confrontation between ruling party and the opposition or mere lobby politics. Reality is beyond these usual happenings and this has given new twist to the affairs related to Pakistan. It legitimizes the need to relook Pakistan through a fresh pair of eyes.
Judiciary enjoys more authority in Islamic countries. The countries that run the affairs following strict Islamic laws require a powerful judiciary. Executives seem standing folding hands before judiciary where rules are made over the concept of Islamic Shariat. Executives are bound to follow the Sharia act and use the state machinery to implement those. Pakistan ratified Sharia act in some parts of the country dominated by Taliban and other militant organization.
But it is also true that whole Pakistan is not ruled by strict Sharia act. There are people like cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan who occasionally raise voice in favour of secularism and democracy. From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto: they are considered as martyrs for democratic movement in Pakistan despite their stubborn attitude to rule Pakistan as family property. Still then democracy peeped in political horizon of Pakistan due to the contribution of such personalities who mobilized radical Pakistani society to be liberal to some extent. This means democracy existed among a section that prevented Pakistan to be another Afghanistan under Taliban rule. It makes the point clear that despite Sharia act, shaky democracy, Judiciary did not enjoy the status what it does in a radical Islamic state.
Then what is the real strength of Judiciary in Pakistan? How does it play the role of king maker? All these need a serious introspection.
One point that cannot be missed that Judiciary and Pakistani army hardly confronted so far. Martial law was imposed several times there, but martial rulers decided not to intervene in judicial affairs. Judiciary also showered benevolence. Or else how could military rulers get the opportunity to exit at the end of martial law. How persons like Pervez Musharaff, general Kiyani remained safe despite making conspiracy and toppling democratically elected governments again and again?
Another point is whenever army took over Pakistan, question of legitimizing such law arise. For this one needs not go to remote past. Democratically elected Nawaz Shariff government was toppled by General Pervez Musharaff. Surprisingly, trial began over the alleged corruption by Nawaz Shariff and his cabinet colleagues. This means Judiciary ratified the coup done by General Musharaff.
Above all other things, it brings to the fore a serious question. That Judiciary in Pakistan always provided safeguards to the military rulers. Army in Pakistan knows that they enjoy greater privilege from the judiciary which has made them so powerful that democratic institutions can hardly ignore the role of Pakistani army in state affairs.
Another aspect is more serious. There is enough reason to think that it is Judiciary in Pakistan that actually controls the Pakistani army and the ISI. This is the new dimension of Pakistan’s reality.
The present Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary enjoys not only high authority but high popularity particularly among the people related to legal affairs. The present executive of Pakistan even cannot think of removing this autocratic justice through legislation. Perhaps PPP leaders took lesson what happened in 2007 when General Pervez Musharaff tried to remove justice Chaudhury. It ultimately backfired in the form of “Lawyers Movement” The only body that can remove any of the Supreme Court justices from office, including the Chief Justice, is the country’s Supreme Judicial Council.
So holding the string of power by a single institution exists in Pakistan. The eventuality is confrontation among the different bodies. All try to show strength and prove the other weak. The concept of Separation of Power is yet to become a reality in Pakistan. The question “who runs Pakistan?” will remain unsolved one. This means power in Pakistan will continue shifting from one quarter to the other. Stability really seems a non-entity for Pakistan.
(The writer is a freelancer based in Halakura, Dhubri)