No fireworks at the SC

All eyes were fixed on the Supreme Court (SC) proceedings yesterday (January 19), where Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was to face a seven-member bench in the contempt of court case. Looking relaxed and confident, the prime minister drove to the SC himself with his lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan. With a number of parliamentarians present to show their support for the prime minister, the courtroom was all set for some kind of fireworks, or so the media hype surrounding this case seemed to suggest. Fortunately, there was nothing of the sort. Those who wanted to add more fuel to the fire and were looking forward to the prime minister being convicted were in for a disappointment. The prime minister showed his respect to the apex court by personally appearing before it while the court accorded him all the protocol befitting a chief executive. Justice Asif Khosa appreciated Mr Gilani’s presence in the court as it indicated that there is rule of law in the country. Prime Minister Gilani was not just humble and reiterated his respect for the judiciary but also made a strong case against writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Zardari. “I had no intention of disrespecting the judiciary. In the constitution, there is complete immunity for the president. There is no doubt about it,” said Prime Minister Gilani. Mr Ahsan told the court that the letter would be written the day that Mr Zardari is no longer the president of Pakistan. The court adjourned the next hearing to February 1 and exempted Mr Gilani from appearing in person. It seems that the appearance of the prime minister has changed the atmospherics completely. Mutual respect between the two institutions of state and the prime minister’s defence of the president was an example of maturity and wisdom.

It would have been much better if the media, especially the electronic media, had shown some semblance of impartiality too. Over the last four years, a section of the media has monotonously been predicting the fall of the government. They need to substitute wishful thinking for objective analysis. And as far as the lawyers’ community is concerned, it was sad to see a group of lawyers chanting anti-government slogans within the premises of the SC. Slogans like “Hakumat ka jo yaar hai, ghaddar hai, ghaddar hai...” (whoever supports the government is a traitor) were aimed at Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan given that he was at the forefront of the lawyers’ movement but is being viewed as an ‘outsider’ now that he is representing the prime minister. Such slogans are a mark of disrespect to the dignity of the courts and the principle of democracy.

Instead of heaving a sigh of relief at the end of a nine-year dictatorial rule and supporting democracy, undemocratic elements in the country have been harping on and on about ousting the PPP-led coalition government. It is incomprehensible why there are moves to destabilise the democratic system when the only way Pakistan can progress is through stable, democratic governments. The executive and the judiciary need to work together in a democratic system while acknowledging and respecting each other’s spheres. A clash of institutions would not benefit anyone in the country. Pakistan cannot deal with all sorts of crises that beset it without democracy.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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