Disqualified premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and close aides in the ruling party have declared a war against the judiciary. Their goal is obvious; to malign, discredit, weaken and pressurise the apex court so that the Sharif family could wriggle out of all the corruption cases pursued against it in various courts.
Nehal Hashmi, a small-time lawyer from Karachi who became a senator from the Punjab simply because of his loyalty to the master, has already been sentenced to one-month’s imprisonment and has been barred from holding public office for the next five years, by a three-member Supreme Court bench, in a contempt of court case. Now two other Nawaz-Leaguers – Tallal Chaudry and Daniyal Aziz Choudhry – have to defend themselves in contempt of court cases, which will go a long way in defining the relationship between the judiciary and the executive.
Both Tallal and Daniyal are members of the federal cabinet and have remained in the forefront in the anti-judiciary drive for months, forcing Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to take suo-motu notices of their malicious and provocative propaganda against the honourable Supreme Court judges.
But Sharif and Co. are trying to use the suo motu action against the disqualified premier’s loyalists to intensify political polarisation and stoke anger and hatred against the honourable judges. It is a dangerous game that the ruling party, or at least Sharif and his close associates, are trying to play, that can unravel the entire system.
This is the time for saner elements within the ruling party, to step forward and try to ease tensions and remove mistrust among the institutions and work for the supremacy of the law.
However, insiders within the government say that hardliners have managed to prevail and their intention is to derail the entire system if Sharif remains barred from holding public office.
The frontal attacks on the judiciary and indirect targeting of the armed forces, especially by some of the sub-nationalist allies of Sharif, are all aimed at not just squeezing space for institutions, but moving forward to enact laws which can make it impossible to hold corrupt government officials and holders of public office accountable.
Sharif has made it clear on a number of occasions that he wants to frame laws in which removing the prime minister from office becomes impossible. Indeed, Sharif and company want to establish a dictatorship in the name of democracy.
The very mindset is against the grain of democracy, which does not just mean ensuring the sanctity of the vote, but also distributing fruits of democracy to the masses through inclusiveness, pro-people legislation and transparent accountability of the holders of public offices.
Sharif and Co., however, believe the opposite as they manipulate and stifle the system and infuse corruption and distortions in it to weaken institutions, establish a one-man rule and perpetuate their dynastic politics.
Sharif’s Orwellian “double-speak” in which he means establishing dictatorship in the name of democracy should not fool the world. The ongoing political tussle will decide whether Pakistan opts for constitutional democracy in which law is supreme or it settles for a fake democracy and an anti-people political order.
Sharif and Co. have many Nehals, Tallals and Daniyals in the pack who would go an extra-mile to serve the interests of their master and use every disqualification to increase the hysteria against the judiciary.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of every Pakistani and institution, particularly the Pakistan Armed Forces, to ensure the rule of the law at every cost. This means not just protecting the judiciary but also ensuring that the executive authority complies with all its verdicts.
If Sharif and his pack manage to browbeat the honourable judges, it will be a death knell for the fragile democratic order of the country. Pakistan cannot afford this failure.
In the current scenario, judiciary activism and suo motu actions against the corrupt is a must. The judiciary must stay on course. Democracy will be strengthened in Pakistan if the corrupt stay barred from returning to power.