The Press Council of India’s Chairman and former Supreme Court Judge Justice Mr. Markanday Katju invoked basic principles of jurisprudence to fault Pakistan Chief Justice Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry’s dismissal of Prime Minister Mr. Yousaf Raza Gilani. The decisions of Pakistan’s judiciary have little to do with jurisprudence and everything to do with the naked play of power politics. This should be clear from the brazen manner of issuing court warrants of arrest against the Pakistan government’s first choice of Prime Minister, a supporter of President Zardari, for criminal cases lodged against him years ago.
Why he was not arrested earlier, why on the eve of being sworn in as Prime Minister?
The action stinks of motivated political intent. The new Prime Minister also has corruption cases pending against him but he was allowed to take oath. Chief Justice Chaudhry quoted from several Indian Supreme Court judgments in order to justify his decision. This has pleased Indians. But the judicial aspect is irrelevant. Indians need to understand what the Pakistan Supreme Court today represents and where the appointment of the new Prime Minister is going to lead his country and how that might affect its relations with India.
Curiously enough the Pakistan Supreme Court has replaced the army as the visible arbitrator of policy. From where does the court draw its strength? Well known Pakistan columnist and Editor Mr. Najam Sethi has pointed out how several past decisions of the Chief Justice violated Pakistan’s constitution indicating thereby that he is acting politically and not judicially. The CNN-IBN journalist Mrs. Suhasini Haidar after frequently visiting Pakistan reported how fundamentalist Pakistani lawyers offered aggressive street support to the Chief Justice. But surely this is not enough to explain the unchallenged power of the Chief Justice who can take on the President while the army watches silently?
The BBC commented:
“The Supreme Court which (Chief Justice Chaudhry) heads has historically given legitimacy to military coups. Some argue that the chief justice also dragged his feet over corruption allegations against the intelligence services while doggedly pursuing different corruption cases against the government. In a landmark ruling in 2009, however, he said that the judiciary would no longer give legal backing to power seizures by the military.”
From this it appears that the army has adopted a cautious approach of retaining the fig leaf of democracy by using the Supreme Court to implement its decisions. What needs to be assessed therefore is where the current decisions of the Supreme Court will lead Pakistan.
The new Prime Minister facing corruption cases would be therefore only a convenient political instrument to oversee a general election sooner rather than later. After the election, remotely influenced by the army and security forces, Pakistan is expected to enter a phase of democracy in which the army would wield its influence discreetly and keep alive the form of democracy. That is when India will have to decide how best to deal with Islamabad.
Indians should not be too queasy or horrified at the prospect of dealing with such a Pakistan. They should recall that the situation in India is not too different where the CBI and the courts are brazenly used to enforce political decisions. Witness the government’s attitude towards Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy in contrast to its approach to several other political stalwarts who support the UPA government.
What New Delhi must attempt is to find a lasting solution to Indo-Pak differences including Kashmir in order to end the scourge of terrorism and get back to establishing genuine and healthy democratic systems in both nations. A stable subcontinent freed from fratricidal hostility would facilitate that exercise.