SC takes centre stage as political player

93
62

By indicting Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for contempt of court on Monday, the Supreme Court may have cemented its role as a political player alongside the military and the civilian government, complicating an already Byzantine political scene.
The Supreme Court’s relentless pursuit of Zardari and the PPP may have made it the third player in the complicated political system. “The Supreme Court’s increasing activism poses complicated political choices for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government as it heads into a critical election cycle that begins with Senate elections on March 2,” wrote Shamila Chaudhary in a recent analysis for the Eurasia Group. But the question is how independent is the court as a check on both the military and the civilian government?
“That’s the million dollar question,” said Najam Sethi, editor of the weekly Friday Times. The court has a full docket of cases aimed at the government. In addition to the unwritten letter to Swiss authorities, there is the matter of an unsigned memo to the Pentagon brass.
Sent in the aftermath of the US commando raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year, the memo asked for American help in forestalling an alleged coup by an embarrassed and unpredictable military. The army was furious over the memo, and its top general and the chief of the ISI both urged the Supreme Court to investigate, which it did.
“The Supreme Court has become very close to the military,” said Ahmed Rashid, a prominent journalist and political analyst. “For the time being, I see the military and the courts working against the sitting government.”
But the court has also given at least the appearance of being willing to take on the military, he said. It has taken up the case of suspected militants illegally detained by intelligence agencies and seven of those held were briefly presented in court on Monday. But some observers say that is merely a feint to give the appearance of even-handedness.
“Let’s see where it goes,” said defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa. “Because so far, they have completely stayed away from treating the army or the ISI chief or anybody from the ISI the same way as they do the civilians.” Some other analysts agree, saying the court is strengthening the hand of the military, which has staged three coups since 1947 and ruled the country for more than half of its history.
“This will not be good news for democracy,” said political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. “Once again, non-elected institutions are trying to re-formulate the elected institutions. Previously, the military was doing it, now it is the judiciary.”
“The attention of the government is fully diverted to survival,” Rizvi said. “So survival becomes the key issue and other issues are on the sidelines.”
Of Gilani, Rasul Bakhsh Rais, professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, says his politeness and lack of the arrogance typical of other Pakistani politicians has enabled him to reach out to many people, including opponents.
But Gilani’s support for Zardari, who heads the PPP, landed him in trouble.
“From the start he had a choice whether to be his own prime minister or remain hostage to Zardari’s political dramas and he made the wrong choice,” said Rais. “In the end his blind loyalty to Zardari and his party cost him.”

93 COMMENTS

  1. No.1-Why we compare different institutions while talking about justice; the one who denies the court orders is guilty, isn’t it? We must always support justice; at least, one sinners gets punished.

    No.2- Once we strengthen the courts, we must push the courts to try all culprits from any institution, Army, Police, Beurocracy, and from Judiciary too.

Comments are closed.