Seize the moment

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On way to breaking deadlock

The appearance of Prime Minister Pervaiz Ashraf before the Supreme Court is indicative of the PPP doves, supported by government’s coalition partners, carrying the day, for the time being at least. A section in the party which advocated defiance of the court’s orders argued that there was little sense going to the Supreme Court if the prime minister was only to be charged sheeted and sent home. The posture assumed by the prime minister during the last few weeks was however consistently deferential. While appearing before the apex court on Monday, Pervaiz Ashraf sought more time to find a way out without committing that the Swiss letter would be written. He assured the bench however that he wanted to make sincere efforts to resolve the issue in a way that the dignity and honor of the Supreme Court was maintained.

While reiterating that the NRO verdict had to be carried out, the court gave three weeks to the prime minister to implement the order. The court hinted at the possibility of a way out maintaining that the issue at hand was not as big as it had been projected and told the PM that he could nominate someone else to write the letter. Presumably, the idea of writing a letter that does not directly hit Zardari is under discussion among the government’s legal team.

Both the PPP and the Supreme Court are presently in pressure cooker. While the party continues to boast that it has no dearth of parliamentarians willing to be sacrificed, there are PPP leaders who believe the confrontation could harm their electoral prospects. An unending confrontation with the Supreme Court does not suit the government’s coalition partners either. Among other things it shifts the government’s focus from preparations for the elections. The Supreme Court too is feeling the heat. The removal of the former prime minister was criticized by some of the outstanding lawyers who were in the forefront of the struggle for the restoration of an independent judiciary. Jurists outside the country too have raised voices against judicial over activism. On Saturday, Indian CJ S H Kapadia opined that judges should not govern the country or evolve policies and wondered what would happen if the executive refused to comply with the judiciary’s directives. There are people in Pakistan who think the apex court’s confrontation with the executive and parliament could derail the system.

The court thinks that Law Minister Naek, known for his moderate views, could be assigned the task of writing the letter. It remains to be seen if Naek can draft a document which addresses PPP’s concerns while it simultaneously satisfies the court.