In normal circumstances few would have taken notice
The references against the former PM are in the final stage. NAB has called some of the party leaders for questioning. The SC is hearing contempt cases against two of the hotheaded PML-N ministers. So when Prime Minister Abbasi holds a surprise two hour long one-on-one meeting with the CJ, eyebrows are bound to be raised and questions asked. Imran Khan immediately convened a meeting of the party leadership to consider the implications of the tête-à-tête, expressing apprehensions over presumed attempts to send Nawaz Sharif abroad and declaring that an NRO type relief for the former premier and his family would be unacceptable. PPP spokesman Qamar Zaman Kaira says the meeting at this juncture is unfortunate, all the more so because its agenda was not made public. Even some of the PML-N hawks who are itching to start an anti-judiciary campaign feel disturbed over the display of bonhomie by the PM towards the CJ.
One can argue that at a time when the relations between the government and judiciary have become unusually tense, a minimum of goodwill between the heads of executive and judiciary is required for the smooth functioning of the system. What one can understand is that both sides have discussed how to remove some of the concerns that continue to perturb them. To alleviate the perception in the PML-N that the judiciary is acting on someone else’s prodding, the CJ has assured that the judges will continue to perform their constitutional duties “independently, fairly, transparently, without fear or favour and strictly in accordance with law”. Responding to the finance ministry’s concerns regarding delays in deciding the appeals which impacts the national economy the CJ has promised fast tracking of cases related to FBR and the Tax Department. The PM in return has vowed to provide all possible assistance for speedy and inexpensive justice. Steps will also be taken to address the concerns of the CJ regarding PML-N government’s neglect of the social sector, which negates social justice. This is all fine but the timing of the meeting is likely to keep the rumour mills churning.