By winning in neck and neck contest with a lead of 4000 plus votes for the National Assembly Constituency in Multan in southern Punjab, Pakistan People’s Party’ candidate Abdul Qadir Gillani has staged another victory for democracy though tough and endangered by a pro establishment judicial activism, similar to Egypt. Both in Pakistan and now in Egypt, the Supreme Courts are seen undermining the elected parliaments under the garb of judicial oversight and review powers. In Egypt the Supreme Court has sent home an elected parliament immediate after its elections and even defied newly elected President Marsai’s orders of restoring the parliament.
In Pakistan the Supreme Court, in an activism mode, is seen continuing to undermine Parliament’s power of amending or making the constitution and adopting new legislations under the cover of two ‘lethal’ powers: one the power to review every thing under the sun, suo moto actions and the power to punish under the contempt of court. By invoking these two ‘lethal’ jurisdictions and becoming ‘judges of their own cause’ the smaller bench of the Supreme Court, in contrast to the spirit of a larger bench decision, has sent the elected prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani home on charges of the contempt of court.
The Supreme Court judges, whom liberal and democratic and progressive people of Pakistan see as the supporters of the opposition party (Nawaz Sharif led) as two top judges (one serving and one retired Justice Khalil Ramday) leading the ongoing judicial activism in Pakistan are close relatives of the Muslim League Nawaz stalwarts and largely the subscribers of rightist ideology, are famous for siding and giving relief to military dictators and they took oath under Musharraf’s new Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and also gave relief to Sharif brothers as Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab is running his provincial government in Punjab thanks to the courts. Similarly, there are money laundering cases against Sharif brothers and charges with proofs that they got money from ISI to defeat Benazir Bhutto in the then elections but their cases did not even once come up for court proceedings. Whereas the people feel that the democratic government and the prime minister whom the judges of the Supreme Court had sent home disqualifying them are the ones on whose behalf the then Prime Minsters Yousaf Raza Gillani gave the release orders for the judges who were under house arrest by General Musharraf. The prime minister‘s order for release of the judges from the house arrest was his defiant against General Musharraf’s orders of their arrest.
Very interesting situation is that the judges of the Supreme Court who validated the coup of General Musharraf, took oath under his controversial PCO and later on the judges including Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry gave Musharraf as one man show the judicial authority to amend constitution as per his needs and wishes which Musharraf used to change the very dynamics of the parliamentary form of government to more of presidential form of government and consolidated all powers in the country in gross violations of the Constitution of Pakistan made by the Parliament. This gross damage to the constitution was done because the Supreme Court gave a dictator (Gen Musharraf) all powers to amend the constitution usurping their power of review which was unconstitutional and the judges and the Musharraf should have been tried for committing treason under article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan for damaging the constitution unconstitutional way.
But unfortunately, the same Supreme Court is grabbing powers, not through parliament or constitution but through its own decisions time to time and in the name of judicial oversight and review. They allowed a dictator to amend constitution but they object parliament if it plays its role to make laws and amend the constitution. They have sent a democratically elected prime minister home for contempt of court charges while they even did not pass any ruling or judgment against General Musharraf who arrested over 60 judges and their families and violated the sanctity of the Supreme Court. With their double standards, now democratic people in Pakistan are of the view that Pakistan’s Supreme Court had always been siding with dictators and giving them validity for their all wrong doing with the country in terms of coups and mutilation of the Constitution through PCOs and ordinances. All the right wing parties who are supporting the judicial activism have been with dictators or in fact made by them or the establishment in one or the other way. So, now the judiciary has fast becoming controversial and unfortunately, the opposition right wing is using judiciary for their political interests.
Now the Supreme Court has set 25 July 2012 another date when there is a fear that they may send another elected prime minister home without giving the people the right to vote out any party or leader who did not serve them or who have done any corruption. Pakistan’s establishment is also blamed for pitching judiciary against the elected government and the parliament while being kept in behind the door and playing their cards using the shoulders of the judges. The people of Pakistan are not fool and they immediately gave their decision and voted for Abdul Qadir Gillani to show their anger for un-ceremonial sending of the prime minister. In clear disagreement to the Supreme Court who disqualified the former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and sent him home, the former prime minister’s home constituency returned his son Abdul Qadir Gillani successful and sent him to the Parliament.
Interestingly, all key right wing opposition parties (Jamaat Islami, Muslim League Nawaz and Tehrik e Insaf of Imran Khan) who have been siding with the Supreme Court’s decision of disqualifying the former prime minister joined hands together to defeat the former prime minister in his constituency. But the people of this constituency defeated this unholy alliance as Imran Khan and Sharif speak against each other and pledge not to join hands at any cost but just in this constituency, they tried their luck by supporting a joint candidate. The Jamaat Islami maneuvered this unholy alliance as the Jamaat wishes that this right wing alliance should be united otherwise, they cannot stop another victory for democratic, liberal and progressive parties in the country. The first test of right wing alliance could not work in Multan by elections on the seat vacated due to disqualification of the former prime minister. Let us see how they perform in the forthcoming elections.
This victory is the decision of the court of the people, which is real in the sense that the voters judge politicians for their political deeds. The voters in Multan have defeated all big right wing political parties in opposition who were openly siding with the ongoing judicial activism. So the people still decided to go for a Gillani (Abdul Qadir Gillani) whose father (former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani) has been convicted for contempt of court, which is a charge equal to 'judging their own cause by judiciary'. History will not tell what Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Imran Khan of Tehrik e Insaf and Munawwar Hassan of Jamaat Islami and their paid media outlets are telling to the people of Pakistan. History will tell that when Yousaf Raza Gillani was charged with contempt of court, the same day the people elected a PPP ‘jiyala’(a hardcore party worker who even did not have money to contest election on a Punjab Assembly seat) in Multan and now again the people have elected Gilani's son as a quick response to his disqualification. A politician's disqualification is that if their voters reject them and cannot ideally be done through judicial activism.
(The writer is a policy analyst based in Islamabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)