By Syed Talat Hussain
The second CRITICAL factor that would have deep and decisive bearing upon the future of the country is the present state of bad relations between the government and judiciary. Leaving aside the inanities about ‘respect for the judiciary’ that the prime minister speaks of and on, the fact of the matter is that Asif Ali Zardari’s party’s core team treats the present-day judiciary as a hostile institution that is bent upon destroying their hold over power. While the PPP case against the judiciary uses lots of historical references, primarily the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through a manifestly manipulated trial, the current problems with the judiciary have a more recent origin. These date back to the times when president Zardari did his utmost to continue with the judiciary that General Musharraf left behind headed then by Justice Dogar, keeping the present chief justice out of power. At that time the PML-N took the side of the ousted CJ and then a mix of street-power, lawyers pressure and the establishment’s intervention restored the judiciary that Gen Musharraf had tried to demolish and on whose debris President Zardari had tried to build a pliant support structure for his rule.
Since that day the relations between the judiciary and the government have not been on the best of terms, to say the least. But surprisingly, with all the mutual distrust and the judiciary’s alleged bias against the President-Zardari led government, the court of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary has gone openly challenged the government. While there have been dozens of open-and-shut cases in which if not the government than at least some members of its core team could have been knocked out on charges that could range from contempt of court to corruption to abuse of authority etc, there has actually not been a single conviction of this type. The Supreme Court in fact has drawn the flak form some quarters for being too slow, too media-driven and too non-productive.
But now with the matters that the Court is dealing with are such that these can no longer be fudged or postponed. The inquiry into the memo-gate for instance is an issue that has to be decided one or the other. The Court will eventually be required to pass a clear cut judgment as to whether president Zadari had something to do with this sordid affair or not. The Court will either have to validate the stand taken by the chief of army staff and the DG ISI or reject it. Either way its verdict will have severe consequences for the system. The same is the case with the implementation of the judgment on NRO wherein the government is required to now formally request, among other things, the Swiss government to restart the case into the alleged accounts of president Zardari. This too has implications for the system. In all, all thinking Pakistanis who want to know which way things are going to turn should focus on what is happening inside the court room.