The sea of controversy that has surrounded us over a host of constitutional and political issues seems never to subside. Indeed, the waves rose higher than ever as the chief justice, speaking at a ceremony in Karachi on July 7, questioned the idea of parliamentary supremacy and cited articles in the Constitution which suggested that the Court had the right to ensure that its provisions were adhered too and that the provisions of the document were not violated. Somewhat ominously, Article 190 of the Constitution, which states all institutions must act in favour of the Supreme Court, was cited. This is a provision we have seen used many a times in the past, though not always with the best of intentions as far as democratic principles go.
The legal intricacies involved are complex; no doubt, a roomful of legal experts could battle over them for hours. The Constitution is indeed the supreme law of the land and all institutions must function within the parameters laid down by it including the parliament. On the other hand, it is the legislature which draws up the constitution in the first place. The matter is an intricate one, wrapped in a ribbon of controversy which is difficult to entangle. This has been a problem which other nations have also encountered in various points in time of their history.
The issue here, however, lies in the timing. The chief justice’s remarks, which perhaps add to the general sense of confusion in the country, come just as parliament prepares to carry through a new bill, putting in place a law that would protect parliamentarians from contempt of court proceedings. The implications are obvious given the recent political back drop of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. For this reason, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is but naturally eager to avoid a similar fate. Another law, allowing those who hold dual nationality to hold parliamentary seats is also envisaged. It is unfortunate that our institutions have struggled so much to work together smoothly. This exposes us to many dangers and an even greater threat to a democracy that is struggling to stand on its feet.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.
More in EditorialState policy and jihad