Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon led the charge of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) angst at their treatment at the hands of the judiciary on Tuesday in a strongly worded speech trying to show critics that at the end of the day, it was the people who were in charge.
Memon spoke on a point of order at a hastily called session of the Sindh Assembly chaired by Speaker Nisar Khuhro. Memon likened the current situation in Pakistan to that of “judicial martial law which only [exists] during PPP tenures.” “We have never received justice,” he said. Memon quickly turned the dramatic speech into a critique of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, referencing the Bahriagate saga. He questioned how a man who takes ‘suo motu notices’ can be forgiven for allegedly violating the constitution. “As a Pakistani, I have not forgiven the chief justice. He should appear in court and if he gets a fair trial, then we can say he has been cleared.”
“How can he not have seen that his son has a BMW and is staying at five-star hotels in London? Have you [addressing the speaker] ever stayed at a five-star hotel on your own expense? I haven’t. He did not see that his son Dr Arsalan used the Chief Justice’s address for his business, but he did see the two bottles Atiqa Odho had and took suo motu notice of it,” Memon said, referring to the episode where TV actor and political activist Odho was detained at the airport for allegedly bringing in alcohol.
He also critiqued the Sharifs for their refusal to appear in court. “Why are there no notices for them? There cannot be anyone’s ‘reign’.” “There is a separate law for the PPP, and another one for everyone else,” he said. The role of the assemblies and the question of who is ‘supreme’ were also discussed by Memon and other Sindh Assembly MPAs discussing the issue. “What is the job of the assemblies?” Memon asked. “We are being prevented from our job of legislation as elected representatives.”
Addressing Khuhro, he said that “In the same way that you and I cannot sit here and pass judgments, no one else can make laws. We did not come here through a Provisional Constitutional Order; we are here because the people voted us in.” Sindh Senior Education and Literacy Minister Pir Mazharul Haq tried a different tack, linking his points to a speech made by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain on Monday evening. “We need to heed what he is saying and not repeat the mistakes of the past,” Haq said. Hussain, in his speech, had also questioned the purpose of the assemblies as lawmaking bodies and had called for an end to the confrontation between the judiciary and the executive. “This is the beginning of the end,” Haq warned. But while Haq and Memon believe that it is the people of Pakistan, via their elected representatives, whose job it is to uphold the constitution, MQM’s parliamentary leader in the assembly and senior minister Syed Sardar Ahmed had a different approach. “There is all this talk of whether the judiciary is supreme or the parliament is. It is the constitution that is supreme. And if there is a law that is against the constitution, the judiciary can call for a judicial review.” Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah rebutted him by quoting from the Objectives Resolution and the preamble to the constitution to make his point: the power, he said, is with the people who elect their representatives. “They will be the ones to dismiss us.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.