It’s not easy being Asma Jehangir
Having been elected SCBA president, the activist will now face pressure from lawyers, politicians and civil society.
Having secured the presidency of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jahangir is set to face challenges of a Herculean nature.
She has yet to illuminate a lucid position on the contentious issue regarding the growth of judicial activism. The Executive has viewed the proliferation of this form of activism as a threat to the doctrine of trichotomy which defines power relations in Pakistan’s political system.It is thus perceived as a counter to the supremacy of the parliament and a direct opposition to democratic rule.
This ‘anti-judiciary’ point of view has erroneously grown to typify Asma Jahangir’s candidacy for the SCBA elections since she has expressed the intention to de-politicize the judiciary in order to restore its non-partisan position in performing its authorized duties.
Although Jehangir has espoused the view that an independent judiciary is requisite, her concern over the neutrality of the SCBA and her decision to stand up for judicial principles as opposed to the dictates of Zardari’s administration, depicts otherwise.
Such non-alignment could be both deleterious and favourable to the ongoing tension between the executive and the judiciary. With Asma Jahangir assuming presidency of the SCBA, one can anticipate the presence of an intermediary who could potentially ensure institutional stability in both the executive and the judiciary. Therefore, it can be assumed that her presidency would not be as cataclysmic as Qazi Anwar’s. However, this could incite opposition from the legal fraternity who may feel that the judiciary is compromising on its independence to the point of docility, and subsequently wage a battle for the judicial sovereignty which was won in March 2009.
But what is striking to note is that Asma Jahangir has, during the course of her campaign, expressly stated that the Supreme Court’s judgment on the NRO should be rendered applicable. More importantly, she has also overtly conveyed her support for Article 175A. What is now needed is some measure of clarity regarding her stance on the fate of judicial activism and the executive-judiciary relationship during her term and if this is not stated categorically an almost retrogressive clash between both institutions will become even more imminent.