An independent judiciary

Published: October 20, 2016

The Supreme Court on Thursday, October 20, issued a notice to the Prime Minister and other parties in respect of petitions that sought his disqualification from office by virtue of his association with the Panama Papers affair. The bench has also refused to pass an order seeking to restrain the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) from holding a rally in Islamabad on November 2. Notably, the Chief Justice made the observation that in the event of the executive failing to protect the fundamental rights of individuals and by extension the citizenry at large, then it is for the apex court to intervene and protect those rights. The bench then issued notices to all the respondents and the four petitioners and adjourned for two weeks.

With this ruling the judiciary has sent a clear signal to the executive, namely that it is independent and will make decisions that are not necessarily comfortable for the government of the day. There are reports that the PM has been discussing with his legal aides a possible strategy in the event of such a ruling, about which there is now some urgency. For the PTI and its leader, Imran Khan, there is now a legal imprimatur for its planned actions in Islamabad and the stage is set for confrontation.

The Panama Papers are an established fact, not some transient mirage that fades as quickly as it appears. The apex judiciary is signalling that there are questions to be asked and answered of and by the PM, and that accountability in all things in public and political life reaches to the top. If, as the PM has maintained throughout, he and his family have nothing to hide then let them not hide it. Thus far he has successfully stonewalled, but this latest ruling may be the spur that flushes him out. This will of course be resisted and the process may be protracted, and events on the streets will anyway play out by the day. It is unlikely in the foreseeable future that Imran Khan will see ‘looted money’ returned to the exchequer; but the green shoots of accountability are in evidence. We wish them well.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Oct 21, 2016 - 6:44AM

    The Supreme court had earlier on refused to deal with the case of Panama papers but has now admitted it for hearing. However, the two situations are significantly different in that the earlier request was for the investigation of the case which the SC refused due to inadequate TORs and the Commission being envisaged by the government being toothless. As compared to that, the present case is a lot simpler and deals merely with the disqualification of the prime minister. And the general opinion is that there is already sufficient information available for SC to hold PM responsible of making false statements/hiding assets and disqualify him on these grounds. As such, the matter could even be decided by the Supreme Court in a couple of hearings, perhaps even before Imran Khan protest date.

    However, the snag is that in case of disqualification of the PM, he could simply place a dummy on the throne and carry on regardless. And that would be no good.
    And then, for various reasons, the courts are not best known to be in a great hurry to decide the cases which are known to linger on for years at times.

    What is in fact needed to protect whatever is left of Pakistan is to have fresh elections with Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution strictly applied as interpreted in simple language and developed in preferably a checklist form by the Supreme Court. The incoming government composed of competent persons of integrity could develop a mechanism for recovery of the looted sum from the corrupt politicians, while also putting the country on a sound foundation

    And for these reasons, Imran Khan needs to continue with his initiative, on the positive outcome of which depends the fate of Pakistan and Pakistanis.


  • Toticalling
    Oct 21, 2016 - 10:27AM

    It is good development that SC has decided to deal with Panama scandal after all. From the looks of it, the case is clear: PM transferred money abroad with methods not accepted in law. A PM who does that doe not qualify to keep his post. That much is clear for me. But more important is that the system does not breakdown and democracy and rule of law remains valid.
    But if PM is disqualified, elections should take place in 2018 and not before- That will mean success of the system, however weak. Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 21, 2016 - 10:51AM

    Where is the independence of Judiciary in the missing persons case ? Selective independence is not independence, will fool nobody. Recommend

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