Roulette with the law

The patience of the superior judiciary seems to have run out

Ihtasham Ul Haque February 10, 2018
The writer is the recipient of four national APNS awards and four international awards for journalism. He can be reached at

Nawaz Sharif and his coterie are attacking the courts head on. Any sane observer would want to question the efficacy of such an approach by the ousted prime minister and his daughter. A close look at the whole affair, however, would reveal that Nawaz is not braying into the wind and that there actually is a method in his ‘madness’.

What needs to be understood is the fact that Nawaz and his phalanx are destined to lose if the system survives. That is precisely why he wants it derailed. He has relentlessly attacked the courts with rancour and slander, and in fact has garnered some leverage, as some would point out in the Hudaibiya Mills case. The Hudaibiya decision has probably been the trigger that has galvanised him to keep the strategy offensive rather than self-protective. One cannot, however, be entirely sure if this belligerence will keep working for him in the long run.

The patience of the superior judiciary seems to have run out. The sentencing of Nihal Hashmi in the contempt of court case has changed the paradigm. Suddenly, the bravado and audacity of Nawaz’s cronies seemed to have dimmed significantly. Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry were visibly quivering when Sharif perched them up on the dais at Peshawar asking the audience if they accepted ‘contempt of court’ notices issued to them. The Daniyals, Talals and Sher Alis of the PML-N are smart enough to know that no matter what the public says, if implemented with precision, the legal scalpel of the state would chop them and their political aspirations to size.

Perhaps the sentencing in the cases of Daniyal and Talal might be even harsher than Nihal’s since the law provides for solid castigation to those who violate Article 5 of the Constitution, which also enshrines attacks on the judiciary. In almost a declaration of war against the PML-N diatribe, the CJP himself announced that the judges would respond publicly to the criticism of courts. He also equated vilification of the judiciary to treason. The court also debated at length the punishment that can be handed down to the violators of Article 5; a message long overdue.

Politics of the PML-N is hardly an epitome of principled conduct and Nawaz’s attack on the superior judiciary is contradictory, and at times rationally insulting to the educated audience. He keeps harping on the credibility of ‘PCO’ judges while embracing politicians like Daniyal, and most recently Mushahid Hussain who flanked and cajoled Pervez Musharraf. The struggle to restore the judiciary that the PML-N proudly takes credit for also reinstated a PCO judge, so the whole façade of ethical politics by Sharifs is a sham. To their credit, the PPP and the PTI have never revolted against the judiciary in such a brazen and unconstitutional manner.

The Senate elections are round the corner and the names of certain candidates are truly nauseating, especially the choices being made by the PML-N. With the Electoral Reforms Commission’s recommendations relegated to the bin, the Senate elections would boil down to how much money the parties can spend to horse trade and buy Senate seats.

The final verdicts on the Sharif family assets are expected by March. Money trails are nowhere to be seen and the new rules in the UK giving unprecedented powers to the law enforcement agencies to crack down on properties amassed through dirty money are also a new nightmare for the Sharifs. Will the confrontation with the superior judiciary affect the process negatively or would it cower the courts down is the question. In either case, the outcomes will have long-lasting effects on the political scene.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2018.

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