Calming the court

Editorial May 26, 2010

The dramatic showdown in the Supreme Court that some had been hoping for as the law minister made his appearance before the Supreme Court bench hearing the case regarding implementation of the NRO has not happened. For now at least, there will be no clash of institutions. Perhaps we will finally find the stability that has eluded us for too many months, adding to the problems the nation faces on various fronts. Ceaseless speculation has spurred these on. Mr Awan told the court that legal complexities held up the matter of writing to the Swiss authorities to re-open the cases. Watched by a bevy of ministers, he also stated the corruption charges against the President and the late Benazir Bhutto had in fact been dropped in 2001 and that actions taken in the past by law officers were being reviewed. The court has sought from the government a concise statement on the NRO implementation in the matter of the Swiss cases and called a two-week adjournment. There the matter now rests. The hype we have seen for weeks is over.

Indeed, the events at the court leave one wondering how much of the drama was simply constructed by elements within the media. Certainly the 90-minute court hearing brought no dramatic show down. The law minister suggested that the law prevented the government from writing to Swiss authorities — though he did not say so in exactly these words. The government lawyer will possibly take the matter further as the case proceeds. While the minister can be accused of keeping things a little convoluted, it is a good omen that he chose to personally appear and that due decorum remained in place throughout the court proceedings. The issues involved in the Swiss cases will of course continue. There are still many areas that need to be laid out so we can see the whole picture making up the jigsaw puzzle. But our institutions have demonstrated a level of maturity and a desire to keep the system intact which is commendable. We must commend both the government and the judiciary for this. It appears the much apprehended clash has been averted.

From this point on, we must hope for a system that can run along a smoother track. This would benefit all of us. There is also a need to bring temperatures down. Trying to incite a crisis does not suit the interests of the people of Pakistan. All institutions need to realise that a confrontation only serves to strengthen those who do not want democracy to take root in this country. Certainly, as far as the constitution goes, all that it lays out needs to be followed in letter and in spirit. It is also necessary to tackle corruption. But the hearing on Tuesday has proven that this task can go ahead in a dignified and orderly manner, without creating any new crisis. For this reason alone the decision of the law minister to appear personally served a useful purpose. We must hope that things can now proceed along the pattern chalked out.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.