The ongoing struggle between ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the Superior Judiciary is deeply unedifying and getting more so almost by the day. An aggrieved and bitter politician is attempting to stamp his impunity on the rule of law, and ensure his own reinstatement at the head of the party that still bears his imprimatur. Mr Sharif clearly regards PM Abbasi as a puppet and Mr Abbasi equally clearly regards Mr Sharif as ‘his Prime Minister’. This is no kindergarten tiff, with an election ticking towards us and Mr Sharif already having tinkered with primary legislation in order to allow him to lead the PML-N into the election, his disparagement of the apex judiciary is at best unbecoming, at worst unconstitutional.
On that subject the Supreme Court judge Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that attacking the courts is tantamount to attacking the constitution. He was hearing political parties’ petitions against the Election Act of 2017 whilst the bench considered the consequences of anti-judiciary remarks made by Mr Sharif and his political associates, and whether, and this crucially, a person who had ridiculed the judiciary can take over as the head of their party. The bench is consistently of the view that abuse or ridicule of the judiciary conflicts with Article 5 of the constitution.
The legal point of whether Mr Sharif is being disloyal to the state is in a sense marginal, and his energies would be better spent girding up his loins for an active and committed election campaign that reaches out to an electorate that are long-jaded by the Panama Papers affair and its political fallout. There is no substantive threat to the current system of elective feudalism as so pointedly illustrated by the Lodhran by-election. It would be better by far if Mr Sharif gathered up his wounded pride and took himself off for a little quiet reflection on the virtues of humility and respect for the rule of law. We recognise this to be unlikely but worthy of mention nonetheless. In the vernacular of today this is known as ‘adulting’, a quality largely absent in our political firmament.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2018.
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