After almost a fortnight of tense bickering between the government and the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani moved on Monday to defuse the situation by promising that his administration will ‘recognise and respect’ the judiciary’s right to interpret the constitution.
(Read: Turf Wars)
But he quickly reminded critics in a ‘full of rhetoric’ National Assembly speech that parliament was the sole state institution with exclusive powers to make or amend laws that must also not be undermined.
Gilani dispelled the impression of any clash between state organs, ridiculing media reports over the past week that his government was planning to bring an anti-judiciary resolution in Parliament.
“I want to clarify it today and I have been doing it often, I have been saying it that there can never be a clash between the parliament and the judiciary,” the premier said. “Because how is it possible that a parliament which restored the constitution with the consensus of all political parties does not respect the institution.”
Gilani said that a recent statement by Supreme Court Justice Javed Iqbal that the government is implementing all judicial decisions is ample proof of the administration’s respect for other state institutions.
The prime minister said that he had already appointed Sohail Ahmed as the secretary of the narcotics division, whose removal by Gilani as establishment secretary was at the centre of the latest bout of acrimony between the government and the judiciary.
Opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has recently been criticising the government for sidelining honest bureaucrats refusing to become partners in its allegedly corrupt practices.
But Gilani insisted that it wasn’t the case. “I respect the bureaucracy. They are my arms,” the prime minister said, hitting back at an opposition news conference earlier in the day in which some PML-N leaders called upon officials to resist the government’s ‘irrational orders’.
“They cannot do that and they won’t … it is wrong to provoke them for a mutiny,” Gilani said angrily.
While he kept his characteristic cool, Gilani criticised the PML-N leadership for their alleged aggression against the judiciary in the past.
“I respect the Supreme Court’s decision … who else does remains in people’s memory,” he said in a veiled reference to PML-N workers’ attack on the Supreme Court in the 1990s.
Gilani’s resolve to respect the judiciary was rejected as ‘hollow rhetoric’ by a senior PML-N member who blamed his administration for disobeying the Supreme Court several times in the past.
“Hollow speeches are not enough to steer Pakistan out of the multidimensional crises,” observed Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan in a tit-for-tat speech that was followed by separate boycotts by all opposition parties.
Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked out of the house after one of its members Wasim Ahmed accused the government of ‘showing no concern’ over what he called an unbridled wave of violence against a particular ethnic community.
Two other opposition parties, PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), joined MQM later one-by-one on the same issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.