War of words

All institutions indeed must work within the frameworks laid down in the 1973 Constitution.

Editorial August 02, 2011

As the tussle between the judiciary and the executive rages on, the prime minister has hit back strongly by stating in a firm speech in parliament that constitutional positions should be followed at all costs. Yousaf Raza Gilani has stressed that while the government is prepared to abide by court decisions and it is the right of the judiciary to interpret the law, only parliament can make new laws. This, of course, is a formula we are all familiar with. It is fundamental to our democracy and the working of its institutions and not difficult to understand at all. The problem is that a great deal of confusion and controversy has been whipped up over what are, in the broader context, relatively minor issues.

The main focus of the dispute revolves around the issue of the transfers of bureaucrats and other officials. While it is the right of the executive to carry out such administrative changes, the court has the right to intervene when there is interference with its process of investigation and decision-making. The matter is not one that cannot be resolved. The problems arise when other elements make unusual calls for the army to be called in to back the judiciary, as the Constitution states can happen. But in the current situation, this is akin to taking a hatchet to try and swipe a fly. The matter on hand, after all, only involves the posting of individuals, even though it is clear that in this matter the executive is eager to serve its own interests.

Things have already gone too far. To the prime minister’s credit, it must be said he spoke with dignity and calm. Some of the points he made were indeed valid and sensible. But it must also be noted that the government needs to implement decisions and show good intent, especially so that it is not accused of hampering court-directed investigations into the conduct of senior government functionaries such as ministers and the like. All institutions indeed must work within the frameworks laid down in the 1973 Constitution and ignore the absurd calls we are hearing for drastic solutions, adding to the tensions that already exist and create a damaging sense of instability.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.