In the ongoing tussle between the government and the Supreme Court, neither side is willing to budge an inch. How else can one explain the fact that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is continuing to function more than a month after a Supreme Court ruling made clear that the anti-corruption body was to cease and desist its work if the government didn’t appoint a new chief and prosecutor-general? To be sure, NAB is not working on new cases but it is still stealthily continuing its work on already open cases while the government takes an inordinate amount of time to make the appointments. The government has clearly decided to take on the judiciary and somehow get former head Deedar Hussain Shah reinstated. This despite the fact that the Supreme Court had removed Shah from his post many months ago and also rejected a government petition asking for his dismissal to be reviewed in July.
The NAB issue cannot be seen in isolation and should be considered in context of the battle of wills that the government and judiciary have been involved in since the 2008 general elections. The tussle began when the PPP government seemed to renege on its promise to restore Supreme Court judges removed by Pervez Musharraf and only intensified with an extremely independent judiciary taking on the government on the National Reconciliation Order, transfers and postings and the NICL scam case. If there is one common thread to all these disputes, it is that the government stands firm for a short while but ultimately has to back down in the face of a Supreme Court that is unprecedented in our history in terms of its power and influence.
Ultimately, as it has done on all these previous occasions, the government will have to give in to the Supreme Court, which, in its current incarnation, is not to be trifled with. The real issue at stake is not the corruption investigations of NAB — the agency lies discredited and the real check on corruption now are the courts themselves. Rather, this is about a government that wishes it could operate without the Supreme Court breathing down its neck but finds it is powerless to do so.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.