Where, oh where, is the hero of yesteryear and his heroic band of brethren? What happened? Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, from that day in March 2007 when he unexpectedly said ‘no’, was the nation’s beloved — and eventually was internationally crowned for his simple stand and for having galvanised the lawyers community and what came to be known, during the movement he inspired, as ‘civil society’.
In short, he became heroic for having done on that particular day what is normally considered to be right and proper in a country where right and proper are usually considered to be the stuff of fools. He acted outside the norm.
For two years he was lionised, the nation and media hanging on his every word, his every movement, his road travels around the country and his disastrous May 2007 visit to Karachi. He had been, as Chief Justice of Pakistan, a bit of a thorn in the flesh of the Musharraf government which regarded him as somewhat of a loose cannon. They were not sure that they could expect what they wanted of him — Musharraf’s perpetuation. Though, mind you, Justice Chaudhry had twice taken Musharraf’s PCO oath in the year 2000, once on being elevated as chief justice of Balochistan High Court and then when appointed to the Supreme Court bench. He was a mixed bag to them.
In March 2009, when he was ‘restored’ to his rightful place, the nation heaved a sigh of relief and shouted from the shabby rooftops its belief that the CJP and his brethren were about to right all the manifest wrongs. It should have known that it could not be. The NRO beneficiaries of the hijacked PPP had staunchly resisted his ‘restoration’ and only caved in when the colour khaki made its presence felt.
Now today, where stand the nation’s heroes? Well, party co-chairman cum head of state Asif Ali Zardari, via his henchmen has, with all due respect, managed to get the better of the apex court of the land. Zardari has mainly used for his purpose the figurehead of his prime minister, who is as obsessed as his boss with the matter of presidential immunity, to dodge and thwart to the best of his ability any orders issued by the Court which could possibly even touch the immunity status of the president and also affect in any way any member of a leading governmental or coalition family.
The Court has swayed, this way and that, but mostly ‘that’ in as much as it has protected the massive governmental corruption. So the people feel let down, and rightly so, many are angry as the prime minister fiddles and faddles with orders handed down by the Court and seemingly gets away with it. This anger and disillusion has been manifested in the media over the past months by a number of commentators.
Why does the Court allow itself to be scorned as it apparently is — unless all the news reports of its sayings and doings we read and hear are pure fabrication?
The most disgraceful defiance by the government has been in the matter of the horribly unlawful NRO by the grace of which this government is in place and which directly involves the zealously guarded presidential immunity. The Court issued its verdict in December 2009; since then there has been silence.
Where does the nation go for justice? Is it the Court’s business to ‘save the system’? Or is it there to dispense justice and to be seen to dispense justice? Is it not there to do right by, importantly, the nation and by the constitution? Is it doing right by allowing its orders to be flouted by errant politicians — or is it helpless in that it can order but not enforce? But whatever, coddling corruption is surely not its given mandate.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.