No one is above the law

The bottom line is: Pakistan was once again besieged by a constitutional crisis

Dr Baqar Hasnain April 16, 2022
The writer takes interest in humanism and futurology. He has an MS from Houston and DDS from Nashville, Tennessee. He can be reached at [email protected]

Supreme Court’s landmark judgement of April 7, 2022 was one for the ages. The five-member bench not only restored the National Assembly, their verdict marked the dawn of a new era in judicial integrity and independence.

It was a breath of fresh air when the highest court of the land showed no sign of partisanship or an intent to placate anyone, but instead, it delivered justice. It was not a victory for Shehbaz Sharif or Bilawal Bhutto. It was a victory for Pakistan.

“It is declared that the advice tendered by the Prime Minister (Imran Khan) on or about

03.04.2022 to the President (Arif Alvi) to dissolve the Assembly was contrary to the Constitution and of no legal effect.”

Prior to invoking Article 5 of the Constitution, did Imran Khan prove the jarring allegations he made against the opposition in a court of competent jurisdiction? Or did he inadvertently put the cart before the horse, or better yet, was the entire hoopla a flimsy attempt by him to save face? We are not sure. But one thing is clear: Imran Khan, a knight in shining armour to his zealots, is not above the law. No one is.

The Supreme Court’s momentous ruling seems larger than life especially since our judicial history has been mired in controversy.

Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan vs Federation of Pakistan (1955) was the first case that brought our judicial system into disrepute. The young Pakistani nation faced a constitutional crisis when Governor General Ghulam Mohammad dissolved its Constituent Assembly and dismissed Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, President of the Constituent Assembly, challenged the dissolution. Although, the Sindh High Court ruled in his favour, Pakistan’s Federal Court reversed the provincial court’s judgement by 4-1 majority, sending our democracy to the gallows. The case gave birth to the Doctrine of Necessity.

In the Benazir Bhutto Case (1990), President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the government of Benazir Bhutto and dissolved the National Assembly. Petition to restore the parliament was rejected by Lahore High Court. The Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision dealing yet another blow to our already fragile democracy.

Fast forward to March 8, 2022. Prime Minister Imran Khan was faced with a no-confidence motion brought in the National Assembly by the Opposition. With his back against the wall, IK consulted with his cult of advisers to dodge the bullet. He could not simply advise the President to dissolve the Assembly once a no-confidence motion had been tabled.

So, on April 3, 2022, when the Assembly was in session to vote on the no-confidence motion, the Deputy Speaker dismissed the motion invoking Article 5 (loyalty to the country) based on a “letter” that presumably implicated the opposition to be in cahoots with a “foreign power” to change the present regime. IK then dropped a bombshell by advising Alvi to dissolve the parliament.

The bottom line is: Pakistan was once again besieged by a constitutional crisis. But this time around, the Supreme Court did not allow history to repeat itself. On a “suo moto” action, the top court took up the case and rescued democracy putting a damper on IK’s excitement. “The Speaker is under a duty to summon and hold a sitting of the Assembly in the present Session, and shall do so immediately and in any case not later than 10:30 a.m. on Saturday 09.04.2022, to conduct the business of the House…”

IK was once again surrounded by his disciples. Options on the table purportedly included resignations, filibuster and back-channel negotiations. Once the Session commenced on Saturday morning, the unexpected, or perhaps the expected, happened. Contrary to the spirit of the Supreme Court verdict, PTI members, instead of allowing the no-confidence vote to take place, made superfluous speeches all day wasting precious time. The untoward burlesque bordered on contempt.

As midnight approached, we were glued to the TV screens. There was no voting yet. A national emergency was imminent. What was happening behind closed doors? Were they making offers and counter-offers? As in Godfather, did someone say to someone: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

The entire day, we were in the innermost circle of hell. I wonder if IK was fighting for Pakistan or fighting for himself. I also wonder if the opposition, now given the opportunity, would fare better.

Long live Pakistan!

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2022.

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