Experts warn of ‘institutional conflict’ due to criticism on judiciary

Senior journalist Naveed Hussain says criticism on judiciary not new in Pakistan’s history

Noman Awan May 17, 2024

The experts underscored that criticism of the judiciary is a longstanding issue, with champions of democracy voicing their concerns every time.

They cautioned against escalating tensions between institutions, warning of potential harm to the country, emphasising the need for institutions to establish their priorities.

“Criticism of the judiciary by the claimants of democracy is not new in the history of Pakistan,” remarked Naveed Hussain, Chief Editor of The Express Tribune, during the talk show "Experts" on Express News moderated by Dua Jameel.

Recalling historical events, the seasoned journalist pointed out that self-proclaimed champions of democracy have previously targeted the Supreme Court (SC).

Hussain cited examples such as Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), as well as Maulana Fazlur Rehman from the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-F (JUI-F).

Read more: Experts scrutinise Bilawal's criticism of PTI

He noted that during a previous regime, Fazl attacked the top court with his people, while Maryam Nawaz resorted to propaganda against judges, displaying their images on projectors during meetings.

He lamented that when Imran Khan's party criticised the judiciary and decisions favoured their opponents, certain individuals appeared happy.

Hussain recalled how opposition figures urged Imran Khan, founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), to seek legal recourse, claiming they too had faith in the judiciary.

Expressing disappointment over government members' anti-Supreme Court news conferences, the senior expert remarked that now, with shifting political dynamics, such press conferences emerge, which is regrettable.

Also read: Experts call for judicial commission to probe May 9 mayhem

Hussain asserted that politicians must place their trust in the judiciary to uphold the rule of law. While acknowledging imperfections within the judiciary, he emphasised that it is the responsibility of democratic leaders to also contribute to strengthening these institutions.

Express News Bureau Chief in Islamabad, Amir Ilyas Rana, concurred with Hussain's viewpoint, emphasising the importance of strengthening the judiciary. However, he raised a pertinent question about the judiciary's readiness to undergo self-improvement.

Specifically, the bureau chief questioned whether the judiciary is prepared to dispense justice impartially to all, rather than showing favouritism to any particular party or individual.

The bureau chief also mentioned past incidents, recalling when the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) collectively protested by washing clothes and hanging shalwars on the premises of the apex court. He questioned whether the SC had taken any action against them.

Additionally, Rana referenced former PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry's statement made at the K-P House, where Fawad controversially likened the army and judiciary to political entities.

He emphasised the need for consistent ethical standards regarding dual citizenship for both parliamentarians and judges. Rana asserted that judges' lack of trust in each other undermines public confidence in the judiciary. He stressed the importance of mutual trust among judges to encourage trust among the general public.

Ayaz Khan, Group Editor of Daily Express, expressed scepticism about the judiciary, stating that even he lacks faith in it. He highlighted concerns about perceived biases, suggesting that influential groups have their own judges and influence decisions accordingly.

Khan asserted that while some individuals strongly criticised former Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, they held high expectations for Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

He noted that PTI largely favoured the actions of Ata Bandial, despite occasional criticism of specific decisions. Overall, Ata Bandial was viewed favourably by PTI as their preferred Chief Justice.

The group editor opined that Qazi Faez Isa was never favoured by PTI, although now there are instances where PTI has praised him. Khan highlighted the common phenomenon where people initially express faith in the judiciary, but once a verdict is delivered, that faith scatters rapidly.

Expressing concern over the current situation and the ongoing institutional conflicts, Khan remarked that the situation has escalated to a critical juncture where things will either deteriorate irreparably or stabilise completely, leaving no room for further tension.

Faisal Hussain, the Karachi Bureau Chief for Express News, also concurred with Khan, emphasising that given the current challenges facing Pakistan, tension between institutions is not conducive. He stressed the importance of institutions identifying and prioritising their objectives in this critical period.

Faisal highlighted the pressing issue of inter-institutional conflict, describing it as a war unfolding within the institutions, with significant tensions even within the judiciary itself. He, underscoring the urgency of resolving these conflicts, suggested that even media commentary should be mindful not to exacerbate the situation further.

Faisal Hussain believes that the quality of the judiciary, whether good or bad, is apparent to everyone. He pointed out the observed discrepancies between lower and higher courts' operations.

Faisal cited examples such as unprecedented decisions regarding the Iddat case and the setting up of courts at midnight to announce judgments on matters like election symbols. He lamented that the consequences of such actions have been borne by the nation and will continue to affect future generations.

He stressed the urgent need to navigate the country out of the current crisis. He highlighted widespread concern among the populace regarding inflation, emphasising that amidst the economic challenges, the public is not focused on internal conflicts. He underscored that inflation is the primary concern for people at this time.

Express News Bureau Chief in Lahore, Mohammad Ilyas, emphasised that criticism of the judiciary and conflicts between institutions are detrimental to the country. He warned that such tensions could lead to a confrontation between the judiciary and Parliament, which would further exacerbate the situation and harm the nation.

Ilyas proposed a constructive approach to criticism, suggesting that it should be evaluated based on whether it is positive or negative.

He, discussing the judiciary's performance, remarked that there is widespread global perception that Pakistan's judiciary ranks poorly in terms of performance. He stressed the urgent need for initiatives aimed at improving the judiciary's functioning.


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