The government seems to be adopting a ‘good cop-bad cop’ strategy as far as its tensions with the judiciary are concerned.
Contrary to a strongly worded statement recently issued by the Presidency after the apex court scrapped a contempt of court law which would have shielded senior government officials from contempt proceedings, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf maintained a conciliatory tone on Monday.
Speaking during an informal interaction with the media after hosting an Iftar dinner at the PM House, the premier remained focused on matters pertaining to the upcoming elections – and refused to be drawn into a discussion on what he expected would happen on August 8 (tomorrow), when he is to respond to the Supreme Court’s orders about writing a letter to Swiss authorities.
Instead, Prime Minister Ashraf delivered a lecture on peaceful coexistence among state institutions and said that all institutions, including the executive and judiciary, should work for the country.
Maintaining a carefully diplomatic stance, the premier remarked, “It is the right of people to elect their government. They have the right to have a government of their choice,” when asked about the possible outcome of a judiciary-executive tussle that has already cost one Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) prime minister his job.
Without giving any hint as to when elections would actually be scheduled for, Premier Ashraf said free and fair elections are the only way forward for the country, only insisting that the polls would be held soon.
“We have no other option but to hold free and fair elections,” he said in a speech before his interaction with the media.
Ashraf noted that holding free and fair elections would strengthen parliament and hoped that the present government would achieve this target as it had done ‘other milestones in the past’.
He added that the present government was ‘least bothered’ with whoever was elected in the next elections, saying that this was the only way to strengthen parliament as an institution.
The prime minister wasn’t all reconciliation, however. Premier Ashraf tactfully said that since the independent media and judiciary both enjoy powers, parliament should also be a powerful institution – apparently hinting that the tensions had not been swept under the rug as far as he was concerned.
He further said that the appointment of a chief election commissioner (CEC) was testament to the fact that the government was heading in the right direction, as it sent ‘a positive message’. An independent CEC as well as a vibrant media and awareness in the people, he assured, also meant that rigging in the polls could be ruled out.
Referring to the media, the prime minister welcomed criticism, saying it was the right of the media – but added a caveat, saying that while the media may well point out the weaknesses of the government, it should not distort facts through sensationalism.
The prime minister also appealed to the media to ‘keep alive a ray of hope’, saying hopelessness destroyed society.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.