One of the best things about the Supreme Court is that, ornery through it may be, it can be equally dismissive of all who appear before it, regardless of ideology. In Dr Tahirul Qadri, the Supreme Court had a figure who is thought to have establishment support and with whom it shares a disdain for many of the government’s actions. Yet, the Court was quick to throw out Dr Qadri’s petition asking for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to be reconstituted and was extremely brusque with the man himself. Dr Qadri didn’t make matters easy on himself by questioning the judges’ impartiality, bringing up the fact that many of them initially accepted General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s first PCO. Then, in another sign of consistency in the Supreme Court, the chief justice declared that Dr Qadri had committed contempt of court. He was also questioned about his dual nationality, something else a lot of other politicians have had to endure in the Court.
Dismissing Dr Qadri’s petition was the right decision. He seemed to have no agenda other than to ensure that elections were delayed and it was heartening to see the Court not fall for that trap. So far, Qadri’s demand that a caretaker government be appointed and serve for an extended period has been rejected by the PML-N, the PTI and now the Supreme Court. Possibly, for the first time in our history, all opposition parties are ready to fight their battle at the ballot and do not want the military to fight for them. The importance of this development cannot be understated. Without their support for elections, it is unlikely the government would have been able to serve out its term and hold free and fair elections.
The PPP can now rest assured that the composition of the ECP is not going to be changed and that Dr Qadri’s wings have been clipped. It should get on with the business of dissolving the assemblies and appointing a caretaker government. The government, after Dr Qadri’s embarrassment at the Supreme Court, should also reconsider allowing him any say in the composition of the caretaker set-up.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2013.
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