Isloo slapstick

Published: October 18, 2010
The writer was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at UIUC (1997) and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Studies Program (2002-03)

The writer was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at UIUC (1997) and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Studies Program (2002-03)

This would be the stuff of burlesque if the issues weren’t so serious. Here goes. On Thursday, first one, then another, tv channel reported a rumour as news that the federal government was planning to put down a vaulting judiciary by withdrawing its earlier notice of restoration of the judges. Then it went viral.

Now we all know that the issue of restoration has been settled, not just through an executive order, but judicially too by the July 31, 2009 verdict of a 14-member bench.

One would have thought a judge hearing this “story” on the idiot-box would shrug it off as poor journalism. Instead, 17 honourable judges went into an emergency huddle in the evening at the end of which they issued a rather long press release to inform the government that it had been outed and if it did what it was rumoured to, the court would not just walk into the night. It would bludgeon the government with the hammer of Article 6, no less, thank you!

The entertainment value of this slapstick aside, why would a rumour get the honourable judges to clutch this way? By their own account they are doing everything right, relying on pure legalities and the constitution and being totally apolitical. Is it possible that they thought – and this says nothing about the rumour itself to which we shall come in a moment – the government might have some reason, strong enough, to do the Kamikaze on them? Is there politics here, perchance?

An important question this because it should be evident that even for this government, not the brightest this side of the Raj, to contemplate packing off the judges through de-notification would not just be stupidity at an epic scale but an utterly useless course of action.

Because, lest we forget, even if it were to do so, the gods having made it mad, what would it get out of it? Of the 17 judges, there are only three, the Chief Justice included, who belong to the category that was sacked by the November 3 emergency and stood restored by the executive order. Four, if you count in Justice Ramday. What about the remaining 14 or 13? Corollary: even this bunch cannot shoot itself in the foot and then put that injured foot in its mouth.

So, why did the judges raise Cain? The Chief Justice of Pakistan is even reported to have said that he knew the story was right. Really? Now, how would the CJP know that, especially if it is to be believed that the perfidy is that of the government? Or could it be that the same source that tipped off the reporters also whispered in the CJP’s ear.

But what about the editors at the channels that ran this story? They would have, one assumes, got the reporters reporting this story to tell them how, and whether, this was news. It would boggle the mind of anyone who has been a journalist for any decent length of time to believe that one or two or three reporters ran away with a rumour as credible story. Worse, that their editors would allow them to run the rumour as news without the process that separates the grain from the chaff.

Even more surprising is the decision by the court to form a 17-member bench to look into this purported plan by the government and summon the attorney-general of Pakistan. Why should the government be put through the wringer when it has denied knowledge of any such plan? Is the court saying to the government you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent?

The court has now decided to call in the editors also. Perhaps it should ask them how they knew this story was right and why they would deem fit, if it was a rumour, to run it as news. But really, if, as reported, the CJP does know, somehow, that the story is right, why be circuitous. Let’s put out the evidence for all to see.

And if it’s credible, let’s all get together to lynch these clowns.

Too many questions here. Those pertaining to the institutional fencing we keep asking. There is need now to start questioning media ethics too, starting with the basics: what constitutes a story? And yes, why would the honourable judges jump up when a shadow says boo!

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Imran Khan
    Oct 18, 2010 - 11:26AM

    But really, if, as reported, the CJP does know, somehow, that the story is right, why be circuitous. Let’s put out the evidence for all to see.


  • BushraS
    Oct 18, 2010 - 11:30AM

    Good analysisRecommend

  • SharifL
    Oct 18, 2010 - 12:26PM

    Ijaz sahib, all your questions are relevant. Pakistan being Pakistan, we should not be surprised at all. Reason is the ability to draw conclusions and foresee outcomes. It is sometimes called common sense. May be somebody should whisper that to the ears of our honorable CJ.
    Well written.Recommend

  • binwakeel
    Oct 18, 2010 - 12:34PM

    Well reasoned and well written piece. But then this is the Land of the Pure and one should not put anything past its a leadership, however improbable. The truth? Only time will tell. Recommend

  • saad iqbal
    Oct 18, 2010 - 12:45PM

    kindly refrain from referring to Islamabad as Isloo. either change its name or refer to it as the capital. it would be better to change the name as we all know how Islamic it is. Point: if ‘Islam’ was called isloo (by non-Muslims) like pakistanis were called paki and was considered derogatory then think again! Recommend

  • Ijlal Haider
    Oct 18, 2010 - 1:46PM

    I think their lordships knew that that was just rumour but they take a sadistic pleasure in knocking the mickey out of the government at one pretext or another. I think the CJP should be tried under Article 6 for the ordering the government to do something that the constitution forbade them to do- trial of a sitting president. Recommend

  • parvez
    Oct 18, 2010 - 1:58PM

    Your reasoning is brilliant and very clearly written.
    What happened was a high stakes “game of chicken” and the CJ blinked first.Recommend

  • Zulfikar
    Oct 18, 2010 - 2:18PM

    Oh its great.,… good to see you sir in Tribune as it has been quite long since Daily Times became orphan when it lost people like Ejaz, Khalid, am sure the day is not far when Tribune will be considered as one of the top newspapers ‘IF, IF, IF, IF, IF, IF’ people like Ejaz Haider, Khalid Ahmed are taken onbord otherwise we can’t predict anything about future of this paper, good luck@! Recommend

  • RhyMe
    Oct 18, 2010 - 2:25PM

    I think the Court overstepped its limits this time which many even those like me supporting SC weren’t expecting…lets assume it wasn’t just a rumour and had some truth to it still the reporter and channel that first aired this news should have been asked first for the authenticity of this news rather pointing all guns straight at PM…

    i would like to see if it was just a rumor or it actually was gonna happen!Recommend

  • Mulazin Hussain
    Oct 18, 2010 - 2:34PM

    The above article does provide readers with a perspective to obtain about the over-reaction of the supreme juidiciary…. 1) Supreme courts verdict dt.31-07-2009 amply clarified that the deposed judges would be deemed to have never been deposed. 2) Soon after the rumoured ticker on 2-3 channels on 14/10/10 the Prime Minister of Pakistan refuted the rumour categorically. 3) 17 Honourable Judges got together in the midnight and issued a stern worded press release. 4) Next day 17 Honourable Judges required Attorney General to get P.M. send his signed assurance not to withdraw notification of reinstatement of judges. 5) Supreme court issued his speaking Order dt. 15/10/2010 to restrain the Government to withdraw the notification which if done would be tantamount to treason etc and remarked that they knew as fact that the ticker was correct.6) P.M. addressed the nation and clarified and reiterated what he had already said on Thuesday night and implored the juidiciary to believe in the words of Prime Minister of Pakistan.7) On 18/10/10 the one of the honourable judges still found necessary to remark that ONE JOURNALIST(Dr.Shahid Masood) has said on t.v. that the withdrawal notification had been signed before it all unfurled. After accumulating all mentioned above Does it show the insecurity on the part of juidiciary or systemic malady to overeach to destabilise the other organs of state on one pretext or the other? waiting for the more reasoned advice on above. Recommend

  • Ashraf Khan
    Oct 18, 2010 - 2:43PM

    the govt of the people must retaliate in a disproportionaly severe manner like asking the judeciary about dependency with the supreme court of pakistan if not with the judeciary as a whole. if govt can be asked, when no unconstitutional govt was asked for inefficency like the traffic jam, then why not the judeciary. everyone is accountable in a democratic polity consequently they should be exposed to the people as anyone else. Recommend

  • Ashraf Khan
    Oct 18, 2010 - 2:45PM

    pendency instead of dependency in the above please. Recommend

  • Oct 18, 2010 - 3:46PM

    Ijaz it boil down to only one conclusion that even the judges of the supreme court feel insecure and they are demanding a written assurance that no extra-constitutional step will be taken against them. Where will this sentiment of insecurity take Pakistan?Recommend

  • Usama Zafar
    Oct 18, 2010 - 3:50PM

    Nice article!!Recommend

  • Haris
    Oct 18, 2010 - 3:54PM

    Well reasoned and wrote peice, Ijaz! Dont you think it was just a pre-emption to set the stage for more furious, 18th amendment and NRO judgements, in order to put the government on backfoot?In my opinion this latest “suo moto”, taken in connivance with a particular group of so called journalists has back fired.Recommend

  • Oct 18, 2010 - 4:02PM

    To with draw notification of restoration of judges a person book in article 6 . Even they talk about it book in article 6 and even more one think about it he can book in article 6. On this i face true funny story few year back on Eid day we are talking about fastening ( Rozza ) of Ramdan one our fried who silent before asked us stop taking about ” Rozza ” we ask why . He replies “Rozza ” is “Haram (not allowed by God ) ” and we face some plenty ( Guna ) by God even talking about ” Rozza” on Eid day , believe me we laugh more then half and hour on his comments. Recommend

  • Naushad Shafkat
    Oct 18, 2010 - 4:07PM

    Mr. Haider has, as usual, written an excellent piece. These are the questions which almost all journalists have tried to gloss over or sweep under the rug. So all this hype and drama of mid-night meetings was ‘staged’ just to save the jobs of 3 or at best 4 of the judges including HIS MOST HONOURABLE LORDSHIP The Chief Justice? And that too on a rumor nipped in the bud by no less than the Prime Minister himself? Will a survey be conducted to see how many millions spent a sleepless night and how many missed office the next day just to keep track of the drama? How many billions were lost in terms of man hours lost as a result of absentees? As Mr. Haider rightly says if the MOST HONOURABLE Chief Justice is in the know of the facts he must out with them. Otherwise would it not amount to suppression of evidence and a violation of law if not the much abused Article 6 of the Constitution?
    While on the Supreme Court may one ask what of the Report of the 3 member Committee set up by the Supreme Court itself to look into the police/lawyers clashes in Lahore? The Committee by a majority of 2 to 1 has laid the blame squarely on the 2 Sharifs of Lahore -the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Mr. Most Honourable Khawaja Sharif and stay-order Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. But then maybe we can ignore it as it is not a unanimous Report. Only a Bhutto can be hanged on a majority judgment not 2 Sharifs!Recommend

  • ArifQ
    Oct 18, 2010 - 4:36PM

    Ejaz is one of our better “journalists”, thank god for that.

    17 member bench that constitutes the Superior judiciary needs to be disbarred for their biased agenda and most importantly watching certain Drs program on TV. Come on, who in their right frame of mind would watch, listen and believe conspIracy Theories.

    Thanks Ejaz, waiting for your next post.Recommend

  • ADIL
    Oct 18, 2010 - 10:36PM

    why not try the tv channel owners in court and thn throw them to a firing squad if found guilty?!Recommend

  • Oct 18, 2010 - 11:24PM

    a bunch of clowns

    or mexican jumping beansRecommend

  • Shahh
    Oct 19, 2010 - 11:45AM

    I heard on a show that CJ offers his meetings for live broadcast and he likes it as well :-)

    God help us!Recommend

  • Ammar
    Oct 19, 2010 - 1:06PM

    Government is not stupid, nor the judges. There is something deeper and uglier behind it. May be it is 18th amendment, since it strikes the major interest groups in this fragile democratic polity. But it’s an excellent articulation (of supreme thoughts) indeed.Recommend

  • rocket
    Oct 19, 2010 - 9:00PM

    its democracy,a clear case of a punching bag.had it been an autocratic dictator things would be quiet different.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Oct 19, 2010 - 9:49PM

    judges have now joined the political drama in Pakistan. Nobody is providing justice to the common man.Recommend

  • Raja Arsalan
    Oct 19, 2010 - 9:58PM

    Media is part of the extended establishment and serves the “well-described common interests”. If, we want to introduce something positive in the country, for a change, we should not celebrate the so-called freedom of expression and that of media. The need of the hour is alter the nature of the state and not the characters for serving the same old purposes.
    Example: I must recall a program on a TV channel which was meant to discuss the US pressure to enter North Waziristan and its implications on Pakistan’s sovereignty. If the media is really independent, the topic should have been “Whether Pakistan should root out terrorists from North Waziristan”.
    When you (Ejaz Haider) rightly pointed out that Army must tackle the terror hotbed the host channeled the discussion towards “wanted agenda”.
    The debate generated by media is indoctrination of “syllabi” prescribed by establishment. And therefore, the household reach of electronic media has made it a cancer (with due respect) for the society. Recommend

  • mussarat ahmedzeb swat
    Oct 20, 2010 - 7:09AM

    who was the reporter?or should we call him casper the friendly ghost.Recommend

  • Omar Shahid
    Oct 20, 2010 - 3:21PM

    Brilliant analysis. In my personal opinion, a common man believes the court is righteous, and blames the government for the tension between executive and judiciary. Given this situation, the act of rescinding the executive order would have only put the government in a difficult spot. It couldn’t have possibly come up with a cogent argument to convince the masses that it did right by rescinding the executive order. Thus, there was no need for the court to react the way it did. Recommend

  • Abulfazl Mahmud
    Oct 25, 2010 - 4:35AM

    To translate Urdu verse, there was some fundamental fault in restoration of the Judiciary (Meri taamer mein muzmir hay ik surat kharabi ki). We are not seeing a transparent or understandable justice. The midnight huddle brings matters to a head.
    There are some basic anomalis. If the SC believes that it is safe under the law and no Executive Order or its withdrawal could unseat them, why the reaction? Why ask the government for an assurance that it would not take a certain action – an action that is devoid of force (according to the SC verdict)? Is there some lack of conviction there?
    The P.M. too is culpable although that is independent of what the SC did. What was the point in saying that the Executive Order for restoration of Judiciary has yet to have the endorsement of the National Assembly? And that after the SC declaration of July 31?
    What has gone wrong with our leadership?Recommend

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