By Raza Habib Raja
The news of regime change are now being supplemented by news of another grave possibility: a repeat of the 3rd November steps to purge the Judiciary. These may be rumours perpetuated by this sensation loving media but unfortunately Pakistan always operates under “Murphy’s law”. Moreover when a rumour is going around, our response often makes it materialize.
And the Judiciary has apparently taken the rumours to be some indication of the brewing scheme in the corridors of powers and met late night to develop a counter strategy and in the morning has given the verdict equating any such revocation of executive orders as violation of Article 6 of the constitution. The court in a truly bizarre and too some extent even comically absurd manner acted pre-emptively and gave verdict on perceived intent.
Both the important pillars of the state are busy formulating these childish manoeuvres and counter manoeuvres at the time when the country is spiralling towards virtual self destruction. Both the parties cannot stand each other and want the other to be out of existence through either a court order or a revocation of an earlier restoration notice.
With the latest and perhaps one of the most rapid delivery of “justice”, the Judiciary has apparently tried to thwart any effort to dislodge its judges. However, in such circumstances and the way the situation is developing, the eventual success in removal of judges won’t actually be decided by “legality” of the method but rather on whether executive can actually have enough control over the organizations having the ability to exercise physical violence. It has to be understood that at present the executive does not have EFFECTIVE control over all such agencies. So after the order by Judiciary has been passed, the move from the executive to actually remove Judges has to be backed by armed forces. For that matter even a court order from Judiciary dismissing president would also require “cooperation” from the armed forces.
Frankly I will oppose both the “changes” with equal ferocity despite the fact that I have equally mixed opinion of the current executive as well as the judiciary. On the negative side one is incompetent and the other is thoroughly regressive in ideological orientation and literally vindictive in a childishly immature manner.
I will oppose such moves for the simple fact alone that it would require army and would invariably end up further entrenching its role in the political affairs. Moreover, both the opposing parties would be the loser in this childish tussle even if one temporarily succeeds in dislodging the other as they would be ceding their authority more and more to army (which already is very powerful). In addition dislodgement of any of these parties would negate whatever gains (though chaotic situation belies these) we have made towards establishment of sustainable democracy.
Regime change through any means, even constitutional means (after all you can buy or coerce the existing members into passing a no confidence move) will be catastrophic and will seriously undermine the democratic process but even more than that will implant deep seeds of hatred in smaller provinces. Let’s not forget that the President hails from a small province and his selective lynching has already creating rifts and his forcible removal before time will further alienate the province.
Moreover, PPP is the only electable liberal party and at this time when we are reeling under the forces of extremism, is frankly the best bet despite its poor governance and incompetence. The ideological orientation of the party combined with its sway over masses gives us a better chance to prevent Pakistan from becoming a strange mix of lawless and theocratic state.
Moreover, for all those who are always dying to vilify Zardari, let’s at least give the “devil” his credit. Zardari led government has tried to reach out to all the ethnicities and has successfully brokered an improved NFC award. Likewise, he has transferred the presidential powers through 18th amendment to the prime minister, a thing virtually unheard of in the past.
Having appreciated these facts, let me also point out that there are governance and competence issues but these do not warrant a regime change through extreme measures.
On the other hand, the current Judiciary has become vibrant and active. This is to some extent a divergence from the past where the Judiciary used to be totally subservient to the executive. While that is a good development but the way the Judiciary is using its new found freedom is a real cause for concern. Moreover the ideological orientation of the Judiciary as indicated by a string of decisions is increasingly regressive.
However, despite its orientation and almost irritating behaviour, I would not support a repeat of 3rd November or some revocation of executive order. We all know that while the current Judiciary may be “reactionary” but as an institution it is more insulated from political pressures. It’s the institution as a whole which matters to me. Today’s Judiciary may be reactionary or regressive but if the institution retains its independence, the next breed of judges may be of different orientation. Moreover the ideological bent of the Judiciary though extremely important is not the only element as constitutional matters are not the matters Judiciary has to decide upon . An aggressive Judiciary entails problems but has its advantages also provided aggression does not go completely overboard.
Any forcible removal of the Judiciary would also be followed by replacing it by a totally subservient Judiciary and that will perhaps be even more catastrophic than all the excesses of this excessive Judiciary.
Sustainable Democracy needs both a strong accountable executive and an independent Judiciary. We cannot and should not purge any of these. However it is for both the stakeholders to realize that and to start acting in a mature manner. However, both the parties have shown immaturity shown so far and continue to show it under the active provocation of this immature sensation loving media.