Recent separation of PML (N) from the PPP-led coalition after a short honeymoon has not only pushed the nerve-wrecking uncertainty a notch up, it has also exposed the immaturity of the country’s two leading political parties. The growth of the political parties which are an essential part of any democratic polity has been retarded because of the frequent interference of the military in the political process and lack of democratic culture in the society.
The imperfect manner, in which both the leading political parties have handled and squabbled over the issue of the restoration of the judges, is the perfect example of their disorganization.
Let’s take the PML (N) first. It has been supporting the restoration of judges’ cause unequivocally. Taking a cue from the lawyers it has been saying that the judges can be restored through a simple resolution followed by an executive order. This indeed is an ideal position which no democrat would dispute. But unfortunately there is always a difference between what it is and what it is ought to be.
Both PML (N) and PPP had about 150 days since the fateful 3rd November to the time they formed the legal aids committee to prepare a working paper on this issue. Any organised party with an understanding of how analysis is done and various scenarios are developed by social scientists, would have commissioned a team of experts to prepare this background paper for them as soon as the issue emerged. But it is flabbergasting to note that such exercise was not done by them till they reached close to the 30 days deadline.
PML (N) it seems was taken in by the over-simplification of the issue by the leaders of the legal fraternity. Lawyers are trained to see the issue within the framework of laid down laws. As a matter of tactics also they had to take a maximalist position undermining the ground political realities. PML (N) has landed itself in a fix by taking a position, which though principled, is beyond reach. They ignored the political realities of the land. A good political party always mulls over all the factors and takes a stand that is realistic and flexible. Sensible leaders do not to bind themselves in their rhetoric’s chain.
Had the PML (N) factored in that President Musharraf, who is responsible for this mess, is going to be around backed by his friend Bush and the khakis, it wouldn’t have taken an idealistic position. At the same time the sitting ‘Supreme Court’ cannot be wished away. The question they should ask is: Is there a judicial vacuum in the country since 3rd November? The answer would be a big “NO!”
It is easy to say that we do not accept the new PCO judges, but the fact remains that they are there and are giving judgments every day. Most lawyers are also appearing before them. This brings us to the issue that what would be the status of the judgments given in this interim period by the new-PCO judges. Mind you this includes crucial cases in which President’s election and NRO were challenged. Neither the President nor PPP would like re-opening of these settled cases. Now if these judgments were valid then how the judges who gave them should be treated. And above all will they just bow out when the restored judges would walk in with their supporting lawyers. Less than a revolution this is not possible because the new-PCO judges are backed by the authority of the President.
If all the judges are retained as desired by the PPP and by their benefactor the President, then the issue is how to settle the seniority of these judges. All such issues complicate the solution of this conundrum. Some leading lawyers accept these complications privately and are of the view that there is a solution to all these problems. PPP says that the solution has to be which reduces conflict and should not add to the present political problems.
PPP’s shortcoming is that it wants to run with the fox and hunt with the hound at the same time. They want to keep the alliance with PML (N) which is single-mindedly playing to oust the President. Hence their support to bring back the CJP Chaudhry Iftikhar has more to it than just the principles. At the same time PPP wants keep their commitment given to President Musharraf and the guarantors of the deal. Sooner or later Mr. Zardari will have to realise that BB’s ‘Reconciliation Policy’ elasticity cannot be stretched so far. On the judges issue PPP cannot seek advice from the President’s men — Hafeez Pirzada and Malik Qayum.
PPP’s attempt to salvage the President’s unconstitutional action and meet the popular public without even bruising Musharraf is unrealistic. The judges who took the right stand cannot be punished. They have suffered without salaries for the last six months. They should be given an honourable option of returning to their position and the new-PCO judges should be adjusted not at the cost of judges who took the stand. It is agreed that the objective situation demands giving some face saving to the President, but he should not be accommodated all the way. President should be the one to eat the humble pie, not the judges. It is not a matter of some jobs it is establishing the independence of judiciary in the country, which is a must for democracy. (firstname.lastname@example.org)