Dec 23, 2009

Creating perception

By Basil Nabi Malik

The disturbing trend that has been noticed over the past few months is the attempted politicisation of legalistic decisions. There is a clear pattern of political and non-political forces playing politics on the cornerstone of any judgment daring to hold powerful elements accountable. And it is unfortunate that certain political analysts and human rights activists have also thrown their weight around in criticising the judgment on ironically political aspects.

The judgment in itself only stated three things: (1) that the NRO is void ab initio; (2) that requests would be sent to reopen those foreign cases which were withdrawn illegally without the consent of the previous government; and (3) that in order to ensure that the NRO cases are efficiently and effectively prosecuted, the SC will monitor such proceedings. The pro-PPP camp is saying that the reopening of the cases is a clear indication of victimisation by the courts and the courts are playing into the hands of the establishment. This is said despite the fact that the NRO judgment itself does not talk about any particular individual and makes it clear that all NRO cases would be reopened.

The same camp also questions why cases against the Sharif brothers are not being reopened, or why one of the main architects of the NRO, i.e. Musharraf, was not even mentioned in the short order. These points may well have been valid had it not been the PPP that was in government, and hence in a position to prosecute a case or reopen any other if it so chose. Also, it was the PPP that had given the same a resounding guard of honour before facilitating his departure from the country.

On the other hand, the pro-establishment lobby is trying to portray President Zardari as an unforgivable corrupt person who cannot be trusted. And his attempts to forge friendly relations with India, a working relationship with the US and his government's shadowy relationship with Blackwater are all factors which have convinced this lobby that Zardari must be 'sacrificed' for the greater good of the system. And this despite the fact that the PPP-led government has probably achieved more in its short tenure of one and a half years or so than our military dictators have been able to do in their eight to ten years of totalitarian rule. In this short period of time, the government has evolved a remarkable consensus on a new NFC formula based on factors other than population, it has given Gilgit-Baltistan a proper name and actual fiscal and legislative powers and has also taken a giant leap towards giving it an identity within the federation of Pakistan. And the list goes on with the Balochistan package, the restoration of the government's writ in Swat and the initial successes in South Waziristan.

The judiciary must be careful. There are players in the system who would love to paint the picture of a biased judiciary to suit their ends, whereas there are others who would love it to do their dirty work.

All such pressure tactics are ill-advised and quite unfortunate. For the court to take such factors into consideration before coming to a decision would be a catastrophe, considering that it was political considerations and popular sentiments which resulted in the birth of the doctrine of necessity. It is hoped that after its struggle, the judiciary will ensure that we do not return to those times. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall!

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