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Had Pakistani court not been impartial…

   By Vijay Darda | 11-04-2022

Amid corrupt politics, failed bureaucracy and terrorism, people pin their hopes on the judiciary

Vijay Darda

Yes, India is a sovereign country. It has its own impartial foreign policy. India is neither scared of anyone nor does it scare anybody. Imran Bhai, you are right. I am happy to hear all this straight from you. We experienced greater joy in celebrating Ram Navami because Pakistan too has experienced the benevolence of Lord Shri Ramchandra. My friend Javed Jabbar made the award-winning film ‘Ramchandra Pakistani’. The film was also shot in India and it whipped up a storm in Pakistan. You must know all this, Imran Bhai! Let me also tell you that the judiciary of India is the most respected institution in the world because the whole world knows that the judiciary in India is completely independent and works without any pressure. This is the reason that Indian judges have often adorned top posts in the international court too. The court had also invalidated the election of the extremely powerful Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. There are many more examples of the impartiality and power of the Indian courts. What I mean to say is that we have had this tradition here, but the justice being delivered by the courts in Pakistan is not only astonishing but it instils faith too in the justice delivery system.

However, when Imran Khan tried to hit a six on the googly of the opposition, all eyes were fixed on the Supreme Court of Pakistan. By the time the opposition reached the court, the court itself took cognisance of the matter. There was an intense and lengthy debate and finally, the Supreme Court delivered the verdict in consonance with the law. Parliament was restored and Imran Khan lost his wicket as soon as the no-confidence motion was passed. Imran got the speaker and the deputy speaker to resign but he himself did not come to the House. The court has taken serious cognisance of this fact. It is yet to be decided whether Imran has committed contempt of the Supreme Court. The court’s decision on this is still awaited. It is really commendable for the court to be so courageous and just in a country like Pakistan because it has to grapple with a lot of pressure there.

Some people may doubt that the military establishment and intelligence agency ISI must have tried to influence the judges, but from time to time the court rulings have proved that it has not buckled under any pressure. Last year, Ali Ahmed Kurd, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, alleged that Pakistan’s judiciary has lagged far behind in the Rule of Law Index due to pressure from the military establishment. The then Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed immediately denied this saying, “I have neither tolerated the pressure of any institution nor listened to any of them. Nothing ever influenced my decisions.” He also advised Ali Ahmed Kurd to visit the court and see what is happening, and asked him not to misrepresent the fact as it could erode people’s faith in the judiciary.

The courts in Pakistan have indeed awarded such crucial verdicts from time to time which prove the impartiality of the court. Earlier last year, the then Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed was praised all over the world for taking very seriously the mob attack on the temple. He ordered the government to rebuild the historic mausoleum of Hindu saint Shri Paramhans ji Maharaj in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Consequently, the tough stand of the then Chief Justice paid off when more than 100 people were arrested and the SP there was suspended. The court also ordered recovery of the construction money from the attacker Maulvi Sharif. After the demolition of the temple, the image of Pakistan was tarnished in the whole world, but the court ruling went a long way in improving its image.

There have been many other such occasions when the Supreme Court of Pakistan or other courts have pronounced verdicts irrespective of how influential the person in the dock was. General Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler, was declared a fugitive by a court in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. You must remember that it was thanks to the decision of the court that Nawaz Sharif also had to lose power and he cooked his heels behind the bar for a long time. Politics got him out of jail and took him to London, but he is still unable to gather the courage to return to Pakistan as he is afraid of the court. The court also did not spare Zardari. You must remember that some 10 years back, the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had disqualified several MPs for corruption.

It is known the world over that taking action against a terrorist in Pakistan is a very difficult job. This seems to be true at the level of governance, but the courts have not shied away from punishing the terrorists. For example, the infamous terrorist Hafiz Saeed has just been sentenced to 31 years in prison. It is anybody’s guess as to how many days the government will keep him behind the bars or how much freedom it will give even while keeping him in jail. There is a law against blasphemy in Pakistan under which anyone can be hanged. A woman who was a victim of this law was not only acquitted by the Supreme Court there but also allowed to go out of the country while the radicals were creating a storm there. I have many journalist colleagues in Pakistan and I have been in talks with them about the functioning of the Pakistani court. They inform that being a judge in Pakistan is not easy. One has to face various types of pressure. Enticement is also a great way to influence them but most of the judges always stick to their integrity though fingers have also been raised in many cases. The biggest aberrant case in this category is that of awarding death sentence to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. That stigma is yet to be erased but Pakistani courts have learnt lessons over time. They know that if they do not keep their spine straight, it will be difficult to rein in the marauders and the country will go into the abyss. The courts know that they are the last hope of the people.

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