Our history is replete with judicial transgressions and military interventions, the implications of which can be very unnerving. A quick glimpse at Pakistan’s history would reveal that when the dictator, General Ayub Khan deposed Iskandar Mirza, the change was welcomed but what did we ultimately reap? Governmental corruption and nepotism, in addition to an environment of repression stifling free speech and political freedom, increased unrest and above all, rigged elections.
Then we witnessed the era of Zia-ul-Haq, the worst of all dictators who stained the political history of Pakistan with the blood of ZA Bhutto Shaheed, who overthrew an elected Prime Minister in a bloodless coup d’état and in these criminal acts he was fully abetted by turncoat politicians, who are now the self-acclaimed champions of democracy.
After Ayub’s legacy, Zia-ul-Haq gave us the gift of Islamic militancy. In Zia’s hands Islam and Islamic ideology became a versatile tool for the extension of state control in the domain of personal and private lives of citizens as well as their public, political, professional and cultural activities. It is the result of that legacy that today the whole country is drenched in blood. Zia played the Islamic card to defend himself and the generals against any accusations of misrule and corruption. Zia and his generals made millions from the illicit heroin trade and underhand weapon deals, besides large-scale embezzlement in funds that were diverted towards the Afghan war. However, since media in Pakistan during his regime was brutally gagged through extreme censorship, none of his corrupt deeds could be documented or made public by the print media.
Hardly a decade later, Pakistan experienced another transition from democracy to dictatorship through another coup d’état and Musharraf became the de facto head of Pakistan. Regrettably, our apex judiciary not only validated Musharraf’s unconstitutional act of overthrowing a democratically elected Prime Minister but also permitted him to make amending inroads into the constitution of Pakistan as per his will and desire. Keeping alive his predecessors’ illicit traditions, Musharraf bartered Pakistan’s sovereignty by striking deals with foreign forces. Terrorism took root in Pakistan during Musharraf’s tenure and the deteriorating security situation in the whole country was due to the wrong policies pursued by him. He not only deposed the very judges who had validated his nasty rule but also threatened and forcefully detained them.
Political leaders like Bugti, who had once been the Chief Minister of a deprived province, were targeted and killed but our judiciary remained a silent spectator of the critical situation and no suo moto action was ever taken against him. Musharraf demoralized the institutions of Pakistan creating a big gap between the military and public. The flame of terrorism and extremism spread from Parachinar to Karachi and the whole country was engulfed in a deadly frenzy of suicide bombing and target killing. Political leadership of the country was either put into jail or was forced into exile. Returning to her beloved country, charismatic leader Shaheed Benazir Bhutto narrowly escaped in the first attack in Karachi but the nation lost its favorite leader in the second attack in Rawalpindi.
Pakistan’s history is pathetic but it would be inappropriate to feel pity for the nation only on account of political mistakes while there are many others who have contributed to its woes. Justice Muhammad Munir was the first who laid the foundation of constitutional abrogation. He was the one who introduced the concept of “Doctrine of Necessity” validating the dismissal of Khawaja Nazimuddin’s government by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. In 1958 the same Justice Muhammad Munir upheld General Ayub’s military takeover on the basis of the doctrine of ’successful revolution being legal’. This was the first capitulation of Judiciary before an autocrat.
Later Justice Anwaar ul Haq & Justice Naseem bowed their nodding heads before a uniform–-thus giving new lease of life to military dictators. In another barefaced shameful episode, Bhutto was sentenced to death by Maulvi Mushtaq. The Judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed at the behest of General Zia ul Haq and his generals was another offensive display of connivance of the judiciary with the army top brass.
In 1990, when Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, Peshawar High Court reversed the decision that restored the provincial assembly only to be reversed by the apex court when challenged.
We remember vividly when General Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif’s government, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was one of the TWELEVE Supreme Court judges who validated the military coup of Gen Pervez Musharraf, in the ‘Judgment on 17th Amendment and President’s Uniform Case’. Then Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was one of the five Supreme Court judges who dismissed all petitions challenging President Musharraf’s constitutional amendments.
The recent strife between judiciary and executive shows that once again things are moving back to square one. Yes, of course, pity the nation that has been suffering in the hands of those who are there to dispense justice. Yes pity the nation whose history is tainted with judicial transgresses. Yes pity the nation that has been facing dilemma of fragile democracy. Yes pity the nation in which each branch of government deems itself a sole power. Yes pity the nation in which judicial system is politically motivated. Yes pity the nation in which criminals are released without any shadow of doubt and pity the nation in which judiciary fails to convict the killers of thousands of innocent people. Yes pity the nation where people lose their battles with life in the quest of justice.
Pity the nation where independence of judiciary means the freedom of a few judges to work as per their own sentiments rather than upholding the sanctity of the constitution of Pakistan. Pity the nation where the freedom of judiciary is defined as the freedom of judges rather than the freedom of the institution to work as per law and constitution.
Indeed, Pity the nation where a judge openly expresses his sentiments of hatred for the elected Prime Minister of the country in a very ironic way.
Note: The purpose of this piece is to discuss the brief history of Judiciary and military is not to malign any institution but the nation is fed up to its last tolerance point by the word ‘change’ through military intervention and pitting Judiciary against democracy. Please do recall history before inviting another reprehensible change.