Judiciary Continues to Attack Government, Opposition Leaders Fear Coup Plot

Aitzaz Ahsan is a former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, and was a leader of the Lawyers’ Movement in Pakistan that opposed Gen. Musharraf’s unconstitutional attempt to suspend the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry. Today, Mr. Ahsan finds himself opposing the actions of the Chief Justice, warning that Pakistan’s Supreme Court is acting outside its constitutionally mandated authority.

Speaking to reporters at the Supreme Court last week, Aitzaz Ahsan contradicted claims by some in Pakistan who are seeking to use the courts to overturn the recently ratified 18th Amendment which repealed many of the anti-democratic measures adopted under Pakistan’s military dictators in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Constitutional amendments by a two thirds majority always put the parliament at a highest pedestal making it supreme and sovereign than a law adopted by it through a simple majority,” Barrister Ahsan said while talking to reporters at the Supreme Court.

According to him, while even a high court can annul a law adopted by a simple majority, constitutional amendments through a two thirds majority cannot be.

Particularly troubling is the apparent departure from previous rulings by the Supreme Court, indeed by Chief Justice Chaudhry himself.

Explaining, Barrister Ahsan said, the 18th Amendment had been unanimously adopted by all the major political parties and even though parties opposing some provisions voted in favour of the amendment by adding dissenting notes.

If the 17 judges of the Supreme Court strike down the amendment adopted by the representatives of the 170 million people, it would naturally be seen as judiciary pitted against the legislatures, Barrister Ahsan feared. He said upsetting the amendment would spark convening of meetings by parliament to nullify the effects of any judicial verdict.

“I can cite at least 15 judgments of the Pakistan’s Supreme Court as well as similar number from the Indian jurisdiction to establish that constitutional amendments cannot be struck down by the courts,” he said.

Barrister Ahsan quoted the Pakistan Lawyers Forum (PLF) case in which amendments inserted in the constitution through the legal framework order were dismissed by the Supreme Court bench of which Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was also a member only because the amendments were subsequently validated by the parliament through the 17th constitutional amendment.

Most recently, the Supreme Court continues to ignore the constitutionally mandated immunity from prosecution the President enjoys while in office, demanding that politically-motivated charges filed under military dictators be immediately resurrected.

The issue of constitutional immunity was raised by NAB Chairman Navid Ahsan in the SC while appearing in the Ahmed Riaz Sheikh case and stated that because the president enjoyed immunity, some decisions of the Supreme Court in the NRO could not be implemented so far.

But the chief justice snubbed the NAB chairman, asking him why was he pleading the case of the government or the president and said: “No one has come to us so far to get a verdict on whether any one enjoys immunity.”

The situation continues to deteriorate, and even opposition leaders are now expressing fears that the military intelligence apparatus is using the courts as a proxy to topple the democratic government.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders have expressed their fears about some conspiracy or ’something extra-constitutional’ being hatched by certain elements belonging to the Army and intelligence agencies.

Raising concerns about the conspiracy, PML-N spokesman and senior leader Ahsan Iqbal has said that a third force wants a clash between the judiciary and parliament.

In 2008, Pakistanis elected a government in free and open elections, and should be allowed to serve its natural term of five years. At that time, new elections will be held, and Pakistanis will have the opportunity to once again select their own government. In the meantime, no amount of professional disapproval or personal disdain on the part of officers of the courts, the military, or the intelligence agencies can justify attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Tags: democratization, pakistan (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Wasnt it just last month

That you had proclaimed that democracy had taken root in Pakistan...for good!

by Ravi Verma 2010-04-30 04:10PM | 0 recs
Um...what?

Actually, I think you might want to go back and re-read. That was your attempt at cynicism then. In the post you're referring to, I simply said that it was encouraging that the government was moving forward with democratic reforms. Let me refresh your memory:

Though Pakistan continues to face a number of challenges, in its struggle for democracy it is, perhaps, a lesson for other nascent democracies. By tabling a package of constitutional reforms that will repeal several aberrations adopted under dictatorships in the 1980s and 1990s, the democratic government of Pakistan has achieved a landmark in democracy and brought hope to people around the world.

As I responded to you then,

Really, though, I understand your skepticism. Pakistan has had a tumultuous time in its short-lived history. There appears to be reason for optimism right now - that's not to say things won't change - but our group is hoping to have some positive impact supporting the pro-democracy forces in Pakistan. Even if that starts with just getting the word out that there is a pro-democracy movement that is really struggling, but managing some pretty amazing changes. I mean, where else is there a President that's voluntarily devolving his own power in order to strengthen democracy? That's pretty revolutionary.

So, here's my question for you: Why so negative?

by AmericansForPakistan 2010-05-05 01:51PM | 0 recs

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