The detailed order of the Supreme Court in the review petition against Panama Verdict has once again raised concerns that there is a clash between institutions. The detailed verdict clearly suggests that Judges are angry about the criticism meted out to the Panama verdict not just by the ruling PML N but also by many members of the legal fraternity. This is a very dangerous situation as the clash between egos will ultimately make the nation lose because of instability arising from it.
In the detailed review petition verdict, SC also tried to justify that all civilian institutions are irrelevant except SC and military. Is this good for the nation? Does it not create the perception that there is a nexus between Judges and Generals as we have experienced repeatedly in the application of the doctrine of necessity. The correct course would have been for SC to issue instructions to make the civilian institutions independent and autonomous. No such instructions were issued. Rather talks are still persistent that SC will impose a technocratic government at first opportunity.
My main disagreement with Panama verdict was that Supreme Court assumed the position of a trial court thereby changing its nature of a constitutional court. The surprise for me in July 28th verdict was that it negated the arguments of the April 20th verdict of the majority of Judges. In April verdict it was stipulated by the majority of Judges that basic structure and scheme of fairness of justice cannot be violated regardless of the stature of the person. Based on the arguments of the judges many were expecting that Supreme Court will ask an appropriate court to perform a trial under their supervision and issue a verdict within a time frame. So their instructions to NAB to file references and finish it within 6 months under the supervision of an SC Judge was not a surprise but expected. But their decision to disqualify for life an elected PM without any right to appeal is questioned by many. This new ground of SC to use their suo moto powers granted in article 184(3) as a trial court without the right to appeal can become the basis of continued instability of future governments. And since historically military was considered an ally of the judiciary (or vice versa) there will always be suspicions of them working together resulting in continued tensions between civ-mil.
The change of character of Supreme Court from a constitutional to trial court would have grave political, legal, and constitutional consequences for the country. We will move from rule of law to rule of judges. Politicians and parliament are largely responsible for this situation. It is important that SC remains a constitutional court. I have sent my suggestions to Law Minister Zahid Hamid about it and shared it with all other parties as well. I hope they will support it.
Politicians are also not forthright in their asset accumulation and have also engaged in abuse of political office. But this issue can’t be solved by allowing the encroachment of Judiciary on constitutional powers of executive or legislative branches. The solution is holding ECP accountable for failing to regulate political parties, elected parliamentarians, and conducting free & fair elections.
By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi
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