Now that the Supreme Court has nullified the NRO, we must proceed thoughtfully and carefully so as to preserve the democratic order and use the opportunity to strengthen Pakistan, not destroy it. In the following days there will certainly be the shrill voices of anti-democracy groups, especially those in the media. But we must remember that Pakistan is currently in a war, and a radical shakeup of government officials will only weaken our ability to defend our national security.
The nullification of the NRO does present a distraction for President Zardari, but it is not an emergency. The President is protected from prosecution during his term in office under Article 248(2) of the Constitution. It must be said, also, that President Zardari deserves respect and thanks for taking an impartial view of the proceedings and choosing to respect the courts. Any allegations against the President notwithstanding, his approach to these proceedings and his respect for the judicial process has been commendable and demonstrates a clear change from the attitude of his predecessor Musharraf who simply suspended the Chief Justice when he did not like what the Court decided.
Now that the NRO has been voided, those accused have the opportunity to finally clear their names in the courts. Let us not forget that these allegations addressed in the NRO were made during a period of extreme political unrest during which it was common practice to use legal charges as a political device. In fact, the adoption of the NRO was welcomed at the time as a means to put this period behind us and move forward. In retrospect, it was perhaps too clumsy a way of moving forward because it left too much business unfinished. Now these men will have the opportunity to show the courts, and the people, that the charges are unfounded. Once their names are finally cleared, the nation will more easily unite.
The Supreme Court also issued a notice that the Swiss Case should be reopened. This is another headache, but not one that is likely to hurt Zardari or the government in the long run. Unfortunatly, it does present the danger of opening old wounds that had just begun to heal. In 2005, Maj Gen (Retd) Ahsan Ahmed wrote an article in The Nation titled, “The Facts About the Swiss Case” that detailed the whole sordid affair, including pointing out the contradictions and other problems that make the whole case completely unbelievable once you have the facts. Again, this may be the best possible outcome becuase it will allow the case to be finally closed for good since Daniel Zappelli, Geneva’s chief prosecutor, said that he had no evidence to bring Zardari to trial.
Unfortunately, the media has already started with dramatic headlines. If some foreigner were to find a collection of media headlines, he would surely believe that Pakistan was on the brink of collapse, despite the fact that this could not be further from the truth. However, the media loves drama and will continue printing the most outrageous headlines to sell their papers and boost their ratings. Since the media loves drama so much, perhaps they would be better putting their talents to use writing new scripts for the Lollywood industry.
The Supreme Court has issued their decision. The government continues its work, as properly functioning democratic governments will do. As a reasonable and patient people, we must proceed thoughtfully and rationally so that we take the opportunity to strenghten our democratic institutions. In a few years, we will look back on this period and wonder what all the fuss was about.