Leaders of Lawyers Movement: Don’t Politicize Courts

Leaders of the Lawyer’s movement continue to speak out against attempts by some to politicize the courts through the NRO and other means. The point these advocates make is quite simple – First, the Constitution is very clear about what is required to charge or remove a sitting president. Second, courts are not a political weapon and should not be used as such.

“It is not a question of any individual or that of (President) Asif Ali Zardari, but a question of supremacy of the Constitution, which being an organic document, must not be interpreted to suit certain interests,” said Advocate Athar Minallah, who was a spokesman for Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry when the latter was forcibly removed by former president Pervez Musharraf.

People who wanted to see the judiciary strengthened should refrain from dragging issues having political fallout in courts because a situation like this tended to make the judiciary controversial, he added.

These points are quite clear, and were further agreed to by Advocate Tariq Mehmood, who was in the forefront of the lawyers’ movement.

Citing Article 248(2) of the Constitution, Advocate Mehmood said he was convinced that no process of any criminal nature could be initiated against the president as long he was sitting in the presidency.

“Even if corruption cases against President Zardari are re-opened, no process could commence to summon him in courts. This also applies even if money laundering cases are re-opened by Swiss courts because then the question of sovereign immunity would come,” he said.

There is a key item that is not receiving discussion, likely because it is not as controversial and sensational as misguided and dangerous calls to have Army and the SC join forces to topple the government. Actually, there already exists a process in the Constitution for removing a democratically elected president should the nation find it neccessary.

“Let us assume a declaration comes from the Supreme Court that the president is ineligible to hold the office or convicted by any court, Article 47 of the Constitution will still apply and unless impeached by parliament the president will still be considered to be the holder of the high office.”

Article 47 (1) of the Constitution says: “Notwithstanding, anything contained in the Constitution, the president may, in accordance with the provisions of this article, be removed from the office on the ground of physical or mental incapacity or impeached on a charge of violating the Constitution or gross misconduct.”

This, of course, is the democratic means of removing a president. It must be up to the people’s representatives as a whole, not only one man or some small group. When one man or a small group removes a democratically elected leader, this is called a coup d’etat and is condemned by civilized nations. But impeachment is recognized by all democracies, as long as it is conducted properly. Actually, the USA held impeachment hearings for President Bill Clinton, but did not remove him from office because it was not the will of the people.

 

The courts play an important role in protecting the democratic process. They must not be politicized or dragged into controversies that will dilute their authority. Further, despite calls from some TV personalities and opposition politicians to remove the president by hook or by crook, this is an illegitimate recommendation that would potentially destroy the nation. You do not have to take my word for it, though – you can only listen to the respected leaders of the lawyers movement themselves.

Gov’t and Clerics Unite to Regulate Madrassas

In an effort to improve the education system in Pakistan, the government and the country’s clerics have approved the creation of the Madrassa Regulatory Authority (MRA). This much-needed and comprehensive initiative is evidence of the government’s dedication to passing laws and creating systems that will have long-lasting positive impact.

 

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters the second round of talks between the government and the Ittehad Tanzeemul Madaris (ITM) ended on Thursday. The clerics had agreed on the MRA’s creation and had given names for possible chairman candidates. The post would have to approved by Prime Minister Gilani, as the MRA would function under the Education Ministry.

 

The minister said the government had completely banned the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and it was not involved in carrying out any activity in the country. Stern action would also be taken against those elements found to be involved in distributing extremists’ literature at the country’s madrassas, he warned.

 

The fact is, our madrassas serve as the religious schools in our society. The way our youth have been taught about Islam has been terrible. Taking the peaceful and loving faith of Islam and using it as a tool to brainwash our children for political agendas was absolutely unacceptable. The government and clerics should be lauded for their coordinated effort to improve and streamline education, allowing children a better future and stopping our religion from being exploited.

Imran Khan: Wrong Direction for Pakistan

“What can one say about Imran Khan?”

So begins Nadeem Paracha’s latest blog “The Froth of Khan”, and it is a compelling query into the man with all the makings of a forward-thinking, beloved politician.

He was a champion cricketer, a bona fide superstar not only in Pakistan but internationally. He demonstrated immense compassion for the people of Pakistan through his noblea philanthropic works. His entry into politics seemed to signal a new era of Pakistani politics, as Mr. Paracha writes, “a new, democratic, and General Zia-less Pakistan.”

It is now painfully obvious we were sadly mistaken. Khan’s cricket talents clearly did not translate over into his new career, nor has he earned the right to a “learning curve.” Indeed, his antics and opinions are becoming increasingly absurd.

Imran Khan, favorite son of Pakistan, has given into a twisted perspective which has adopted a wildly revised history and utterly paranoid narrative.

Paracha writes:

As such, this narrative is highly anti-democracy, and thus looks at Pakistan’s ethnic and sectarian diversity and plurality suspiciously and akin to being a danger to Pakistan’s ideological singularity premised on the belief that there is only a single, homogenous strain of faith and nationalism that thrives (or should thrive) in Pakistan.

It boggles the mind that Khan fails to understand the very populist rants him and his friends enjoy giving on the topics of poverty and corruption are the exact words elites have been saying for years, whilst they continue policies that produce the exact results.

Some examples of his illogical and troublesome behavior:

• Imran Khan claimed that Einstein’s equation ‘E=MC2’ meant nothing and was actually another step by the Zionists in their march towards world domination.

• He claimed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry too was ‘planted’ by western and Israeli agencies.

• Regarding Babar Ghauri, an MQM leader with a dark complexion, Khan ridiculed him by saying, “Ghauri was sitting (talking to me) on TV, so what should I say to this guy? I (wanted to tell him), Babar Ghauri, if I go to Africa, I can show you a hundred kids that look like you!”

• As a guest on Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk, Khan went off-topic and persisted in warning Mir and fellow guest Sheikh Rasheed of the “deadlock between the executive and judicial branches,” that would doom the country.

Imran Khan is writing a story in which Pakistan is doomed unless he is allowed to come in and continue the failed policies of the past decades but achieve different results. If that sounds like some sort of insanity, it is because it does.

Imran Khan has ruined his legacy and embarrasses himself every time he speaks. He represents the exact wrong direction for Pakistani politics, which is truly sad because he could have been a real leader for the Pakistani middle class. The irony is, if the middle class goes down the path of Imran Khan politics, it would be a disaster for the country and a giant leap backwards.

Good News On The Economy

Good news on the economy coming out today as reports that a rebound in the manufacturing sector may push economic growth by 3.4%. This news comes at the same time that the US has assured that it will support the production of improved agricultural technology in the country. An increase in both manufacturing and agricultural sectors could do more than just pull the national economy out of a slump, but actually provide significant improvements in incomes across the nation. Trade could also see great improvement as Pakistan and Turkey have agreed to undertake a US$20 billion project to upgrade a railway link from Islamabad to Istanbul, basically to transport cargo more efficiently between the two countries and ultimately on to Europe.

The railway link will help improve the manufacturing and agricultural sectors as it will create greater access for exports to neighboring countries, improving Pakistan’s ability to sell it’s goods and increase trade with other nations.

The move follows an agreement in November to increase the level of bilateral trade between the two countries to $2 billion from the existing $741 million in a couple of years. Analysts believe that the 6,566 kilometer rail project from Islamabad to Istanbul, with 1,990km of track in Pakistan, 2,570km in Iran and 2,006km in Turkey, will open new avenues of bilateralcooperation as well as strengthening trade and economic ties.

While Pakistan still needs to improve foreign investment to maximize the returns on these policies, UAE has pledged to help encourage private sector investment. The greatest obstacle to increased foreign investment continues to be the security situation, but with the new economic policies being made and the assistance of friendly countries like Turkey, UAE, and USA, Pakistan could see a dramatic economic turnaround by years end.

More Controversy and Polarization in Judiciary

We noted yesterday that the leaders of the lawyer’s movement are opposing the strike proposed by Qazi Mohammad Anwar. Today’s editorial in Dawn takes the would-be strikers to task for intellectual dishonesty and playing politics with the judiciary.

It is nothing short of peculiar: a section of the lawyers’ community has called for a countrywide boycott of the courts on Jan 28 to protest the ‘anti-judiciary’ moves of a ‘civilian dictator’. The crux of these lawyers’ complaint against the government/President Zardari is: one, that the NRO judgment has not been ‘implemented’; and two, that the government is ‘interfering’ in judicial appointments by disagreeing with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s recommendations. But on neither count is there a consensus even within the legal community.

There has been no ‘violation’ of the NRO judgment as yet, according to some very eminent jurists; indeed, from the prime minister downwards, government officials have all pledged to implement the NRO judgment. Some may have reservations about the government’s ‘true intentions’ but the law doesn’t deal with hypotheticals — if/when the government is in violation of the NRO, then can it be accused of ‘undermining the rule of law’.

Second, as yet the disagreements between the judiciary and the presidency over judicial appointments have not risen to the level of illegalities. As it stands, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has made some recommendations, the president has declined to make the appointments and given his reason for doing so and that’s it. No side has violated the constitution and if anything, the executive is on the right side of the law as interpreted historically by the judiciary itself.

Given these facts, a court boycott cannot be justified, and raises the suspicion that politics may be involved. The lawyers’ movement was born of a desire to save the polity and the constitution from the depredations of a military dictator. To now invoke that spirit in a fight against a constitutionally elected president who is part of a system of electorally legitimate assemblies is bad enough. To do so on grounds that are weak and based on suspicions about what the presidency or the government may or may not do in the future is to destroy the very spirit of that movement.

While we did not always agree with the tactics of the lawyers’ movement in the fight to restore the judiciary, we admired the spirit. But the legacy of the lawyers’ movement is being threatened by those who appear to want to go beyond strengthening the judiciary and become arbiters of the country’s political future. We are, therefore, gratified that other sections of the lawyers’ community are already pushing back. For sure, to achieve true judicial independence, the executive will have to be battled again — but not in the way and on the grounds some are arguing for at the moment.