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.