I was shocked to hear the news that Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) are considering challenging the 18th Amendment. This is nothing short of madness. Not only does it threaten the democracy that so many have struggeled and even, yes, died to see restored. But it shows that these lawyers and judges are completely ignoring the constitution.
According to Daily Times, SCBA Secretary Raja Zulqarnain has said that the 18th Amendment “altered the basic structure of the constitution” and would be challenged by the judiciary. This move has confirmed the fears of the majority of people that the judiciary is trying to alter the basic structure of the nation’s government to hold the judiciary not only above the law, but as a ‘dictatorship of judges’.
Passing the 18th Amendment was an act of parliament in the purest form. As the representatives of the people, Members of the National Assembly came together and worked out legislation to restore democracy after decades of abuse by tyrants and dictators. Issues were debated, and not without controversy. Finally, a consensus was reached and the NA passed the legislation. The amendment was ratified as it gained the signature of the President. This is how democracy works, and it worked well.
The government is defined by the constitution – including the judiciary. Amending the constitution is left to the perogrative of the National Assembly, not the judiciary. Article 239(6) of the constitution states this explicity:
(6) For the removal of doubt, it is hereby declared that there is no limitation whatever on the power of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) to amend any of the provisions of the Constitution.
For the judiciary to threaten to change the constitution is not only acting outside its proper powers, but is a direct violation of the constitution iteself, as is clearly stated in Article 239(5)
(5) No amendment of the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever.
SCBA and LHCBA need to stop this madness now before they damage their reputation beyond repair, ultimately harming not only the judiciary but the entire nation. Chief Justice Iftikhar should make a public statement condemning this threat to democracy and telling the SCBA and LHCBA to stand down from their threats, respect the democracy, and obey the constitution.