While some debate whether supreme law of the land is the Constitution or the Quran, I am here to offer another possibility. We have many laws, but we are a lawless country. Let us look at the evidence. First there is PEMRA’s notice to Bol News directing not to air Aamir Liaquat due to hate speech.
“During several weeks it has been monitored that Amir Liaquat host of the programme Aisay Nahi Chalay Ga, in the episodes broadcast on BOL News from January 2, 2017 to January 24, 2017, has willfully and repeatedly made statements and allegations which tantamount to hate speech, derogatory remarks, incitement to violence against citizens and casting accusation of being anti-state and anti-Islam, on various individuals.”
In a country with rule of law, Bol would respond by appealing the notice through proper legal channels. Here, though, the media group not only defied the notice completely, they allowed the banned personality to abuse the government agency on the air!
Next is the case of a massive land allotment to the ex-Army chief. Media reports that Gen Raheel had been gifted 90 acres of prime land in Lahore sent shockwaves and serious questions about the decision were debated…for one day. Then the Army gave a warning about the limits of discussing certain legal matters.
In case it was not clear, the phrase “This debate with intent of maligning Army” is a direct warning to anyone that any further discussion will result in severe action, just as when Army carried out similar threats against media groups in the recent past. Even analysts who are very pro-Army have noted the anti-democratic nature of ISPR’s warning, but such objections assume we are living in a society ruled by laws. This may be true in theory, but what is the reality?
Only a few months ago, Supreme Court of Pakistan maintained the conviction of Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri and even re-included terrorism charges so that there can be no doubt of his crimes. Heading the bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa gave a strong statement about the importance of respecting rule of law especially on sensitive matters.
“Will it not instil fear in the society if everybody starts taking the law in their own hands and dealing with sensitive matters such as blasphemy on their own rather than going to the courts,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had later asked.
Quoting instances such as the lynching of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan, Justice Khosa had asked whether an individual has the right to act on his own in such matters without even first ascertaining the facts.
Justice Khosa was praised at the time for his bravery in making this statement, but now there are questions about whether Justice Khosa’s courage has reached it limits as the justice appears to have made a massive U-turn on the importance of rule of law.
According to media reports, a Supreme Court bench has denied bail to the publisher of 102-year-old Ahmadiyya publication Al-Fazl despite that he has been rotting in prison for three years on blasphemy and terrorism charges even though the police had yet to submit the case’s challan in trial court. Here is what Justice Khosa reportedly said this time.
Justice Khosa observed that unfortunately when matters pertaining to religion were under consideration one had to ignore the law.
In one case, Justice Khosa bravely states the importance of rule of law. Few weeks later, a complete U-turn and he justifies ignoring the law if matters of religion are under consideration. Isn’t this the same justification used by TTP terrorists?
This is a dangerous precedent if a respected Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared that law may be ignored if matters of religion are involved. There must be an investigation and explanation provided by the Court. President Mamnoon Hussain should take notice of these reports and if necessary refer Justice Khosa to Supreme Judicial Council for review. Otherwise, a Justice of Supreme Court may have declared any illegal acts can be justified if matters of religion is involved.
Much fanfare was made of COAS Gen Raheel’s recent trip to Washington, with even the supposedly independent Express Tribune publishing an embarrassingly sycophantic editorial praising the Army chief’s trip. Now that the celebrations have died down, more sober assessments are finding nothing to write home about. One analyst noted that the trip had a sense of deja vu around it, and he is correct. Even the General’s much touted “Legion of Merit” award from the US appears to be little more than diplomatic theatre. Six of the last eight recipients were high-ranking Pakistani military officers including former COAS Gen Kayani. These diplomatic visits are always more about theatre than substance, though, so that is not surprising. What is more bothersome is the feeling of deja vu one is getting at home.
A three member bench of the Supreme Court has requested the Chief Justice to weigh in on the proper interpretation of Articles 62 and 63 – articles that require elected officials to be “good Muslims” and prohibits them from defaming the Armed Forces. The respected Justices decision to send this request to the Chief Justice instead of answering the question themselves speaks to the task at hand. In fact, it is an impossible task.
Hazrat Ali (RA) famously stated that even a state based on kufr can survive, but a state based in injustice is doomed to fail. Recently we are seeing worrying signs that Paksitan is becoming a state of injustice. The most troubling of these, however, occurred only recently as Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was appointed to Islamabad High Court.
Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is an extremist ideologue who is out of touch with the Pakistani mainstream. In 2002 elections, he was awarded a ticket by extremist political party created by the ISI Muttahida Majlis–e–Amal whose leaders include Taliban supporters Samiul Haq and Munawar Hassan. Even then he was loudly rejected by the people receiving only 12,000 votes in NA-54.
In 2011, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui openly celebrated the self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Qadri and was photographed kissing the killer in the streets. Let us not forget that Mumtaz Qadri confessed to the cold blooded murder of Salmaan Taseer, was convicted by the court, and sentenced to death as a cold blooded killer. Now the people are expected to walk into the Islamabad High Court and still believe that it is a place where the rule of law is respected?
There is a solution to this crisis. Article 209 of the Constitution allows Judges of a High Court to be removed if he is ‘incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct’. Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s misconduct is his public support for a self-confessed murderer, an act which makes him incapable of performing the duties of his office which includes in its oath the sworn duty to ‘in all circumstances…do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will’.
Through his public actions, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui has proven himself incapable of performing the duties of a High Court Judge and should be removed from office immediately. Only then can we have faith that the Courts are actually Halls of Justice.