Are We A Lawless Country?

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?

 

Justice Khosa U-Turn on Rule of Law?

Justice Asif Saeed KhosaOnly 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.

Somewhere Between Pitthoos and Strawmen Lies The Truth

JUD Cyber Team

Yesterday’s post about Pakistan Rangers raid against Nine Zero has received a lot of attention. Much of it, unfortunately, negative. I saw unfortunately not because I am opposed to debate. Actually, I think it is sorely needed. But because the quality of the responses indicates a serious problem with the way we approach certain controversial issues.

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Impeach Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui

Justice Shaukat Aziz Mumtaz Qadri

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.

Supreme Irony

We are entering what promises to be an entertaining period in the history of the judiciary. The IHC has revoked Gen Musharraf’s bail and ordered his immediate arrest as the SC resumes treason hearings against the former dictator. This all sounds fairly straight forward, but as with so much in life, here too there is a twist.

The Supreme Court is considering charges of treason against Gen Musharraf due to his suspending the Constitution on 3rd November 2007. The question is an important one because it goes straight to the heart of whether Pakistan is a country of laws or a country of men. In other words, is the law supreme, or can a single man be considered as higher than even the Constitution itself? Do we have rule of law or not?

However important this question is, though, it is also curious in the way it is being addressed by the Court. After all, the 2007 PCO was not the only time that Gen Musharraf declared a state of emergency and suspended the Constitution. Actually, it was the second time. He did the same also in 1999 when he carried out a military coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif.

So why is the SC only asking about the second and not the first act also? It might be because the first act received the help of some powerful people.

On 26th January 2000, all Supreme Court Justices were asked to take an Oath not under the Constitution, which was suspended, but under Musharraf’s Provisional Constitutional Order justifying his abeyance of the Constitution and swearing not to challenge his decisions as dictator. Six judges, including Chief Justice Saeeduzaman Siddiqi, refused to swear an oath to the dictator. These judges were quickly dismissed and replaced with others who were willing to allow the Constitution to be held in abeyance and the whims of a dictator to be made the supreme law.

Iftikhar Chaudhry and Gen Musharraf

In 2011, without a hint of irony, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry declared that “PCO judges do not have legitimacy and they could not claim themselves to be the judges of the superior courts”. Now the same Chief Justice is presiding over a Court that is considering whether suspending the Constitution itself is an act of treason.

A friend forwarded me another tale of judicial introspection, this one coming from a court in Michigan, USA. During a recent hearing, the judge accidentally poked a button on his phone causing it to start making noise. Known for strictly enforcing rules of etiquette in the courtroom by holding in contempt anyone whose phone interrupted a hearing, the judge was burning with embarrassment. But rather than threaten journalists for reporting anything that could embarrass the court, the judge did something extraordinary. He filed a Contempt of Court notice against himself!

Judge Voet, who is not only chief but the only district judge of Ionia, said he’s surprised by how much attention his story has gotten since the local Sentinel-Standard reported on it Friday. The self-flagellation was out of self-interest, he said: “It’s a small county. Your reputation is important. I wanted to make sure anyone who had a phone taken by me knew that I lived by the same rules.”

A judge who holds himself to the same rules as everyone else? How ironic.