Judiciary frustrated by rule of law


An article in The News caught my attention yesterday when I read that the head of the Judicial Commission probing the memogate scandal is frustrated with inaction on the part of the government. According to the article,

Justice Qazi Faiz Esa on Thursday expressed anger at the Foreign Office’s inability to pursue the matter of the record of Blackberry messages between Husain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz with the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan.

This struck me as odd for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Foreign Office actually did pursue the matter of the record of Blackberry messages between Husain Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz with the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan. The Canadian High Commission, being familiar with Canadian privacy law, told the FO that there was nothing they could do.

Justice Faiz Esa thinks the FO is “hampering the inquiry” because they haven’t created an international incident over the issue. The commission went on to complain that the Blackberry company, being a Canadian company, is following Canadian law. According to the judicial commission, “The Blackberry company is operating in Pakistan and they also have some obligations here for smooth functioning”. It is not hard to read such a statement as a threat – either provide us with the data or we will block your access to operate in Pakistan.

But even if the Canadian High Commission decided to become rogue and force a company to violate the law, what would be the point? Even Mansoor Ijaz himself says that Blackberry doesn’t have anything new data.

The reality is that what we found out from BlackBerry was not that; literally the data didn’t exist that we thought existed. Meaning, the chat, the actual lines of the chat exchanges is not stored by BlackBerry on their servers. What they store to some extent is, like a telephone log, here is the PIN number that communicated with another PIN number and here is the date and time which they did that.

The most anyone could prove is that Husain Haqqani had BBM chats with Mansoor Ijaz – something he has never denied. But none of the chat transcripts that Mansoor Ijaz has submitted say anything about a memo. The only way to read those chats as suggesting Haqqani had anything to do with Mansoor Ijaz’s memo is if someone has already told you how to interpret them before hand.

In many ways, the memogate case is similar to another case that is causing frustration to Our Lords on the bench. The Supreme Court continues to distract the government from real issues like poverty,

In the Swiss case, the Swiss have also said that they cannot reopen the case even if asked because the law says that the president benefits from immunity while in office.

A Swiss prosecutor said Wednesday that it would be impossible to reopen a money laundering case in Switzerland against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari since he benefits from immunity as a head of state.

Nevermind what the constitution or the Swiss themselves clearly say, the Supreme Court has threatened the Prime Minister with jail if he does not write a letter requesting the Swiss to open cases against the president.

And even if everyone decided to ignore the law, what would be the point? The Swiss prosecutor said four years ago when the case was closed that there was not enough evidence to bring Zardari to trial.

On August 26, 2008, Swiss judicial authorities closed the money-laundering case against Zardari and released $60 million frozen in Swiss accounts over the past decade.

Daniel Zappelli, Geneva’s chief prosecutor, said he had no evidence to bring Zardari to trial.

Foreign respect for the notion of ‘rule of law’ seems to have thoroughly confused and frustrated Our Lords. Rather than taking up any of the other countless cases that affect the lives of ordinary Pakistanis, the judiciary continues to waste the national treasury on what increasingly look like witch hunts. Perhaps the judges believe that these cases are giving them more respect and power. But what would really give the court the respect of the people would be to address the issues that affect everyday Pakistanis and leave political vendettas to the politicians.


Author: Mahmood Adeel