Is Pakistan Heading Towards Constitutional Breakdown?

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Pakistan’s political crisis continues unabated with rising tensions between the government and the judiciary. It is true that the political leadership should refrain from taking their battle for power to the courts and instead seek to resolve it through negotiations within parliament, it is also the responsibility of the judiciary to keep itself out of the political fray.

 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has a long and checkered history of political interference and it is critical that the Supreme Court restore its credibility and end any perceptions of partiality. It is equally imperative that the Supreme Court carry out much-needed procedural reforms that are vital to making judicial functions and the delivery of justice more effective.

 

As columnist and author Zahid Hussain wrote recently, as of now there is “no light at the end of the tunnel as the deadlock between a defiant parliament and a beleaguered chief justice continues to endanger the entire edifice. The confrontation is now coming to a head, with lawmakers refusing to release the funds needed to hold elections in Punjab as directed by the apex court. The ball is back in the chief justice’s court.”

 

The Chief Justice “is facing dissension within his own ranks as well as a highly polarised political atmosphere in the country. While the credibility of the top judiciary is at stake, the legislature is also not prepared to give in to what it describes as an ‘imperial’ ruling. The power struggle between the two institutions has exacerbated the political and constitutional crises.”

 

“As the gloves come off,” Hussain writes, “the ruling coalition has launched a concerted campaign against the chief justice saying that he is misusing his judicial authority. A reference has been filed against him and some other judges in the Supreme Judicial Council for judicial “misconduct.””

 

Pakistan appears to be heading towards a complete constitutional breakdown. “The perception of the judiciary becoming the part of the ongoing political power game is extremely dangerous for the rule of law and the democratic process in the country.”

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Author: Ahsan Kureshi