16 January, 2012
By Roedad Khan
The government's refusal to comply with the Supreme Court directives is an alarm call of the most compelling kind. The Supreme Court should be the barrier that protects the citizens from the winds of evil and tyranny. If we permit it to be desecrated or demeaned and it crumbles, who will be able to stand in the winds that follow?
No authoritarian or corrupt ruler can afford an independent judiciary. The two cannot coexist and are bound to collide. If you believe in democracy and rule of law and sovereignty of the people, you would not be anything other than angry, living in the current day and age. Criminals and mafiosos have found in 'democracy', the perfect Trojan horse for attaining and preserving power. It has provided a shell under which gangsters plunder and beggar their people. Independent judiciary does not suit them. No wonder, they have all ganged up against the Supreme Court.
In Pakistan, as in all federations, the Supreme Court plays a crucial role. It is under the constitution but it alone has the power "to say what the Constitution is". It is the sole and unique tribunal of the nation. Without the judges the constitution would be a dead letter; It is to them that the executive appeals to resist the encroachment of parliament; the parliament to defend itself against the assaults of the executive; the federal government to make the provinces obey it; the provinces to rebuff the exaggerated pretensions of the federal government, public interest against private interest etc. Their power is immense. But they are all-powerful only so long as the people and the government consent to obey the laws. They can do nothing if they scorn it.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry faces an uphill task. An awesome responsibility rests on his shoulders. The judicial revolution triggered by him is irreversible. Let there be no doubt about it. Any attempt to undo it will be resisted. The people have planted an independent judiciary in the path of our turbulent democracy. No longer would the executive be a law unto itself. Today there are many now willing to fight to defend their hard-earned independent judiciary. Try to destroy the independence of judiciary, and the moment is not far off when this beautiful country will be plunged into a civil war.
When politics or politicians fail to resolve or even to address the great issues people face, what often happens is that civil society rises up to change politics. Historians call such moments "great awakenings" which often lead to big changes in society. Today Pakistan may be on the edge of such a time once again with a younger generation of men and women ready to face the challenges and issues that weigh so heavily on this great country.
Today we must be ready to join in actions which ensure that thieves and robbers never again take the destiny of the nation in their hands. They must atone, they must be cast aside, they must not be allowed to enjoy the tainted wealth that they have acquired. It is our duty to ensure that the judgement of the Supreme Court is put into full effect in letter and spirit.
We have arrived at the epilogue, at the greatest turning point in our history. One feels in the air the sense of the inevitable which comes from the wheel of destiny when it moves and of which men are often the unconscious instruments. Zardari's star has grown dim. He is losing political capital by the hour. Today it is hard to find anyone who believes a word of what he says. Today the only person willing to defend him is none other than Zardari himself, so alone and so beleaguered.
It is time to turn the page. The time to hesitate is through. This is a moment of great hope for Pakistan. Don't let it turn into a national nightmare. In this transcendent struggle between the Supreme Court and kleptocracy, neutrality is not an option. You're either with the people or against them. There is no half-way house. As we approach the endgame, the nation has to decide between two conceptions of politics, two visions for our country, two value systems, two very different paths. Every citizen must ask himself now: if our core institutions are to survive, if Pakistan is to survive, whether we can afford to let our corrupt rulers remain in power and destroy all our core institutions.
Ultimately, the true guardians of the Constitution are the people of Pakistan. People power alone can protect the Supreme Court from corrupt rulers. Our rulers know that the street is all they have to fear. Confronting them has now become a patriotic duty. Today there is no other path for our country, but the one, which led to the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other deposed judges.
What prevents the opposition parties and their leaders from joining hands and presenting a united front against corrupt rulers out to destroy all our core institutions? What prevents them from taking to the street, as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country? Isn't it a great tragedy that at a time when a window of hope has opened, our political leaders are dithering and cannot forge a united front against the corrupt rulers? The time has come when the ultimate sovereign – the people of Pakistan – must assert itself.
The writer is a former federal secretary.