Reviewed by Akhgar Anwar Awan
An objective analysis of the events of the last 66 years clearly shows that political instability, born of the insatiable thirst for power of our civil and military establishment and political leadership, has been the root cause of Pakistan’s seemingly chronic malaise. The first manifestations of this power mania appeared during the lifetime of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and it acquired the proportions of an epidemic.
People failed to view the attainment of political independence as only the first stage in the struggle for liberation of the state from its colonial past. Rather, they conducted themselves as if their main task had been completed on August 14, 1947, and they could, thereafter, give themselves up to a mad pursuit of the gains of office, unhampered by any responsibility to the country and its people or by considerations of ethics and self-respect.
Countries where the judiciary played the role of an independent umpire in similar situations were successful in wriggling out of critical crisis and getting on the right track. Unfortunately, the earlier history of our judiciary has been something a nation cannot be proud of. In The Judiciary of Pakistan and its Role in Political Crises, Syed Sami Ahmad recounts the instances of “legal stupidities” committed by our superior courts, with just two exceptions, the Sindh High Court’s judgment in the Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan case and the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asma Jilani case, the latter delivered at a time when it was useless for the nation.
At the appellate stage of the Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan case, the governor general and his cronies maneuvered the composition of the bench and the judgment it delivered swept away the entire democratic structure of the state. The doctrine of necessity was introduced in the governor general’s reference of 1952 which was followed by the subsequent benches of Supreme Court in the Yusuf Petel case, Doso case, Nusrat Bhutto case and Zafar Ali Shah case.
Ahmad has encompassed all these judgments in his commentary on the role of our judiciary before 2007. He has also covered the post-2007 period and reflected on the reawakening of our superior judiciary.
By Syed Sami Ahmad
Royal Book Company, Karachi