ISLAMABAD, Sept 23: One of the country's most prominent human rights activists has expressed her serious concern on the poor performance of the federal and provincial governments, but has warned against this being used as a pretext by the extra-constitutional forces to derail the democratic process.

Asma Jehangir, who is also the president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), told Dawn that under no circumstances issues like the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi or elsewhere could provide justification for any kind of military intervention. However, her fear was that “if civilian governments do not put their house in order, they would soon be sent packing”.

In any case, she said, such a move would be disastrous for the country, and could result in more bloodshed and anarchy.

Commenting on a recent media report of possible differences among the top military commanders, with some suggesting a possible take-over, Ms Jehangir said it's good to know that the report was promptly rejected by the army. “I am happy that the story has been denied though the denial could have been a more forceful one,” she said.

The SCBA president was also not happy that the Supreme Court asked Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to leave the courtroom during the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) briefing on Karachi. “Had I been the AG I would have resigned,” she said, adding this leaves people with the impression that intelligence agencies were not under the control of the civilian authorities.

Commenting on the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty, the SCBA chief expressed the hope that the days of legitimising military take-over under the so-called doctrine of necessity were gone, and that no court would endorse the overthrow of an elected government.

Asma Jehangir was also concerned about what she referred to as the ever-increasing role of the intelligence agencies in the affairs of the country. She repeatedly stressed on the need for a transparent character for the intelligence agencies.

Worried about the growing influence of the agencies over the media, the SCBA president suggested a completely transparent contact between such intelligence agencies and the journalists. She said apart from a public relations officer (PRO), who should remain identified, no other official of these agencies should meet or contact journalists.

The Supreme Court Bar's president also emphasised the need for evolving a consensus on politics. There was no denying the fact that when “toxic policies” had been inserted in our democracy, it would always be difficult for the politicians to come up to the expectations.

“Our misfortune is that we do not have good politicians and we face serious problems,” she said, adding that the need was for constructive input to improve the image of the country. Nonetheless, she said, a democratic system that did not deliver should not be done away with; instead it needs to be improved.

Asma Jehangir appreciated Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry's call to superior court judges in which he asked them not to seek re-employment or lucrative posts after retirement and said the bar fully supported it. She also expressed her disappointment over the government's failure to fill the vacancies of judges in the superior courts and added that she was inundated with letters or telephone calls by the relatives of the prisoners waiting for their appeals to be heard by the courts for years.

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