FOR those hoping against hope for a respite in the confrontation between the judiciary and the PPP-led federal government, there was instead more grim news on Wednesday. In Lahore, the high court gave the president until Sept 5 to quit his political activities while occupying the presidency — or else risk an adverse order from the court.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the Supreme Court has given Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf until July 12 to explain his position on the full implementation of the court’s December 2009 NRO judgment — the same verdict that led to Yousuf Raza Gilani’s downfall as prime minister after he refused to write the so-called Swiss letter.

Setting aside the legal rationale for the latest moves by the superior judiciary for a minute, a view is gaining currency that the superior judiciary is single-mindedly pursuing the government to the point where its functioning becomes impossible. While this may not be true, that such an impression is gaining ground is to the detriment of the democratic project here, particularly when a general election is within touching distance.

Take the issue of the president continuing as co-chairman of the PPP while serving as head of state, a role that is commonly understood to be apolitical in nature. While Mr Zardari’s choice to politicise the office of the presidency isn’t the wisest, the political class as a whole is hardly up in arms over it. Particularly after the 18th Amendment, the president’s role is largely ceremonial — so, even if ethically questionable, in concrete terms it matters little if an active politician is installed in that office.

Moreover, with the PPP being the lead coalition partner in Islamabad, Mr Zardari enjoys pre-eminence over any PPP-elected official — be it the prime minister or someone else who were to take Mr Zardari’s presidential office. As Mr Gilani has demonstrated — and Prime Minister Ashraf may soon demonstrate — when Mr Zardari wants his party members to do something for him, they do it. In any case, how is the court going to police whether the presidency is being used for narrow party purposes or not? Will it bar the president from meeting PPP officials or coalition allies? That would possibly amount to an unconstitutional bar on presidential activities.

Similarly, after Mr Gilani fell on his sword, it is all but impossible for another PPP prime minister to choose any differently.

So what will the court gain by ousting a second prime minister in a matter of weeks? If a recalcitrant government is bad for democracy, so is an inflexible judiciary. Hopefully, there is still time for common sense to prevail.

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Comments (23)

Sure Kant
June 30, 2012 12:41 am
You did not understand the editorial.
ali
June 29, 2012 2:37 pm
There is no constitutional bar on holding two offices by President. The honourable court has allowed man in uniform to contest presidential election that is unquestionably unconstitutional.Why ire of the courts always fell on democratically elected representatives?
saeed
June 29, 2012 8:06 am
I am a regular reader of Dawn News' Editorial but i think its writers have missed the central point completely in today's narration as they could not understand that what court wants from Mr. President-either avoid political activities or relinquish the position of Party Head. In said editorial entire focus has been focused on the point that why court wants President to give up meetings with allies when his role has become largely ceremonial after 18th amendment. Giving up is not the real issue, issue is that he should not possess both position-president of the country and head of the part because the two are contradictory.
shankar
June 29, 2012 5:58 am
By unseating Mr. Gilani imprudently, the judiciary has pushed the country towards chaos as subsequent events indicate!
amman
June 29, 2012 9:45 am
The editorial is a balanced one as it tries both parties to let the common sense prevail.SC has pushed the government to the corner where desperate and frustrated any unwise action can lead the country towards chaos and turmoil.
M. Asghar
June 29, 2012 9:49 am
The Apex Court's action is to ensure that the state institutions work with the constitutional bounds and here the President's acumulation of different attributes: Presidency and chief of the party, are anticonstititional.
Riz
June 29, 2012 6:06 am
It's a matter of principle. Now or never! After showing patience for many years, judiciary has well understood that the top leadership has to be made subservient to law. That's so simple. Our leaders who think themselves above the law and are serving their self-interest instead of focussing on good governance and addressing the sufferings of masses have chosen a stubborn path of 'Political Survival' for themselves. If today leadership shows sincerity in socio-economic development of the country, masses will back them. Right kind of 'Political Will' is required instead of focus on securing another term.
john
June 30, 2012 3:37 am
do you mean doing away with courts and suggesting decisions by people to resolve their issus?
muhammad shafeeq
June 29, 2012 6:06 am
It seems that one institution is deliberately targeting the other. This kind of confrontation will ultimately lead to a no end. And the elite institution might lost his respect among the masses.
umar
June 29, 2012 11:56 am
the kind heartedness was displayed when two teenagers were brutally beaten in front of hundreds of people in Sialkot, and yet no one raised a voice. You are right, we are very kind hearted for the opressors.
zaigham
June 30, 2012 3:44 am
If you start finding exception to rule of law and start suggesting courts to leave select issues for masses to decide where we will end up must be the lowest ebb of morality. Besides it may set a precedence for commoners as well to ask for decisions by masses in their disputes lying pending in courts of country. Justice has to be done without a heed to consequences. The suggestion is a mere transgression to the established rules of law and constitutional norms. you may please reconcile. regards. zaigham
lubna
June 29, 2012 9:11 pm
mr shankar the country will be in chaos if law is not prevailed as opposed to what you are suggesting.gillani is not indespensible but law and justice and judiciary is.lastly do you know the meaning of imprudently.gillani was unseated justly after showing months of hearing and after tolerating his misbehaviour and disloyality to the law and layolity to a person at the cost of putting the nation in choas since he doesnot care about people of pakistan but only care about mr zardari and his corruption
@akhtartak
June 29, 2012 7:02 pm
who is the government ? it seems it is the courts
Malak Ghulam
June 29, 2012 4:16 pm
People have to use INTELLIGENCE in making decision. But if people cannot use their intelligence or do not want to use their intelligence; then Judges and Court use them for the seek of the People. But HONESTLY this is all Tamasha or Drama. All this can be resolved if all KEY People come together for the cause of Pakistan. Will they come together?
Ali
June 29, 2012 3:28 pm
is the Editorial suggesting that the Part in power can do whatever it pleases to do and nobody should stop them.
Zubair Khan
June 29, 2012 2:46 pm
A well written editorial which ended on sentence,"If a recalcitrant government is bad for democracy, so is an inflexible judiciary. Hopefully, there is still time for common sense to prevail" A common Pakistani like me is unable to understand same judiciary tolerated the PP government for couple of years what heaven is now going to fall on this country or judiciary if it prolongs for another couple of months. Judges are considered more educated lot. Please have mercy on this nation and do not make mockery of the situation. People of Pakistan themselves now determined to vote out the corrupt people.
Irfan Husain
June 29, 2012 2:01 pm
I don't recall the judiciary objecting when Musharraf combined the offices of COAS, the President and de facto chief of the PML-Q. He presided over many political meetings at Army House and the Presidency. Where was our judiciary then?
Iftikhar Husain
June 29, 2012 11:16 am
The wrong has to be put right so in years to come no one in the ruling class will not do adventurism. The message should be clear that nobody is above law even the President. Judiciary has to do its role in reforming the corrupt society. Long live independent judiciary.
M A Janjua
June 29, 2012 11:15 am
People of Pakistan are very simple and kind hearted and would not refuse any sympathy call for vote and that People's party will, result you can visualise.
amman
June 29, 2012 10:11 am
The editorial is a balanced one as it tries both parties to let the common sense prevail.SC has pushed the government to the corner where desperate and frustrated any unwise action can lead the country towards chaos and turmoil.
Mohni
June 29, 2012 9:56 am
Why can't the court let the issue decided by the people of Pakistan. If anything is against the spirit of democracy than people are the best judge.
zaigham
June 30, 2012 5:48 am
justice is done with no consideration to its consequences.
zaigham
June 30, 2012 5:58 am
Let the Rule of Law, law of the land.
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