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Contempt act


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WITH each step the government and the judiciary have taken in the NRO implementation and prime minister’s contempt of court cases over the last few months, the political and the legal have become more closely intertwined. And with the arrival of a new prime minister the possible implications of this tussle have only gotten more worrying. Giving its timing and content, the new contempt of court act the government is trying to pass into law is clearly an attempt to save a second prime minister from being sent home too once the NRO implementation hearing resumes on July 12. But while legislating to confront immediate challenges is not necessarily the most principled or long-term approach to lawmaking, the action is also one of an elected government with its back against the wall in the face of a Supreme Court at whose hands it has already suffered one major defeat.

This could now play out it in a couple of different ways. Passing the law through parliament requires only a simple majority, which will be easy enough for the ruling party to pull off. But petitions contesting the law will inevitably be filed, and at that point the court could either take an aggressive stance against it or find a way to let it slide, which would enable the SC to let the current prime minister survive despite having sacked Mr Gilani. In fact, the procedure for hearing contempt of court cases laid out in the new law, or the process of determining whether the law is valid in the face of the court’s existing judgments, could well delay a decision in the NRO implementation case till the point elections are held. That could be one way to minimise disruption to the democratic set-up. Ultimately, what ends up happening next will depend on the court’s mood. Is it hell-bent on getting a letter written by a stubborn government in order to establish its authority vis-à-vis other institutions? Or will it be willing to take advantage of this development to step back for the greater good of the system?

Comments (23) Closed

krishna prasad Jul 07, 2012 11:41am
If you have nothing to hide, why not open yourself to law and let them scrutinize your deeds (perhaps with a letter to the Swiss). The process be transparent and then one holds a good chance of getting re-elected with his head high. If the intentions of politicians is to rob the country, swindle millions in the name of contracts, projects, development without any need to answer to the public at large, it would smack of genuine interest in the nation's development and prosperity. It is strange that dual nationality is acceptable to enable other country citizens drafting laws and running this country as one of their plants in a MNC from which the proceeds would be taken away for their personal good and merriment. This at any cost is a dis-service to the nation they represent since they can flee away in times of crises. I strongly object someone having dual citizenship to be the elected representatives to the people who are hapless victims to the tantrums of these politicians. Where is the commitment of these people to the community they represent? I am concerned for the common man in pakistani society who deserves clean food, sweet shelter and happy family life in his time. It is time the youth of the country understand this and initiate steps to stop the slide; that works in your country's favour. Ultimately , you have to decide yourself what is in your interest to make your country prosperous. It is like you acting as a head of your own family to guide your members to become happy, healthy and wealthy.
Husain Jul 07, 2012 11:06am
A well written editorial. Even supreme court of Pakistan is playing politics now. Let the process complete it cycle.
Adam Malik Jul 07, 2012 02:09pm
Judiciary has a constitutional job to do and constitution is framed / provided by the parliament. I hope for the greater good the legislative authority will be honoured. In certain cases Judiciary gives some guidelines to legislators in its decisions.However striking down of any law will be another strange thing in legal and constitutional history of Pakistan. We are the witnesses that 8th amendment and 17th amendment were accepted because they were endorsed by parliament so never questioned the authority. The Emergency Order of 3rd November 2007 and other relevant actions were not accepted on the ground that parliament did not endorse. Even NRO lapsed because its time had ended and option was given by the SC for approval from parliament because it has authority. We also heard remarks from honorable judges that LFO was endorsed by parliament so cant be questioned. I think this editorial gives sensible and realistic analysis.
Iftikhar Husain Jul 07, 2012 11:46am
Very well written article thanks.
Pervez Jul 07, 2012 05:39am
Only reason for this new amendment is to save politicians' skin , how can this benefit the nation ? Most disappointed by parties who support it , for their short term aims and not taking into consideration the long term implications . Think of the nation and the voters who elected you and don't turn this nation into a banana republic.
shankar Jul 07, 2012 06:28am
In the long term passing such a law will definitely help elected members do their job of running the country without unnecessary pinpricking from hyper-active judiciary or other institutions.
shahidanwar Jul 07, 2012 07:07am
Spot on.
akhter husain Jul 07, 2012 08:26am
Immunity has always been the desire of all state organs and institutions for their actions and decisions to deliver good to people.Why not the executive.What is wrong about it.
Shoaib Jul 07, 2012 08:58am
greater good of the system! or "theory of necessity" ?
Milton Jul 07, 2012 09:11am
The Judiciary has a constitutional job to do. If the constitution says one thing and the Executive does another , and the decision of the SC is sought, What should the Supreme Court do? Simple, Tell the seeker after truth, what the Constitution demands.Period.
M. Asghar Jul 07, 2012 09:49am
"...court’s mood. Is it hell-bent on getting a letter written ". is a strange position taken by the editorial, because if there is a legal necessity for writing the letter, it has to be done and it in fact reinforces the democratic basis of the system.
Ajaya K Dutt Jul 07, 2012 04:20pm
Why should Prime Minister of Pakistan ask Switzerland to investigate and prosecute president of Paksitan? Is Pakistan lacks professional investigators?
Maroof Alam Kashkoli Jul 07, 2012 06:36pm
Does the greater good of the system rest upon giving parliament a chance? Or greater and long term good is adherence to the truth and law?
Mukhtar Jul 07, 2012 07:21pm
A very biased editorial! I am increasingly becoming suspicious about the DAWN policy.
Mirza Jul 07, 2012 08:14pm
I fully disagree with Husain. How can you 'let the process complete its cycle'? The process is running as it should. I don't care if there comes in another PM if the incumbent chooses to follow his predecessor in as far as complying with court orders is concerned. The law must hold its ground.
Mirza Jul 07, 2012 08:16pm
...true if there is no "intentional" corruption involved.
Mirza Jul 07, 2012 08:19pm
The state of our society does not allow for such privileges yet. There is a total lack of trust between various entities. Immunity makes sense only when there is no proven corruption.
Mirza Jul 07, 2012 08:20pm
Spot on!
Muhammad Alvi Jul 07, 2012 08:20pm
Yes. I think Pakistan does lack professional investigators.
Muhammad Alvi Jul 07, 2012 08:24pm
Executive immunity is limited to certain acts, not every thing. For example, president or prime minister cannot go out, kill someone and claim immunity. That will be ridiculous.
Muhammad Alvi Jul 07, 2012 08:32pm
Are elected officials doing their job right? Hardly. Presently, the only institution left is judiciary, and this is the only control. If the judiciary is weakened, there will be nothing left but a chaos.
KCK Jul 08, 2012 02:22am
Immunity to the chief executive should be extended to the actions taken from the date of his entry to the position. Immunity should not be extended to his deeds or actions taken prior to becoming the executive.
Nasir Jul 08, 2012 03:44am
If an inefficient government tries to confront the only reliable institution of Pakistan that is Judiciary and supreme court then it is unfortunate for all of us. There are many issues which require government immediate attention to resolve them like energy crisis, poverty etc rather than confronting with judiciary. Mere confrontation with the ray of Hope for the people of Pakistan (Supreme Court ) is dirty step only to save skin of one person who collected illegal money in Swiz Bank. introduction of contempt law which give freedom to state functionaries without any accountability provide enormous opportunity for them to cross legal authority, although our politician do not have any moral high ground to avoid illegal act, therefore there should be strict law and check on them. Present law will provide free hand to our Rental Raja type politician to indulge in corrupt practices at the cost of the people of Pakistan.