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Judging the court


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SO now we know.

The moderates in the Supreme Court will go by the book, the hardliners will press for an early outcome, the prime minister will eventually go and the PPP will elect yet another one.

What’s the point to this farce?

Unhappily, that may be beside the point now.

The court can and should back off. But it seems to come down to this: in hounding the government to write the Swiss letter, it wants a PPP prime minister to implicitly state that the PPP boss is a corrupt man.

Letter written, legal repercussions or not, it will be there for all time to come on the historical record.

Surely there must be more?

It doesn’t really matter. Asif Zardari knows that this is about humiliating him and he’s called the court’s bluff. One prime minister, two prime ministers, 10 prime ministers — he’ll throw PMs at the court faster than it can knock them down.

Much has been made about the government’s stubbornness. Write the damn letter, everyone says. But let’s look at it from Zardari’s perspective.

Everyone’s corrupt here. Everyone’s heard the rumours about everyone, politicians, generals, bureaucrats and yes, even judges.

Every constituency politician by definition is corrupt here. Sustaining your base and milking it for votes come election time is an expensive business. Running a party with a national vote bank is infinitely more expensive.

Zardari just happens to be better at corruption than most. In his mind, why is that his fault?

Since he’s come to power he hasn’t done anything to any of the other players. He hasn’t chucked anyone in jail, hasn’t had cases registered against his opponents, hasn’t set NAB or the IB or the tax collectors on his political rivals.

There was the misjudgment with governor’s rule in Punjab in ’09 but the PML-N has landed more punches than it’s suffered.

As for the allies of convenience, the ANP in KP, the MQM in Karachi, the PML-Q in Punjab and Islamabad, each has raked it in as much as circumstances have allowed.

Nothing has been done to the court. The judges wanted a hermetically sealed judiciary in which they alone decide who can or cannot become a judge. So Zardari gave them a constitutional amendment, even though it meant overriding his crowning constitutional achievement, the 18th Amendment.

Malik Riaz was tweaked by the presidency when the going threatened to get really rough but then the ouster of the PM was quickly accepted. To try and save the next PM, all the government has done is pass a new law.

There are no jiyalas stationed outside the Supreme Court. There is no Sindh card or Seraiki card being flaunted around Sindh or southern Punjab.

The attorney general has an axe to grind with Court of Chaudhry but pot shots taken here and there don’t amount to much. The chief justice has claimed parliament isn’t supreme, but no one has stood up in parliament to shut down the chief justice.

What is Zardari’s goal?

Get his government past the finish line and fight for re-election in a fractured, polarised polity. The aim isn’t noble but neither is it wanton or destructive.

Here is a man who’s mocked, ridiculed, derided, spat on, abused, threatened and worse. For much of his adult life he lived in the shadow of a woman who was one of the most famous politicians in the world.

When his chance came, he didn’t aim high. He knows his limitations and set his sights accordingly.

In the rough and tumble world of Pakistani politics he has a skin thick enough to shrug off the attacks and a mind sharp enough to know everyone has a price.

So he could deliver something that no one before him could: a full-term government.

We — you and me, the unfortunate everymen in this blighted land — don’t get to pick what happens to us. But surely we can call it out for what it is.

The question is simple, why should the court bring an early end to this government?

Who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s to blame less or more, set all of that aside for a minute.

The thing I like best about Zardari is that he can’t stick around for a day more than the people permit and he just doesn’t have the power to ever, ever take that right away from the people.

A judge may endorse an extended caretaker set-up or anoint yet another would-be saviour. A general may use the threat of the gun to do as he sees fit with this country.

But come September 2013, Zardari will have to face an election. And come March 2013, his government will have to face an election.

I, like many, am terrified at the prospect of another five years for Zardari.

If he can rule as incompetently and disastrously as he has and yet drag the PPP and himself to another electoral victory, it is truly frightening to imagine what he’d do the next five years.

But there is no certainty that will happen. In fact, in their heart of hearts, the PPP is worried about the verdict the electorate may deliver and increasingly concerned about their ability to manipulate that verdict.

Why should the court deny us the opportunity to find out?

Because it can? Because it wants to? Because it believes it knows better about what’s good for Pakistan? That simply isn’t good enough.

You and I may not be able to stop the court from doing what it has decided must be done. But we can certainly judge it.

And the court should know, that judgment isn’t very pleasant right now.

The writer is a member of staff. twitter: @cyalm

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (49) Closed

Aman Khan Jul 15, 2012 10:22am
I agree absolutely. The court has made it's point and should back off from this farce in the greater interest of the country. Why can the court not , at the next hearing, give a hearing date well into next year by which time the present set up would have gone or would be about to go , we hope!
Azam Jul 15, 2012 07:32pm
I am rather bemused by this article. On the one hand we say that nobody is above the law and then we criticise the Supreme Court for being too diligent when it comes to following up on the matter of writing the letter to Swiss authorities. The reason why Zardari hasn't sought to open corruption cases against political rivals is that he wants to be able to continue to loot the country in peace and share some of the cake where necessary with the likes of the MQM, ANP, PML Q etc. Anything which can de done to redress this thieves' cooperative in a constitutional manner is to be applauded.
Usman Jul 15, 2012 09:51pm
You people are such a fickle bunch. The SC is just trying to make the point that no one is above accountability, not even The President of Pakistan. If the court is successful in indicting the President on corruption charges what do you think is gonna happen in lower ranks of the government? Right now the bureaucracy knows that if the court says something the govt is just gonna transfer us somewhere else. So they dont care about the orders of the SC. But when the president is charged they will think twice. No one is above the law and if the president is a saint then he shouldnt have any problem writing the letter.
Ghani K. Niazi Jul 15, 2012 09:48pm
Cyril : You forgot to mention any worthwhile achievement socially useful to public by AAZ. He is an invisible leader who has mastered the art of expediency ,most of the time devoid of scruples to save his presidency.I am scared to see him back in the presidency for next 5 years.
Gulrez K Jul 15, 2012 09:27pm
We should not look at the president or any other leader with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. AAZ along with other politicians like Nawaz Sharif took full advantage of carte blanche issued by a military dictator in the form of NRO. Any man of integrity if his name is dragged in the court of public opinion, would come forth to clear his reputation.AAZ is hiding behind self serving bill like 'no contempt against top honchos'. He should be accountable and answerable to the court of law.
S A Khan Jul 15, 2012 08:27pm
The Supreme Court's Judgement in PM Gilani's Contempt of Court is online. The Leading Judgement is that of the CJ: one can see how he collects awards from the USA & London.
Attorney Kamal Jul 15, 2012 07:11pm
Beautifully and so accurately said Cyril...This power hungry, ambitious, SC that supported and legalised the coup and overthrow of our Constitution by Gen Musharraf, is itself guilty of so many violations of our Constitution, imposing a virtual judicial tyranny in Pakistan...CJ has become a judicial dictator, overthrowing an elected PM, and not letting the Executive and Legislative branches function properly...If he is not removed immediately, the country and democracy will suffer irreparably...Its a cse of judges gone wild and crazy...
Saad Iqbal Jul 16, 2012 11:53am
one should stand what the principles are. and the SC should not budge and wait for Mar 2013 or Sept 2013. thats the peoples court decision. but Supreme Court has to decide based on a particular case. I am fed up of these pseudo intellects who says "twist" when everybody is "twisting" - this has to stop! its amazing how this article hover arounds "power politics" and not governance. can only expect it from our "liberals" sitting in their cosy drawing rooms.
Aisha Jul 16, 2012 11:24am
AAZ may be corrupt but it is the judicial victimisation by the SC which is taking spotlight away from PPP's performance on the economic, social, security, and sovereignty front and making people sympathetic to its cries of foul play. This will be overplayed by PPP in the coming election campaign and we are only giving its leadership more to manipulate with. Problem with Pakistan is everyone start with institutional authority and quickly tries to transition into the realm of absolute power and CJ is no exception! SC has made its point and now it's time for the people to give 'their' verdict through the 'next electoral process' in this fledgling democratic republic
S.H. Zaidi Jul 15, 2012 12:24pm
Comment --Part II: "Everyone is corrupt here. Everyone has heard the rumours about everyone, politicians, generals, bureaucrats and yes, even judges. Every constituency politician by definition is corrupt here. Sustaining your base and milking it for votes come election time is an expensive business. Running a party with a national vote bank is infinitely more expensive. Zardari just happens to be better at corruption than most. In his mind, why is that his fault? In the rough and tumble world of Pakistani politics he has a skin thick enough to shrug off the attacks and a mind sharp enough to know everyone has a price. I, like many, am terrified at the prospect of another five years for Zardari. If he can rule as incompetently and disastrously as he has and yet drag the PPP and himself to another electoral victory, it is truly frightening to imagine what he’d do the next five years."
Muhammad Alvi Jul 15, 2012 03:25pm
I have spotted one - Imran Khan.
Akhter Husain Jul 15, 2012 01:23pm
Pleasant to read.The writer must not worry about "the judgement".The election are going to take come what,as the two opposing parties have agreed for elections and PM will announce it 14Th Aug.
S.H.Zaidi Jul 15, 2012 12:22pm
comment-I There is not a single comment above that does not appreciate Mr. Almeida's pontification on the courts and Zardari. However, our fall from leaders like Jinnah to Zardari is exemplary. Now when demonstrators in other countries protest against America, they have placards reading that their country is not Pakistan!! I have just collected three paras from the above article and put them together. Read on: (contd... )
ram Jul 15, 2012 11:07pm
Mention about ZAB... but not.... who helped Zardari to save Swiss bank from bankruptsy
ATM Jul 16, 2012 01:10am
So don't vote for PPP in the next election.
NASAH (USA) Jul 15, 2012 07:04pm
Cyril says -- "I, like many am terrified at the prospect of another five years for Zardari." I am too -- the "good thing" and a cause for rejoicing is -- that the kind of precedence this batch of delightfully dictatorial judges have established in the country -- Zardari's may be the the FIRST and the LAST one to complete its 5 years term. Whosoever replaces Zardari -- Nawaz Shairf or Imran Khan -- must keep their bags ready and their car's engines running -- to go home at the shortest judicial notice.. What an exciting game of snakes and ladders the entire political scene of Pakistan will become!
shankar Jul 15, 2012 08:57am
Yes sir,why? Why this great hurry to box Zardari into a corner?. Mr. Zardari, for all his shortcomings, is the President of Pakistan, which is the most prestigious in the eyes of the world. Why tell the world the president is corrupt and give us proof to try him? Why would you ask his own party men to do it? Will the Cj give proof against his son? Why can't PPP act in self defense and refuse to write the letter since it is demeaning to the party and its president? Why not wait for him to lose the election and try him afterwards, if one is thirsty for his head? When will Pakistan let at least one elected government run its course? Why is the SC so shortsighted? Why don't they see the big picture? Why do they pretend that all the corruption and wrong doing is only in PPP? Why don't they understand that getting Mr. Zardari's head on the block is the least of priorities for Pakistan?
Ahsan Ali Jul 15, 2012 08:01am
The writer has given the devil his due. Completing the term of this government makes sense but in case PPP again comes to power, it will turn moderates into hard liners.
Guest62 Jul 15, 2012 07:51am
Absolutely to the Point all you have written . AAZ the politician has no parallel personality in the context of the Pakistani Politics . his slogan " Presidency or Prison " is his sole counter weight to what ever the partners want , he will give to them as long as for him the Return is the Former not the Later option . he is a constitutional head of state and No One dare to give him the later option as the residency as long as they talk about up holding the Constitution . Yes I would love to see the March 2013 and then September 2013 too , After all we have allowed Unconstitutional Power grabbers For For longer than the 5 years he is entitled to so Let it be the ball game , we have too many Gun toting Self proclaimed Messihas telling us "the Civilians , how to live " , let there be no Law enforcer Self righteous to tell us now ,"there goes your Corrupt elected head of state" ... Will that happen , Your guess is as good as mine , But I will sign on to your last line fully
s s ayub Jul 15, 2012 07:58am
You know Mr. Almeida! you may be, like many, in this country terrified of next five years of Zardari as president. But what do you say about the following: The indomitable, Ch Pervez Elahi - The Deputy Prime Minister, has given his customary election-eve-call of electing the PPP's President 10 times over. Granted, it says a lot 'bout Ch P Elahi, but the stark parallel between Musharraf and Zardari is hard to miss Mr. Almeida! Yes many WERE terrified then and many ARE terrified now - the court had nothing to do with it then and court doesn't need to know anything now. Period.
pleasant Jul 15, 2012 05:54pm
Justice is blind, even they subscribe it who will read it.. Even if someone reads to them, they are the only interpreter, you know.
Asif Ayub Jul 15, 2012 03:28pm
Very well written. If Zardari was the only corrupt or incompetent person in Pakistan there would be no problem in removing him. He has so far succeeded in sustaining and countering all the legal and illegal moves against him in an admirable fashion. The only way he should be removed from office is through a free and democratic election. The alternative is an more corrupt and incompetent system even if Imran khan is made to lead it.
Farhan Jul 15, 2012 03:53pm
Excellent Article! The article gives a clear picture of the sad state of affairs in the country.
@MeTousif Jul 15, 2012 05:04pm
Nothing can be more truth Cyril. Its so unfortunate that supreme court has become not only a party in Pak politics, which is dirty we are told day and night, but has become completely biased and unbalanced in this process meanding its no more an authority Pakistan nation can trust as capable of delviering a fair jugdment. What a sorry situation. Had they dont it for the love of country and people, it could have been swallowed but to add salt to the injury, they did it only and only to defame and undermine PPP government - which had actually brought them back to thier seats no doubt PPP governement is not without black spots - and to help PML-N grab power even through dubious means which the current judges claim to have raised thier voices against. What a puzzle. All this proves that world is round. And this also proves that, as for as Pakistan goes, no one is without self interests and no one cares about this country and nation. What can me more illegal, unconstritutional and humiliating for the nation and Pakistan then ordering some one to declare - in writing that too to a foreign nation - that our President (unfortunately its Zardari at the moment) is corrupt so please initiate a trail against him ? Can you imagine any other superios most judidciary of a nation demanding such thing ?? Please find an honest answer. For the right answer is SC passed an illegal judgment so they should recall it and resign enmass. And let the nation decide the fate of Zardari who has failed to deliver completely ... no doubt.
M Ibrahim Jul 15, 2012 03:16pm
What an anaylis? Very well written. The constitutional amendment empowering judges to appoint judges was a big mistake. It is very unusual and rare. Any way Ameida's article is superb. Hats off to him
Muhammad Alvi Jul 15, 2012 03:15pm
I disagree with everything that is said above. The above questions and statements are in total disregard of principles. We appoint the supreme court for the final word. We have to obey it, even if we disagree with everything. If you do not want to follow this rule, go and live in the woods.
Khalq e Khuda Jul 15, 2012 03:58am
Well written Cyril Almeida: Supreme Court needs to understand that all this fuss is only scaring away investors from Pakistan.
ali ahmed Jul 15, 2012 04:05am
yes we can tolerate him for another 6 months....but not for another 5 years...
Asif Jul 15, 2012 04:09am
It's a great piece of writing! Truthful, balanced, well analyzed and to the point. Yes, the court is being judged. It shall be judgement. Through our views We the citizens made it powerful and this power it used frequently, left, right and center. We the citizens may take it back.
Omar Jul 15, 2012 04:44am
I am the public and I endorse the judgement.
Muhammad Alvi Jul 15, 2012 03:19pm
I disagree. The writers are disregarding the fundamental laws. The supreme court is "Supreme Court". A disciplined mind has to obey that.
ShaukatFarooq Jul 15, 2012 05:03am
We are unfortunate people for having shameless Politicians on both sides of the fence who repeatedly deny the established and certified truth.They also support and stand by the wrong and unjust without any guilt feeling on their faces.People may want to drive them out but where are the honest leaders.We need statesmen for the welfare and proud survival of of our beloved homeland.
prakash Jul 15, 2012 05:35am
Excellent Analysis
Dr Imran Ahmed Jul 15, 2012 05:37am
Our courts appear bent on dispensing vigilante justice the kind that sent ZAB to the gallows (as a young man I supported the courts action). The court however damages itself and the state by setting aside fetters of jurisdiction, due process and transparent abidance to existing laws. The PPP by not implementing the NRO judgment has already implicitly accepted the allegations of corruption against their top leader and his deceased spouse. Our judges should recognize that the "will of the people" resides in elected legislatures and not in dusty documents. The people have every right to be disastrously wrong, it is not the courts domain to stand in their way.
Sharif Lone Jul 15, 2012 05:55am
Cyral, great analysis. What I like most is that Zardari, with all his 'weaknesses' will make history by completing a full term for the government. I also agree that whatever the judiciary decides, majority of people will judge it differently. I hear even in ML (N) many think that judiciary is over stepping its role. And if this helps PPP in next elections, it will be not the desired goal of judiciary. In the end people must decide who they want to be ruled.
Dr Imran Ahmed Jul 15, 2012 06:23am
Our courts appear bent on dispensing vigilante justice the kind that sent ZAB to the gallows (as a young man I mistakenly supported this faulty verdict). The court damages itself and the state by setting aside fetters of jurisdiction, due process and transparent abidance to existing laws. The appointment of judges by judges is an unintelligent way to ensure that higher calibre broad minded individuals with alternative thought processes will ever sit on the bench. Courts must accept that the will of the people resides in elected legislatures and not in inanimate documents. The people are free, they are free to make erroneous choices, the courts have no business curtailing this freedom.
ahmed41 Jul 15, 2012 06:28am
This situation is the field of democracy. Governments have to face an election process sooner or later. Politicians have to get elected by campaigning and canvassing------all that costs tons of money. The stakes are HIGH !!!! May be , it is better to watch the *BALANCE* aspect of the scales of justice---and remain truly balanced. That would be adding to democracy. Sometimes *scales* cover ones vision ; when that glaucoma gets to a certain stage one needs an ophthalmic surgery.
Amber Alibhai Jul 15, 2012 06:34am
Cyril has made a good case ,he has been saying this for some time .I agree let us the electorate decide ,we are not fools ,it's just we have to struggle to live ,and it's a tragedy that we the citizens have not been been taken seriously. By continuing to do this the court is distracting us from seeing all these people for what they truly are.
SAROJ Jul 15, 2012 06:51am
Mohni Jul 15, 2012 06:59am
good on you cyril to make a point that we people can judge and the judgement isn't pleasent right now.
abdulrashid01 Jul 15, 2012 06:59am
An incisive analysis of the prevailing political scenario. He has said in so many words what could be disposed off in one sentence: The fight is between the forces of Right and Left.
Ali Jul 15, 2012 07:07am
I have always been a fan of Asif Zardari! I think he is the smartest politician in Pakistan.
Talat Mahmud Jul 15, 2012 07:16am
Matchless,I hope the C J and some judges subscribe to DAWN
Falcon Jul 15, 2012 07:23am
Cyril -Great article as usual. However, some times I feel like you have fallen to Stockholm syndrome. You not only admire Zardari but also sympathize with him.
Zaheer Ahmed Jul 15, 2012 07:25am
Absolutely spot on. Much as some of our so called exponents of "the rule of law" would like to believe they are as bad as the rest and as crooked.
Shehryar Jul 15, 2012 08:33am
Well written. Couldn't agree with you more. Hope the judges read the article.
Abdul Waheed Jul 16, 2012 05:20am
Well written article. Hope that CJ will also read this. The problem with courts is that all judges are taken from lawyers who are mostly litigants / mischievious (sorry to say that) and are not experts in other important ,matters like economics, socialogy. Justice Iftikhar is by nature an arrogant, ego ladden and after restoration has become more mischievious / poisnous and for his evil ego he has been destroying the econmy of the country by creating instability / uncertainty and the entire nation is and will be facing the worst consequences. The prestige of Constitutional Head of State (forget about Zardari) should be respected by all even by Judiciary. Some economists, Socioalogists may also be inducted into judiciary in order to get balanced judgements which are not detrimental to economy and social norms in the country.
Mustafa Jul 17, 2012 06:08am
Imran Khan is No. 1 where protest marches, Tsunami floods, slogans, boycotts and anything under the sun to bash government of the day and arouse anger in people against the government of the day is possible. Imran Khan is expert in these jobs. But can such a person will be administrator of a country? This is a Billion Rupees question.
Danish Jul 22, 2012 07:18am
Very well written article...totally agree.