ON and on it goes, the endless sparring between the judiciary and the government, and the government’s proxies sometimes. Fasih Bokhari, chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, has written an extraordinary letter to President Zardari and very deliberately made its provocative contents public. The Supreme Court, Mr Bokhari has alleged, is grossly interfering in NAB’s workings and its actions may even amount to “pre-poll rigging”. Separating the substance of the chairman’s accusations and the likely intentions behind them present two very different pictures. First, the likely intentions behind the letter. In writing to the president, Mr Bokhari appears to have cast aside all semblance of neutrality and independence. It is not so much the thrust of the NAB chairman’s complaints against the superior judiciary but the person he has addressed them to that is deeply problematic. Is President Zardari somehow supposed to come to the rescue of the allegedly besieged Mr Bokhari and NAB? In writing to the president, was Mr Bokhari evoking shades of Naeem Bokhari’s open letter to Gen Musharraf that led to the dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2007? That these questions need be asked at all in this moment of growing controversy and crisis is itself a testament to the unnecessary and regrettable politicisation the NAB chairman has stirred up.
Unhappily, and not unusually, the Supreme Court itself is not entirely blameless in the present situation. The RPP case has emerged almost from nowhere to threaten a fresh political and constitutional crisis. The timing of the verbal order — followed by a less clear written order — to seemingly arrest the prime minister while Tahirul Qadri and thousands of his followers were calling for the ouster of the government a few hundred yards away was tone deaf, to say the least. The chief justice tasking a two-member bench of the Supreme Court to look into the death of NAB officer Kamran Faisal before even the basic facts are established seems unnecessary and premature. The only positive so far: even as the sparring has picked up again, neither the government nor the court appears to be truly spoiling for another major fight.