ISLAMABAD: Building on the prime minister’s criticism of judicial activism in the National Assembly, the government on Tuesday continued to bolster its stance for parliamentary supremacy, with Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb reiterating the call for an ultimate parliamentary debate on the powers of state institutions.
Speaking on matters of public importance, the minister said that when the courts would pass “weak judgements” like the one in the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, these would be criticised. “To criticise the judgement is my right and it is also the right of Nawaz Sharif,” she added.
The minister’s speech at the fag end of the sitting on a private members’ day is a clear indication of the ruling party’s changed strategy of using the floor of parliament for criticism of the judiciary under the cover of Article 69 of the Constitution which bars courts from inquiring into proceedings of parliament.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has apparently changed the strategy after the Supreme Court announced that it would show no leniency towards those committing contempt of court. The court had already convicted ex-senator Nehal Hashmi, besides issuing notices to federal ministers Daniyal Aziz and Tallal Chaudhry.
On Monday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while taking his party’s confrontation with the judiciary to the floor of the National Assembly, called for a debate to decide who has the final say in legislation.
Ms Aurangzeb said they all had committed mistakes in the past, but the judges who had taken the oath under the Provisional Constitutional Orders (PCOs) issued by the military dictators had not committed mistake, but a “sin”.
“Who will give verdicts against those who had thrown the Constitution into dustbins and trampled it under the boots?” she asked.
“We respect the court because we consider it a protector of the Constitution,” she said, adding that parliament was supreme because it was the creator of the Constitution.
The minister regretted the use by the judges of terms “godfather” for an elected prime minister and “Sicilian mafia” for the government, and alleged that Mr Sharif had been sent packing merely on the basis of iqama (work permit) because no corruption charge had been proved against him. “Such decisions and remarks are negation of the people’s will.”
Ms Aurangzeb claimed that people had rejected the court’s judgement which was evident from the warm welcome being given to the ousted prime minister by them in different cities. She said they should take steps to stop this wrong tradition of sending elected prime ministers home in this fashion. She called for including the struggle of political leaders and subjects like democracy in the education syllabus.
Responding to the minister’s speech, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Ghulam Sarwar Khan lashed out at the PML-N for attacking the judiciary and making personal attacks on the judges. “In the name of democracy, you have expanded your business empire and strengthened your family and the club.”
He said the PML-N had resorted to the same policy of confrontation with the judiciary in the 1990s and its members and workers had even attacked the SC building. “You have a long history. You have destroyed every institution,” he said, alleging that the ruling party had “politicised” every institution.
The PTI lawmaker from Taxila claimed that the SC verdict against Nawaz Sharif had improved the country’s image abroad and people had started saying that for the first time a “powerful corrupt ruler” had been punished.
S.A. Iqbal Qadri of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement also criticised the PML-N for taking its confrontation with the judiciary to the floor of parliament. He was of the view that the speaker should not have allowed any debate on the role of the judiciary.
He said the apex court would definitely intervene when the rulers would selectively implement the laws. Similarly, he said, if they did legislation with mala fide intention, the SC would take cognisance of it.
Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami warned that the country could face a “disastrous situation” because of the ongoing “tussle” between parliament and the judiciary.
Earlier, the house witnessed a verbal brawl between lawmakers of the MQM and the Pakistan Peoples Party over the issue of absconding police officer Rao Anwar.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2018