Nothing more could have been hoped for from the highest court of the land. With one voice, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s ploy to subvert the April 3 vote of no-confidence was ‘unconstitutional’ and all its subsequent decisions, therefore, without legal effect.
In doing so, the apex court has defeated a most egregious assault on the country’s democratic order and reasserted itself as the custodian of the Constitution of Pakistan. It is hoped that the verdict, delivered just as matters seemed to be hurtling towards chaos, will be able to pull the country back from the precipice.
It could not have come sooner. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stubborn insistence on not letting his opponents have the satisfaction of voting him out had rendered Pakistan’s entire democracy a farce. It will be worth remembering that this was a choice, not a compulsion.
Mr Khan had political options: there were many ways he could have gracefully bowed to political realities and thrown his energies into the next elections. Yet, in his obduracy, the prime minister showed the country he would think nothing of pushing it headfirst into a constitutional crisis if it meant getting his way.
The PTI’s reckless decision to have a straightforward parliamentary procedure overruled on the pretext of Article 5 will be a shameful footnote in history. Indeed, after the Supreme Court’s unsympathetic view on the matter, the PTI must introspect and ask whether it itself had been loyal enough to the Constitution when it wilfully ran roughshod over it for a narrow political goal.
The ensuing chaos has wreaked havoc on the economy. The dollar-rupee exchange rate has slipped amidst the uncertainty and there are serious concerns about the adequacy of the country’s current foreign exchange reserves. Our foreign relations, too, have taken a severe beating due to the prime minister’s insistence on creating an international fuss about a ‘foreign conspiracy’ the details of which he has so far been unable to share.
It is commendable that this Supreme Court chose to forge its own path, even though precedent could have afforded it another chance to take cover behind the doctrine of necessity. A dark history of judicial endorsements and quasi-endorsements of unconstitutional and extra-constitutional decisions had greatly dimmed the hopes of an unequivocal ruling on this matter, but this bench, led by the chief justice, has provided new hope for the future.
With the restoration of the National Assembly, the court has returned the power to decide the country’s fate back to the Lower House. After the drubbing it has just received in court, the PTI would be wise to now stick to the rules and play the game to its logical end. If it finds it no longer has a graceful exit left to take, it only has itself to blame.