SC on Suri’s ruling

Published July 16, 2022

THE Supreme Court’s detailed judgement explaining why it set aside then National Assembly Speaker Qasim Suri’s April 3 ruling to block a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan has expectedly elicited polarised opinions from the treasury and opposition. While the PTI feels wronged, with former PM Khan saying he is “deeply hurt”, the ruling PML-N wants to invoke Article 6 against those involved in the April 3 events.

One of the judges on the bench in his additional note had pondered whether the article dealing with high treason could be applied in this case. Moreover, the PTI is also conflating the detailed judgement with its conspiracy narrative, as former minister Fawad Chaudhry has termed the decision ‘political’, and questioned the timing of its release just before the Punjab by-elections.

With regard to the alleged US conspiracy to topple the PTI administration, the National Security Committee had already said there was no evidence of such a foreign plot, and the apex court had pretty much validated the same. Even if Washington did not approve of the PTI government, Mr Khan’s removal as prime minister was largely a result of domestic factors as key actors within the establishment were apparently not happy with the PTI administration.

Also, the party’s selective acceptance of court decisions is perplexing. While it has cried foul over the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Suri matter, it was all praise for the court when it decided that the votes of rebel lawmakers should not be counted in its interpretation of Article 63-A. The decision had been hailed even though dissenting opinions from two members of the bench have led to concerns of judicial overreach in the majority’s interpretation of Article 63-A. As for the PTI’s insinuations that key state actors are conspiring against it, unless it has irrefutable evidence that efforts are afoot to engineer a defeat for the party at the ballot box, it should stop promoting conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, the application of Article 6 to the actions of April 3 is a highly debatable proposition. After all, the Constitution has been mutilated and held in abeyance by military rulers in the past, and no one has been held accountable. Therefore, calls to invoke the treason clause for violating the country’s basic law hold no water.

But at the heart of the matter is the role that unelected institutions have played in making and breaking governments in Pakistan. The country has a long history of military intervention, while the judiciary has previously aided extra-constitutional steps under the doctrine of necessity. The only way to stop such interference and strengthen the democratic process is for parliament to be supreme. If the elected representatives themselves decide that ‘neutrals’ and ‘umpires’ are not needed to ‘guide’ the political process, constitutional and political crises in future can hopefully be averted.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2022

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