IT is difficult to recall a moment for quite a few decades when the people have been so overwhelmed by feelings of relief and joy as yesterday afternoon. Their happiness was spontaneous and infectious.

They belonged to different classes and various schools of thought, and the cause of their happiness has no precedent in the sorrow-laden history of their country. For them the Supreme Court decision ending the process of the chief justice’s ouster from his exalted chair meant that reason had prevailed over purblind force — something that has not happened in Pakistan for a long, long time.

All praise to the lawyers, all those led by Aitzaz Ahsan who spent long hours helping the honourable judges to untangle an unnecessarily created problem and, more than them, the thousands who kept coming out into the streets, in rain and in sizzling heat, and often in the face of baton and gunfire. Through their unremitting struggle they did themselves proud. They also registered quite a few achievements in the annals of popular movements in the country.

Avoiding all partisan traps, they stuck to their principled stand and inspired the younger ones among them to set examples of collective thinking and disciplined conduct. They fought not only for the judiciary’s independence and supremacy of the law, they in fact strove to establish the majesty of the people’s will.

It would be a pity if after giving the people the taste of a stimulating struggle, without exploiting anybody’s belief, the black coats were now to give up the people’s brief. Asked, perhaps a bit too soon after the judgment, as to what were the lawyers going to move on to, the Supreme Court Bar President Munir A. Malik made a valid observation about their commitment to the rule of the law and to the people’s most fundamental right to a democratic dispensation. Surely, there is much more to be done by lawyers and by anyone else who cares for the people and their future.

That the judiciary has come out of a grim ordeal unscathed is much to be welcomed. The alternative might have landed Pakistan into more serious a crisis than it has been facing in the recent months. Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday made a significant remark when he said: “We are judges, not a trade union.”

All parties to the matter will do well to take the court verdict in that spirit. Nevertheless, the fact is that the judiciary had been obliged to stand up for itself. It may be unrealistic to expect that the instant case alone will restore the crumbling edifice of justice to its full glory, but there is room for hope that the dream of the people, especially the weak and the voiceless among them, for an effective umbrella of justice over them is not as far beyond realisation as it has often seemed. Yet justice, like liberty, demands eternal vigilance.

The case has also brought out the key role a free media can play in the life of a people. The argument for freeing the media of colonial period restraints that are revived every now and then has become irrefutable.

Fortunately, the government’s first reaction has a ring of reasonableness. Mr Shaukat Aziz has spoken of the need to move forward and to keep in mind the supremacy of the Constitution and the law. No one will disagree.

Pakistan might have been able to avoid quite a few disasters and the stigma of an unstable state if the Constitution and the law had received due respect from those who had the power to make or break a democratic polity.

If the present case can bring home to the establishment the hazards of absolute rule and the need to revert to governance by people’s consent, consensus and concurrence, the trial the people have gone through for many weeks will not have been in vain.

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