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President holds sway in executive-judiciary tiff

Published Aug 09, 2012 09:21pm


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President Asif Ali Zardari.—Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/
President Asif Ali Zardari — Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/

The tussle between the executive and judiciary has morphed into a clash between the judges and the parliamentarians.

Not long ago, the media would explain the NRO judgment implementation case saga as a direct confrontation between the governing PPP and the apex court. Now, one regularly reads and hears about it as an argument between supremacy of the parliament vis-à-vis court’s right to interpret legislation.

This transformation has not taken place overnight, and at times it seems that some hard thinking has gone behind the events calling for judicial restraint against the parliament.

So far, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also co-chairman of the PPP, has proven himself to be a better politician than his opponents. Even though the NRO judgment, judges and issue of the letter to the Swiss authority and even a PPP premier stand as they were, President Zardari has found a battery of new defenders. On August 8, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-political body, passed a unanimous resolution calling upon the judiciary to exercise restraint. The commission also asked the legal fraternity not to take sides, with an apparent reference to loyalists of the chief justice of Pakistan, and demanded the constitution of a body for accountability of the judges.

The media at national and international level has also started calling upon judges of the Supreme Court to show control in its face-off with the parliament. At individual level, the likes of Aitzaz Ahsan, who single-handedly led the movement for restoration of the judges, and Asma Jahangir, known human rights activists and former chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Association, have in so many words warned the apex court against trespassing domain of the parliament.

Even opposition and coalition members have voiced their support for the PPP. Although for an entirely different set of reasons, Chaudhry Nisar’s criticism of the apex court judges for their lack of knowledge about parliamentary procedures indirectly has helped the cause of the PPP for parliamentary supremacy.

Similarly, last week, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Chief Altaf Hussain in a telephonic address over an Iftar dinner predicted doomsday scenario for the country if the courts kept on undermining role of the parliament. Referring to the SC decision on the contempt of the court act, he even called for wrapping up of the parliament if it has no right to legislate. The Awami National Party, another ally of the government, has of late come more openly against the judiciary.

For the time being, it’s obvious that President Zardari is in total control of the situation. Foremost, he has successfully managed the most fractious coalition government in the history of Pakistan: in the house of 342, the PPP only has 125 members, a number far removed from the 171 required for the simple majority to elect prime minister.

Next, the PPP with its lack of a decisive majority has installed its men as premiers — first it was Yousuf Raza Gilani and now Raja Pervez Ashraf who is running the show at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. And even though Mr Gilani was unanimously elected, credit has to be given to Mr Zardari for seeing that Mr Ashraf, with his tainted past for alleged role in the Rental Power Projects scam, managed to bag a total of 211 votes.

According to a senior PPP office-bearer, there have been many occasions in the past four years when some old party guards known for their calm demeanor called for a tit-for-tat response to the judiciary. “One may not forget the episode of the government’s purported plan to de-notify appointment of the Supreme Court judges, which led to a mid-night full court meeting at the house of chief justice of Pakistan,” recalled the PPP leader.

However, he was quick to add: “President Zardari has never let party-hawks have a field day. Some in the PPP even rate him even a better politician than the late BB. This week, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan in an interview with the BBC admired President Zardari for forming coalitions.”

Nonetheless, only time would tell, whether Mr Zardari emerges as the eventual winner or loser, because this country is full of precedents when all powerful dictators like General Musharraf and clever politicians like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto couldn’t do much in the end.


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Comments (55) Closed

Abdul Waheed Aug 11, 2012 12:26pm
CJ has done more damage to the country though he is a Bureacrat and cannot be compared with a politican (Peoples representative)
Latif Aug 10, 2012 11:30am
In democratic societies because of the principle of check and balance of power it is for the parliaments to make laws and for the courts to decide if the law is in accordance with the constitution of the country. It seems that this system has failed in Pakistan simply because everybody including the Human Rights Com of Pakistan is busy in cutting the branch on which they are sitting in order to get rich quickly as they have lost faith in future of the country. It is time for all patriotic intellectuals to realize this and do something about it if they love the country. To me it is a miracle that Pakistan has survived so far as a sovereign State under the existing condition.
Atis Aug 10, 2012 08:02am
Very wonderful assesment of the issues!
Haji Ashfaq Aug 10, 2012 06:45am
Look at the situation in light of what the last paragraph of the article says.
Rashid Aug 10, 2012 12:05pm
Why? Any one who is practical should be given chance. As a matter of fact, Pakistan is going down because most people in Pakistan are not as practical and smart as Mushraf and Zardari.
sujjawal Aug 10, 2012 07:10am
The government of PPP has survived for more then 4 years and that is all because of Mr. Zardari tatics and ideas.
Shahid Niaz Aug 10, 2012 07:16am
We have yet to see a person in power show such restraint in the face of salvos fired into his face-left,right,front,back,up and down. Whether Pakistan has benefitted from this restraint is another thing.
Sha Aug 10, 2012 09:12am
How can anyone not want to clear their name i.e. the president unless they want to hide something. Why not clear your name and silence the masses? Simepl questions but the only answer the masses receive is 'immunity'.
caan Aug 10, 2012 09:14am
Zardaris fate would be no different to that of Musharraf. Exiled for ever!
Abdul Waheed Aug 10, 2012 09:36am
Zardari has shown that he is the most tolerant, cool minded and prudent politician in the history of Pakistan. Much more prudent as compared to his rival Mian Nawaz Sharif.
baber Aug 10, 2012 12:54pm
this whole rubbish non sense must have been written by a jiala
AALAM KHAN Aug 10, 2012 11:09am
If he is that much good president he should be re elected for 5 years more........
Iftikhar Husain Aug 10, 2012 11:45am
The time has come when nation has to decide who is winner and looser.
Abid Aug 10, 2012 11:49am
Of what benifit is the prudence that (rather than preventing) helps in increasing hunger, poverty and lawlessness to level that the nation has never seen before.
NASAH (USA) Aug 10, 2012 11:58am
I am a critic of Zardari not a supporter -- but whatever his faults may be there are many -- looking from abroad at the Pakistan tumultuous fractious politics for the past two decades I must say -- there never was there never will be a master coalition builder in Pakistan politics like Asif Ali Zardari. If there is a Nobel for reconciliation and coalition building in world politics -- I will be happy to nominate Asif Ali Zardari for the award.
MAJanjua Aug 10, 2012 12:32pm
The way he has tackled the tricky problems faced by the nation he deserves an other term, may be in that period he is able to do something good for this battered nation in the fields of economy, law and order, power crisis, above all if he could shun the unwanted corrupt elements and attitudes.
A J KHAN Aug 10, 2012 12:43pm
As a matter of fact, Musharraf has been replaced by Ch iFTIKHAR AND NOT ZARDARI
azam Aug 10, 2012 01:55pm
I think the ultimate task of a president and government is how they govern and whether they are able to bring an improvement to the country they rule. On his count it is cannot be denied that Zardari and his team have totally failed. That will be the way that history will judge this "expert" politician.
Syed Ahmed Aug 10, 2012 02:08pm
Referring to the SC decision on the contempt of the court act, the MQM chief even called for wrapping up of the parliament if it has no right to legislate. Act of calling day as night will be lack of wisdom and has to be struck down.
Taj Ali Aug 10, 2012 02:12pm
Zardari is good politician for himself, for rich people and for his party. What has he done for the country and ordinary people in last four years? He has taken the country backwards. For ordinary people and for Pakistan he has been a disaster. For sake of Pakistan he can just go
Peace Aug 10, 2012 02:12pm
Chief Justice is not known in the world as Mr 10% !
Peace Aug 10, 2012 02:16pm
It is sad a criminal is being praised in Pakistani society. That speaks volume about a country and its inhabitants. Shame on you that today in this news paper I read some Hindus have to leave their home land (Paksitan) for a strange country (India), just because they are Hindus. At least they are as Human as you and me.
Peace Aug 10, 2012 02:18pm
May Allah help this country where people are so missed up that they don't know the difference from wrong and right.
logic Europe Aug 10, 2012 02:22pm
Good leaders have always been criticised ,ridiculed and rejected by Muslims ..... so ZARDARI is suffring the wrath of Muslims as others
Ali Aug 10, 2012 02:42pm
@MAJanjua: if you think that his greed would have decreased after so much corruption, then you daydreaming.
Owais Aug 10, 2012 02:58pm
Correct. Zardari is hailed as a better politician only because people/nation is keeping their mouth shut. Its alarming.
Tariq Aug 10, 2012 03:01pm
The media types focus on short term issues such as power outages and petrol prices. I am not downplaying these issues faced by the common man, but I also think we need to look at the longer term. In the long run, this administration will be remembered for becoming the first civilian administration to finish their term in office, conduct free and fair elections, and hand over power to the new parliament. As far as I am concerned, that achievement alone means the entire nation owes Zardari and the PPP a debt of gratitude for making our democratic institutions stronger. Now if only someone can show Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhary Nisar on how to behave while in opposition, we will really have the democratic train gathering steam. I almost hope the PPP is the opposition in the next parliament. Then they can show the PML-N louts how a loyal opposition is supposed to act.
BIMAL CHANDRA JHA Aug 10, 2012 03:35pm
Sir, I have totally failed to understand the logic of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of Pakistan for ordering the Prime Minister to write a letter to Swiss authorities to open the case against President Zardari and other persons responsible for money laundering in spite of the fact that the President enjoys immunity from criminal proceedings in the country and outside the country. Hon'ble Supreme Court should first decide a basic question whether the President enjoys immunity or not. If the Hon'ble Court arrives at a conclusion that the President has got no immunity, it should proceed with the contempt petition, otherwise, it should drop its contempt proceedings. Though I have got no right to meddle with the internal affairs of Pakistan, but by virtue of being a law student and lover of democracy I can only say that judiciary is paving a way for the intervention of army rule which will harm the interests of judiciary too. Yours faithfully; BIMAL CHANDRA JHA Samanpua Road, Patna, India
thoughtpurification Aug 10, 2012 03:43pm
Your rebuttal doesn't make any sense.
Ejaz Aug 10, 2012 03:54pm
There is no doubt that Asif Zardari is a shrewd and wily politician. Unfortunately he is also an extremely corrupt one, who regards the attainmnet and holding of office with more significance than actually doing some good once in office. He has presided ovefr possibly the most inept Government in the Republic's history. Sadly, this is what posterity will remember him for - not his wiles!
Ahmed Aug 10, 2012 03:57pm
too bad, Zardar will have to shun himself then
Rahmat Aug 10, 2012 04:20pm
I beg to differ, Musharaff was not smart, but a self serving army person who was consumed with lust for power. He brought Pakistan close to war with its neighbours simply to boost his ratings. Had it not been for 9/11 and he taking sides with America, he would have long been sidelined. He is roaming around globe propping support for himeslf with very little to show for accomplishments other than silly misplaced bluster.
Chaudhry Boota Aug 10, 2012 05:07pm
whether zardari is capable or not, prudent and cool headed or not...He is elected president. and any talk of sending him prematurely is anti democratic. Period
Azhar Aug 10, 2012 05:22pm
TACKLED or CREATED the tricky problems faced by the nation? Looks like you live in some other world far away from Pakistan. And how could he shun the unwanted corrupt elements when he himself is their leader? Either you don't know what you are talking or you are JIYALA.
Shafi Aug 10, 2012 05:30pm
Well said.
umar Aug 10, 2012 05:30pm
Yet there is a day when we will stand before Allah; InshAllah
Agha Ata Aug 10, 2012 05:49pm
How many people would say it is a Zardari's picture?
Syed Aug 10, 2012 06:55pm
Asif Zardari is greatly admired by the lovers of democracy. He has proved his abilities to handle any difficult situation. I solute him. Pariliament is always supreme everyware.
tahir Aug 10, 2012 07:28pm
As a matter of fact, Musharraf has been replaced by Ch IFTIKHAR AND NOT ZARDARI........... a continuation of humiliation of Parliament and constitution by the Ch reminds us the Musharraf 's LFO AND PCOs ........also remember the amendments done by Musharraf and authorized by the supreme court.........Ch was member of that bench..............
Ixion Aug 10, 2012 08:19pm
If I call Zardari a calculated conniver, you don't publish my comment; however, if he is called smart and clever, it is published. These are two versions of Zardari's character analysis; and as admins you are not supposed to take sides.
asimjamal Aug 10, 2012 10:05pm
if there is a controversy over who's limit is what ? then who's the judge??
M.H. Haris Aug 10, 2012 10:09pm
I wonder that today we call a person prudent, intelligent and a good politician who can easily trick, cheat, and then escape the situation. Have we ever thought why Pakistan is facing crisis today, who made these, who is more accountable for this situation? In Pakistan we all are corrupt in our thoughts because we always take side of those who are big cheater and blamed those who stand for right objection. Think for a while, please. Muhammad Haris Kaleem
NINO Aug 10, 2012 10:23pm
Who is more street smart must not be the question? What we must assess is if he has brought any good to the country or to the people. Is my President honest or dishonest? Is he treated with repect nationally and internationally. As the leader of the party, has he collected around himself persons of integrity to rule the country or the team comprises cronies ,selfseekers and psycophants?
M.H. Haris Aug 10, 2012 10:47pm
I wonder that today we call a person prudent, intelligent and a good politician who can easily trick, cheat, and then escape the situation. Have we ever thought why Pakistan is facing crisis today, who made these, who is more accountable for this situation? In Pakistan we all are corrupt in our thoughts because we always take side of those who are big cheater and blamed those who stand for right objection. Think for a while, please.
Mustafa Razavi Aug 10, 2012 11:51pm
Latif; The principle of checks and balances is based on the supposition that while one two or ten people can be crooks but not hundreds or thousands. The very premise is false in Pakistan. We can buy tens of thousands or hundred of thousands of crooks.
Muhammad Aug 10, 2012 11:59pm
Mr Zardari is a diplomat par excellence, none of our politicians (past or present) can match his tact. I think we need this kind of quality to go along a bumpy road; where we still have American shadow.
Keti Zilgish Aug 11, 2012 02:40am
For your kind information this is a pre-Islamic problem!
Ijaz Shamir Aug 11, 2012 08:40am
I admit that Zardari is most tolerant, cool minded and prudent politician in the history of Pakistan. But I cant find any good thing done by him for the nation in his five years presidency, in the whole tenure he just using his abilities to save his government and hiding his corruption cases. He took Raja for the PM post... Just to save himself, not for the betterment of Pakistan. No doubt Zardari is a genius politician but he is utilizing himself negatively.
Cyrus Howell Aug 11, 2012 01:42pm
President holds sway, but has had no luck in collecting the past due electric bills.
asfi Aug 11, 2012 04:58pm
Wait and see there is going to be a game turn soon, I wish you all comment then.
Agha Ata Aug 11, 2012 05:23pm
I am glad that you are. you can see this, we cant. :)
Amjed Aug 11, 2012 08:14pm
Don't forget that Zardari's choice was Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a true gentleman, but again it were our "Azad Adliya" which blocked his way to the premiership and Zardari had to move forward Raja. But, so far, Raja proved that he was not a bad choice. One shoul admit that Zardari Saab has better judge of the personalities.
Amjed Aug 11, 2012 08:30pm
Who declared him a criminal sir? Which court gave verdict againsrt him?? Please, for God's sake, do not be a judge on your own.
Muhammad waqas Aug 11, 2012 09:51pm
once the current government is over,we would have a clear picture of Zardari as well as that of coalation parties AND THAT OF behind the scene compromises.
KKhan Aug 12, 2012 03:44am
In civilized nation if the president or any government office holder become under any doubt are blame the person immediately resign from his post and clarify his position is it any one in Pakistan done it rather then they stick to the post and pass the resolution in the parliament to hide their crime it is shameful scenario for all Pakistanis.