Lawyers shout slogans in support of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on December 16, 2009 after the decision on NRO. — AFP

The Supreme Court's verdict on the NRO and the way it has been decided to enforce it leaves no doubt in my mind that the establishment is once again out to get the PPP and bring back its favourite civilians to power.

Familiar forces are once again trying to seize the initiative they lost after a decade-long military rule which gave us the 'war on terror' and has brought us to a state where Pakistan is bracketed with Afghanistan and is considered one of the hottest spots in the world that can explode anytime.

Never mind the blunders of the masters of 'strategic lack of depth' and architects of the policies that have turned Pakistan into a client state of America with few friends; they seem to have decided to strike back again.

Now faced with the question of how to justify this attempt to take back power, they seem to have decided to divert the public's attention to an easy target and a handy dog to whip; the government of Asif Zardari. It is even speculated that the very reason why the establishment facilitated the entry of Zardari into the corridors of power was because he was considered so vulnerable that getting rid of him would be a piece of cake.

When I wrote about this almost 14 months ago, some PPP stalwarts and senior media pundits dismissed the idea saying the United States was firmly behind him forgetting a basic tenet of Washington's policy the US is always with the Pakistan military.

The humiliation of Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar may have come as a shock to some but it was hardly a surprise as it was a demonstration of who really runs the country, a warning to Mr Zardari and an ominous sign of things to come.

If withdrawal of cases on charges of plundering of the national wealth are acts that are void ab initio then so is the deal between Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf that, in effect, washed away all the former's crimes in exchange for exile, confiscation of property and the Sharif brothers' promise to stay out of politics for five years according to Nawaz Sharif's own public admission — and 10 years per the documents released subsequently and according to the Musharraf government's account of the events.

Let's see how far the court goes to pursue the loan write-off cases, with the amount totalling billions and allegedly involving the Ittefaq Group, the Chaudhry brothers and many retired generals, regardless of technicalities. Wasn't that the plunder of national wealth? Or is there one standard for the politicians from Sindh and Balochistan and another for those from the land of the five rivers?

I can already hear screams of 'provincialism' and anticipate charges of fanning ethnic discontent but it is just not a coincidence and is an indisputable fact that the judiciary's every decision has so far favoured Nawaz Sharif and has gone against the PPP.

This is a continuation of the pattern witnessed during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's trial by the Lahore High Court in 1978, the rejection of his appeal by a split 4-3 verdict of the Supreme Court, Nasim Hasan Shah's restoration of Nawaz Sharif's government dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and more recently the failure of the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the 'deal' between Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif that effectively whitened all the latter's wealth.

I have no love for Mr Zardari and think it is a tragedy that he heads a party that was founded by a political giant like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but personal dislike for Mr Zardari should not blind us to the sinister and dangerous game that is being played by the establishment.

For better or worse, we have a parliament and it is parliament that should be sovereign. But it is the judiciary that seems to be sovereign, with no accountability whatsoever.

It is now too obvious that the judges got rid of Musharraf when he became a liability to the establishment. Now they could be part of a hidden agenda because an overt exercise of powers by the establishment does not fit in with the current internal and external environment.

One has to be politically quite naive or a paid journalist (it does not matter by which agency, IB or the ISI) to eulogise all this as the triumph of justice or some rubbish like that. Why doesn't the Supreme Court order the ministry of information and broadcasting to publish the names of all those media persons who have been the beneficiaries of secret funds during the past 20 years? Why does only the PPP (not that it is innocent) have to face 'accountability'?

Why is that only Benazir Bhutto had to explain where the funds for Surrey Palace came from and the Sharif brothers can continue to enjoy their escapades to London and stay in their luxury apartments in Park Lane, one of the most exclusive and expensive neighbourhoods in London, and certainly more expensive than Surrey?

It is time to wake up and face the ugly reality. In Pakistan, the judiciary has been used as an instrument of the establishment. Could it be that this time the modus operandi has become rather sophisticated compared to the cruder methods employed in the past?

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