Pakistan Reader# 259, 16 December 2021
On 21 November, Ahmad Noorani, an investigative journalist associated with ‘FactFocus’ shared a story containing purported recording of a call conversation between a judge of accountability court and the then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar. The former CJP was perceived to be guiding the National Accountability Board (NAB) judge in making sure that both father (Nawaz Sharif) and daughter (Maryam Nawaz) were punished due to dynamic requirement of institutions. The media went abuzz with back-to-back revelations from affidavit submission by Justice Imam to overturning the judgment of NAB against Maryam Nawaz by Islamabad High Court in recent weeks.
Media’s response in editorials
The editorial by Arifa Noor in Dawn, dated 30 November contrasted the stand of the opposing sides upon the revelation, treatment meted out to Sharifs versus attack on the state institutions (Idaare) by PML(N). While Ms. Noor’s stand was that the wiffle waffle of politics subsided the real issues as always. She goes on state that the judiciary is in partial amnesia vis a vis establishment. The fact that judiciary in Pakistan has had some embarrassing judgment to its log confirms the trend and Ms. Noor concludes with pity situation of the media among the institutions which can only hold forth the evidence and demand for accountability while other institutions would keep crossing the red lines to suit their hierarchy and influence.
Another editorial by Umer Farooq in The Friday Times (TFT), dated 26 November, provided more of a pragmatic perspective. Mr. Farooq wondered if PML(N) had located an internal resource person in the establishment to help them access the call recordings. The context he presented was sort of a crises undergoing in Pakistan whereby the crises has cushioned the PML(N) and circles in establishment. Mr. Farooq goes on to state that various political forces gathering to bring back the previous democratic regimes over the current hybrid dispensation. He acknowledges the convenience with which democratic political parties adjust to the scenarios, and do opportunistic politics while ignoring the ugly truth of democratic governance.
In the editorial by Ghazi Salahuddin dated 28 November for The News International, there is pondering over the judicial nexus with the establishment. The title ‘voices in the dark’ says it all, through which the judiciary is actually equally responsible for coercion and fear prevailing in the society. Mr. Salahuddin also introspects on the judgments of the past and takes example of Nusrat Bhutto to the case of Zafar Ali Shah case and makes a case for the misconduct by the judiciary when most criticality was expected of them. He maintains that judiciary has also enabled erosion of public trust in the state and perhaps that ceding of the space has sprouted many other self-proclaimed quasi-judicia-religious groups which are also making the political room more congested.
An earlier editorial by Farhatullah Babar in TFT almost a year back tried to analyse the executive interference in the domain of judiciary. Mr. Babar was of the opinion that the judiciary had undermined the importance other democratic institutions (legislature) and Justice Saqib Nisar fits well in the pattern, even with an enthusiastic approach to human rights and the building of dams the CJP had distinct characteristics of a loose canon like the many political leader in current government. Mr. Babar suggests that Saqib Nisar at least need to start with self-dignity and should choose to stay silent while many more revelations were bound to be released by the PML(N). The PML(N) has not taken the evidences to the any judicial body and has rather chosen the sensational way like press conference or social media to confirm their saga of hard luck of being wronged by the establishment.
The way forward
The PML(N) and all other political parties has to bow down to the mood and psyche of the Pakistani society and rather than masala-fying the unjustice, there is greater need to consolidate the support base instead of relying on establishment to bring PML(N) back to the fore. Judiciary for its part is already enmeshed with establishment and there may be an initiative to decouple the two so that the democratic yet not so democratic transitions are effective in terms of promises and governance and not the utopian promises every time a political party makes.
The judiciary also need to create a space in facilitating space for ultra-radicals to streamline their judicial enquiries in conformation to the constitution of Pakistan.
With regards to establishment, the voices will remain in dark and judiciary for its part need to introspect to maintain balance between autonomy and influence as both autonomy and influence are seemingly becoming opposite polars. Without judiciary remaining relevant, the Pakistani society will remain like a boiling pot waiting for its threshold destiny.
Arifa Noor, “Neros and the fiddles,” Dawn, 30 November 2021
Umer Farooq, “Does PML-N Have A Mole In The System?,” The Friday Times, 26 November 2021
Ghazi Salahuddin, “Voices in the dark,” The News International, 28 November 2021
Farhatullah Babar, “Saqib in the spotlight,” The Friday Times, 4 December 2020