Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Zardari's logic about constitutional reform of judiciary is flawed

Why Zardari's logic about constitutional reform of judiciary is flawed

Allen Hafman

PPP head honcho Asif Ali Zardari says he has been a victim of politicized judiciary, that politically motivated judges kept him behind bars on baseless charges. Zardari claims he wants to reform judiciary through a constitutional amendment, so that others would not have to suffer like he did. Not sure who Zardari is trying to fool with such convoluted logic. Zardari was a victim of a subservient judiciary, judges who acted under the duress of the ruler of the land. Contrary to his stated logic, an independent judiciary would have been more fair to him. That is why Zardari should be doing his part in making Pakistani judiciary independent, free of any executive pressure. But Zardari will not do that. And there is a good reason why he won’t. Zardari has rows after rows of skeletons hidden in his closet. He does not want to put independent-minded judges in the Supreme Court who may decide to open suo moto cases against him, a judiciary that may ask Zardari to explain how he, from being a co-owner of a small family business in Karachi in 1987, became a multi-millionaire during a short span of 3 years--coincidentally his wife was the Prime Minister of Pakistan during that time.

And who does not remember November 1997 when Nawaz Sharif being in power sent hoodlums to raid the Supreme Court and deal with an independent-minded judge? Presently Sharif appears to be the wise man who has a high regard for an independent judiciary. In reality Nawaz Sharif is only driven by a strong desire for revenge; he wants to get even with Pervez Musharraf, the evil man who removed Sharif from his advantageous position of pilferage.

Pakistanis must also ask why in January 2000 Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took oath under the provisional constitutional order of General Pervez Musharraf, but not in 2007? The answer is, the oath in 2000 was to Chaudhry’s benefit—he was getting promoted because his seniors being more principled than Chaudhry had refused to accept the legality of the military coup. In 2007 Chaudhry was already the top man in the Supreme Court and taking a fresh oath did not make any sense; moreover, his friend Aitzaz Ahsan had told him how much glory Chaudhry would earn by challenging Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistanis must understand that each player they are currently dealing with has his own flaws, but these characters must be made, nay FORCED to go through the motions, to act on principled stands that are universal. With free press, independent judiciary, and strong democratic institutions, Pakistanis would ultimately be able to reform their system.