To read Nazir Naji’s article on the same issue in urdu, please click here
Spanner in the works
Courtesy: Dawn Editorial
Mr Sharif has now suggested that he wants there to be a majority of serving judges on the judicial commission, a position that has been championed by those in the media and the legal community who have fervently supported the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry-led superior judiciary.
Thursday was supposed to be a day of celebration. The Raza Rabbani-led committee on constitutional reforms was supposed to complete its task and the country was supposed to be on the verge of getting what it has not had in decades: a constitution enjoying the broad support of a legitimately elected parliament. But then Nawaz Sharif held a press conference and announced that a consensus had still not been reached. It was dramatic, it was thoroughly unexpected, it was, sadly, vintage Pakistani politics.
Curiously, Nawaz Sharif did not focus on the one issue that was known to be still unresolved: renaming the NWFP. The PML-N’s leaders from that province are believed to have conveyed to their central leadership the fear that the party could be wiped out politically in the NWFP if the non-Pakhtun population was not represented in a new name. So perhaps it would have been understandable if Mr Sharif wanted more time to resolve the renaming issue.
However, the PML-N supremo appeared little interested in talking about the NWFP. Instead, he wanted to renegotiate the composition of the judicial commission that will nominate superior court judges for approval by the parliamentary committee. This was believed to be a settled issue after it was decided to add a seventh member, a retired judge of the superior judiciary, to avoid the possibility of a tie. But Mr Sharif has now suggested that he wants there to be a majority of serving judges on the judicial commission, a position that has been championed by those in the media and the legal community who have fervently supported the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry-led superior judiciary.
Reopening for discussion constitutional amendments that had been agreed upon sets an unhappy precedent. The PML-N will argue that it never publicly agreed to the composition of the judicial commission, but the fact of the matter is that senior leaders of the PML-N had privately let it be known that an agreement on the package was very close because only the NWFP renaming issue was left to be resolved. Now other parties may be tempted to revisit changes they are not happy with. And with Mr Sharif stating that there is no need to ‘hurry’, other parties could decide that the many issues that have been left untouched — from the Islamic provisions to the status of the tribal areas — should be taken up in this round. The PML-N must not let the process of constitutional change unravel from here.
Friday, 26 Mar, 2010