As expected, the Supreme Court has sent PM Yousaf Raza Gillani packing. As expected, too, the decision has been hailed and decried by the opposition and government respectively. But independent opinion at home and abroad is uniformly critical of the court’s unprecedented political activism that has relentlessly targeted the PPP – the decision has been variously described as a judicial “soft-coup“, “vendetta-judgment” and “political victimization“.
Certainly, some of the SC’s recent judgments have dampened our enthusiasm for its “populism”. In the contempt case against Mr Gilani, for example, the 7-member court which convicted him with a 30 second punishment did not expressly disqualify him in its detailed judgment on April 26th, yet a 3-member bench did so summarily in a short order on 19th June on the basis of a highly dubious clause of the constitution which has never been used before according to which Mr Gilani has been deemed not to be a good Muslim or Amin! It is significant that the two petitioners in the case were PMLN and PTI leaders and the SC blithely entertained and adjudged their prayers directly instead of forwarding them to the election commission as expressly ordained by the constitution.
Earlier, the SC’s approach in the case of Arsalan Chaudhry, son of the Chief Justice, had raised many sober eyebrows. The CJ took suo motu note of it, chaired a two judge bench, put a copy of the Holy Quran on his desk and declared that justice would be done in an Islamic fashion a la Hazrat Umar, disregarding the very code of conduct for judges that he had personally helped to formulate in 2009 in which a judge may not sit in judgment in matters such as the one before him. Then he gagged the media and accuser, hauling up both for contempt. No less disquieting was his decision not to set up a neutral commission of inquiry of either the bar or bench as demanded by many, instead passing the buck to the controversial Attorney General, a clear deviation from his decision to set up a judicial commission to investigate Memogate. Under the circumstances, if the AG’s Joint Investigation Team comprising the FIA and NAB holds against Arsalan Chaudhry and or the CJP and his family, it will be denounced as a vindictive attempt by the government to hurt the CJP and SC. The decision against the PM comes on the heels of the Arsalan case and has swiftly diverted public attention from it. What next?