Ill-advised reference, hope-shattering verdict

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:06 PM, 20 Jun, 2020
Ill-advised reference, hope-shattering verdict

The very filing of a presidential reference against Supreme Court judge Justice Faez Isa was absolutely a wrong, ill-advised move, and the embarrassment the PTI government has had to face because of its quashment by a 10-member bench of the apex court is hard to quantify.

The reaction by Mr Shehzad Akbar, the accountability czar, that the ‘wise’ verdict is nobody’s win or defeat and that the government holds the judiciary in highest esteem, is nothing but a losing party’s hypocritical shield to cover its real disappointment.

Lawyers community that strongly opposed the reference is ecstatic because of this stupendous victory, although senior lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan is of the opinion that the Supreme Court can’t interfere in the working of the Supreme Judicial Council nor is competent to refer the matter to the Federal Board of Revenue.

This clearly means that the veteran lawyer, who had defended then Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in a similar reference moved by then president Pervez Musharraf on the advice of then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, and got him reinstated, disagreed with the verdict announced on Friday.

The real worth of the verdict will, however, crystallize when the court comes up with its full judgment during the coming weeks.

It is being speculated that the matter will remain a subject of hot discussions till it is taken to its logical conclusion and the nation sees the elements involved in illegalities are proceeded against.

The writer is of the considered view that the PTI government made a serious mistake by locking horns with a Supreme Court judge at a time when other pressing national problems needed immediate and fullest attention.

For example, it is a common knowledge that justice is sold in lower courts. The humiliation the litigants have to face there is beyond the tolerance of a man of conscience.

It is also a fact that it takes decades for a case to decide – and till then the litigating parties are required to keep their lawyers paying on one pretext or the other.

There is also dearth of people who record fake evidence ‘on oath’ to make money. They are available to anybody needing their services.

Court staff resort to all kinds of arm-twisting to ‘bleed’ the litigants.

This is the situation only in one walk of life – and the PTI’s manifesto commits the party to set right all sectors.

Ignoring the numerous thorny problems being faced by hundreds of millions of people, if somebody starts accountability process by bringing a Supreme Court judge to the dock – the morbid approach needs severest condemnation and must be mourned.

No national issue would be resolved – and people not would get any relief even if, hypothetically speaking, the allegation against Faez Isa is proven.

The government should not forget that the petition against the SC judge would antagonize the superior judiciary even if nobody would admit this publicly. Now every judge will feel to be under surveillance. This will lead to creating a gulf between the two sides.

It will be in the interest of the country if the government, shunning its egoistic mindset, starts taking damage control measures with immediate effect.

For this purpose, Dr Farogh Nasim should not be re-inducted in cabinet as such a step would send a wrong message to the judiciary.

Mr Farogh Nasim had resigned as minister to be able to argue the government’s case before the apex court. (Under the Constitution, the prime minister can take him back in the cabinet any time).

The court verdict is the solid proof of the former law minister’s ‘professional competence’.

It would be better for the prime minister to assign Mr Farogh Nasim some other role if at all he is indispensable for the government.

Likewise, Mr Shehzad Akbar, should be given some other assignment. So far, he has not delivered; his tall claims notwithstanding.

Despite all powers and backing of powers that be, he has not been able to bring back from London a number of ‘wanted elements’ sheltered there since long.

As long as Mr Shehzad is on the scene, there is little hope for improvement in ties between the government and the opposition parties. In other words, political temperature would stay high in the times ahead.

Then, if the PTI wants to play any role beyond its current term, it will have to take formidable steps to improve its performance and solve people’s problems. In case it turned a blind eye to such sincere advice it stands no future.