Apex Court Holds Fire
By Brig® Mehboob Qadir
On October 28,2015 a learned bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan passed a judgment regarding NA154 Lodhran.It was a hotly contested election between Mr Jehangir Tareen and Mr Siddique Baloch.Election Tribunal had not only upheld Jehangir Tareen’s contention but also debarred Siddique Baloch for life because of his fake Masters’ degree. Supreme Court took up the petition really methodically and went about in its examination and remarks fairly high mindedly. But it appears the bench lost steam somewhere close to the decision time.
Certain vibes which ran as tickers on the TV screens, if correct, were quite indicative of the internal discord the bench seemed to be enduring. In one instance it was observed that a person(Siddique Baloch) who could not read a simple question how could he write and score 91 marks in English.In another, an honorable Justice observed that it was not an ordinary matter to adjudge the character(honesty and truthfulness) of Siddique Baloch. In yet another instance the Court remarked that if we test literacy level of Mr Siddique, there would be a barrage of petitions against parliamentarians or words to that effect. The verdict that came latter in the day was quite predictable after this perplexing exchange.SC ordered a re-election and lifted lifetime ban on Siddique Baloch. His TV interviews after the decision were instructive where he claimed being a Graduate but not Masters therefore his inability to read English. His body language was anything but that of a lawmaker of a beleaguered country.
This verdict and its enabling environment, particularly glimpses of the mind of the bench are revealing in many ways just as they are worrying. It can be discerned that they were very well aware of the fake degree and his dogged refusal to accept the fact. They also knew that a good lot of those in the assemblies possessed doubtful educational qualifications. Similarly they were aware that relevant provisions of law applied to Mr Baloch for being dishonest and untruthful as a people’s representative. Yet the country’s apex court shied away from taking the bull by its horns, leaving a more important judgment to posterity. This performance is disappointing and dishonorable on both judicial and personal counts. How should one assure ordinary petitioners and men in the street that our Supreme Court, the last and the final venue for dispensing justice, will get them their rights against a much more powerful and syndicated bunch of robber barons?
Another bombshell has just exploded in Bhola Gujjar murder case ( Faisal Abad) where, reportedly in his three different confessional statements the killer sentenced to death has implicated Ran Sanaulla ,Law Minister Punjab for having ordered the murder. While one appreciates the commendable caliber of the rare Sessions Judge who not only passed the judgment but also ordered a high level probe into the explosive allegation, one wonders what the apex court will find not so ordinary to adjudge this time around.
Pakistan’s apex court seems to have missed a number of significant opportunities in recent times where they could have impacted our bruised society decisively and for better. Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal was one such case in point. His defense lawyer, a retired Justice, kept hideously insisting that criticism of Blasphemy Law was also blasphemy therefore late Salman Taseer’s murder was enjoined. This is an appalling and utterly atrocious bent of mind. Justices on the bench took notice of this deplorable deceitfulness and directed their questions on whether or not an individual could be the judge and the prosecutor in such an eventuality and could he also execute the accused arbitrarily? Islamabad High Court had removed ATA clause from the charge sheet , thereby practically allowing the convict a seemingly endless time for appeals and re-appeals against death sentence awarded by the trial court. Mumtaz Qadri had killed the unarmed victim whom he was to guard, in broad daylight in Islamabad in the presence of dozens of witnesses and had confessed unrepentantly.
Supreme Court promptly slapped ATA clause back again and upheld death sentence; a remarkable show of judicial conviction it was. This was, perhaps, a God sent chance to address well known flaws and gaps leading to miscarriage of justice in application of Blasphemy Law and rectify them for the greater good of the people. Had the apex court tackled this tricky question countless victim could have been spared being incinerated live, lynched or hounded by hysterical mobs .In this regard we may also be mindful of the typically debilitating choke that the Supreme Court might be suffering through the inexplicable existence of a parallel Shariat Court and dissonant Council of Islamic Ideology; two medieval institutions who occasionally assert the deficiencies of their inadequate caliber through their pathetic but startling edicts. Judicial drift and duplication at such a level is dangerous for legislative, judicial and social health of the country. Pakistan’s judicial framework seems to have been ripped asunder at the top.
Mumtaz Qadri’s episode reminds one of the Chief Justice® Iftikhar Chaudry’s style of dodgy field play. His judicial acrobatics are legion but in the famous Steel Mills privatization case he annulled the seamy auction yet typically stopped short of ordering prosecution of corrupt government officials involved , their abettors and those who approved the abysmally low bottom price. Had he done that the country would possibly not have to endure rapacious plunder of national treasury during Zardari and NS eras, with so much impunity?
There are moments in one’s life and career when one has to rise above himself and those who cross the bar are remembered in history ,others become just the footnote s; worse still a butt of derisive jokes. Everyone has to fight through his own Panipat .Courageous Babars go on to become Emperors and glow brightly in the popular memory, while hesitant Ibrahim Lodhis are vanquished and forgotten. Courage of conviction, strength of character, clear vision and unassailable self esteem convert a rebel prisoner from a remote village in South Africa into the most respected Nobel Peace Prize winner like late Nelson Mandela.
Hard hitting and sharp judgments on substantial issues of life for the ordinary and resource less citizens and not pious intentions nor brilliant judicial fine cuttings are what are needed. Give the mute petitioner the security of his life, belief, property, family and means of livelihood. Make it easy for him to get what is his due through the gifted power of your high office .Siddiques and Sanaullahs or Kanjus and Asims do not matter. It is not the coarse print of the law but the great pulse of justice which should touch the aggrieved with the speed of light,Your Lordships.