Monday, December 18, 2017

Business Recorder Column Dec 18, 2017

Judicialisation of politics, politicisation of the judiciary

Rashed Rahman

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) verdicts in the Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Hudaibya cases, far from settling the dust that had been kicked up around these issues, has further aroused controversy. The let off for Imran Khan, disqualification for life of Jahangir Tareen and the rejection of the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB’s) appeal against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC’s) quashing of the Hudaibya reference against the Sharifs all came on the same Friday, December 15, 2017. Not unexpectedly, while it welcomed the Hudaibya decision, the PML-N criticised the clean chit to Imran Khan as double standards. The PTI welcomed the Imran Khan decision while it criticised the disqualification of Tareen as based on a mere technicality, an interpretation of the trust deed whereby his Pounds five million property in the UK was held in his children’s name.
While the political parties in question gave their predictable responses, the legal community appeared divided in its view of the jurisprudence underlying these cases. Independent members of the legal fraternity found the verdicts smacked of discrimination, contradictoriness, and worst of all, a clumsy effort to indulge in some kind of ‘balancing act’. Those members of the legal fraternity who had consistently supported the SC’s pronouncements since the Panama papers case that led to the disqualification of sitting prime minister Nawaz Sharif were found struggling to reconcile these ‘flaws’.
Nawaz Sharif underlined what he saw as dual standards of the application of the law. He accused the SC of acting as the defence lawyer of Imran Khan, fighting on his behalf. Imran Khan crowed about his being cleared on the basis of 60 documents presented before the SC showing the money trail leading to his Bani Gala property. His close henchman these days, the tonga-party leader Sheikh Rashid, not only credited Imran Khan’s divorced ex-wife Jemima Khan with rescuing Mr Khan, but went so far as to suggest that Imran should remarry her! Critics of the outcome pointed out that Imran Khan was cleared despite having admitted to owning an offshore company that he had failed to declare on the grounds, according to the SC, that he was neither a shareholder nor a director of the company.
Jahangir Tareen accepted the decision of the SC with relative good grace, except for the proviso that he stands disqualified on flimsy technical grounds. He failed to see the irony in the fact that Nawaz Sharif has had the exact same complaint about the manner in which he was ousted by the SC on the basis of an Aqama (work permit). Both Tareen and Sharif were found by the SC to have failed to declare their ‘assets’ and indulged in falsehood before the court and were thus disqualified as not sadiq and ameen (honest and truthful) according to Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. Perhaps the time has come for parliament to revisit the sword of Damocles now hovering over politicians’ heads in the shape of Ziaul Haq’s imposed Articles 62 and 63.
While this ‘storm’ of criticism from one or the other side of the political divide was whirling over our heads, the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Saqib Nisar used the occasion of an address to the Bar Council to launch into a defence of the independence of the judiciary and denial of any pressure from any quarter to become part of some ‘grand plan’. This unprecedented public mea culpa was delivered in a ‘populist’ style that may or may not have helped the judiciary’s cause, but did not bring any credit to the reputation, dignity, respect and credibility of the high office of the CJP or the judiciary. Long forgotten in our skewed history is the time when judges spoke only through their judgements. The populist zeit geist of our times has the judiciary too in its grip. Maryam Nawaz summed it up well by saying: “Justice speaks for itself. It does not need to be justified through public speeches and issuing additional notes.”
The CJP’s description of the judiciary as the ‘baba’ (wise elder) was not dignified. Like our traditional elders, the CJP wished us to have faith in the integrity and independence of the judiciary. However, the PPP, despite not being a party to the above cases, did not let that pass without reminding the CJP of the less than glorious track record of our judiciary. It asked Justice ‘Baba’ to explain why the judiciary had given decisions in favour of each military dictator, providing constitutional cover to each martial law since the Maulvi Tameezuddin case (regarding the dissolution of Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly), and pronounced discriminatory, contradictory verdicts throughout our history. How, the PPP asked, could it or anyone else then be expected to have faith and trust in the judiciary?
The CJP’s ill advised defence of the judiciary on a public platform has exposed it to more controversy. After the movement that restored the superior judiciary, the widely held expectation was that it would uphold its independence, the rule of law, address the judicial system’s flaws such as corruption and inordinate delays, put its inglorious past behind it and not only do justice but ensure that justice is seen to be done. Unfortunately these hopes have not been fulfilled. Contrary to the perception of ‘balance’ in its recent verdicts starting from the Panama case, it is arguable that the judiciary has frequently lost its balance. Hence the criticism being directed its way, more and more of late. This criticism emanates not only from politicians who lose their cases, eminent lawyers and legal luminaries too have expressed serious disquiet at the trends in our jurisprudence. The seeming swing from extreme strictness of interpretation in some cases and laxity in others has opened a Pandora’s box.
Political issues should be dealt with by parliament, not brought to the judiciary. The judiciary in turn should refrain from entertaining political cases. Not to do so has resulted in the ‘judicialisation’ of politics and, willy nilly and unconsciously, the perceived politicisation of the judiciary. This is neither good for politics nor the judiciary nor the country. All state institutions, including the judiciary, need to return to the values of restraint within their given constitutional mandate and not arrogate to themselves the mantle of all-knowing wisdom and infallibility.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Dec 16, 2017

The President’s wisdom

President Mamnoon Hussain’s statements seldom merit more than cursory attention. But in a departure from the norm, there was much stated (and unstated) in his speech on December 15, 2017 at a seminar on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The President called upon the country’s political and non-political forces to respect the law and the ‘rules of the game’ to find solutions to matters of national importance. These issues, the President continued, include politics, the economy, society, religion and administration (governance). He warned that this approach of unbridled rivalry at the national level, if continued, could lead to chaos that would be difficult to overcome. President Mamnoon advised adversaries to set aside their differences, sit together and settle issues with unity, patriotism and nationalism. He said the present state of affairs could also affect economic stability and progress, the flagship policy of the PML-N government. His advice to all segments of society, particularly the youth who comprise a weighty majority of our populace, was to focus their energies on achieving the objectives of prosperity and development and refrain from indulging in political and non-political disputes, including ‘pointless’ discussions on the working of government. President Mamnoon stressed the need for unity among all ranks of the country and avoiding anarchy. He ended by pointing to the example of Quaid-e-Azam as a role model.

On the face of it, the President’s remarks seem exhortative towards an ‘ideal’ way to conduct the affairs of state and society. However, upon closer examination, while they allude to certain trends of late obliquely (e.g. the tendency to take issues to the streets, which may be what the President meant by “anarchy”), they do not seem in consonance with ground realities or even the conceptual framework within which democratic societies conduct their affairs. Exhortations to ‘unity’ fly in the face of the reality that societies are composed of competing interests that do not lend themselves easily to being subsumed within the ideal of national unity. Real political, economic and social contradictions define the warp and woof of any living society. Such contradictions cannot simply be wished away or ignored through calls for unity. Then the question of who defines the national interest is contested terrain. Non-political institutions have throughout our history played an outsized role in our national life and continue to do so. In this respect, they often define the ‘rules of the game’ themselves as they go along. Searching therefore for explicit, consensually agreed rules of the game may well turn out to be chasing a will o’ the wisp. Nevertheless, some implicit rules lie at the heart of any modern, civlised, democratic system. These include civilian supremacy, governments chosen and changed through the ballot, and adherence to the constitutional mandate of all state institutions (more often than not practiced in the breach in our history). Politics, especially democratic politics, is inherently a game of contention and rivalry. However, this contention should be conducted within civilized norms and not allowed to sink to the level of the gutter, a trend alarmingly in evidence here. ‘Anarchy’ includes within its fold the recent trend of taking issues to the streets, on the logic that nuisance value is what gains attention, traction, redress of grievances and acceptance of (even the most outlandish) demands. The PML-N government, especially its former prime minister and reinstated party chief Nawaz Sharif, is partly to blame for contributing to this state of affairs. Ignoring the real fount of strength of any elected government, i.e. parliament, to the extent of not even deigning to grace it with his presence, Nawaz Sharif unwittingly dug a pit for himself. In the 2014 sit-in in Islamabad, parliament and the opposition parties, particularly the PPP, rescued his government. Instead of gratitude, they were affronted by what they charge was victimization by the government. In 2017, these chickens came home to roost when the sit-in at Faizabad produced an abject surrender because there was no one in parliament willing to come to the government’s rescue. Alone, therefore, and battered by what are alleged to be the machinations of the establishment, the PML-N government has been reduced to a wobbly virtual lame duck, limping its way with difficulty towards the goal post of completing its tenure. Lessons here for those who care to learn.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Dec 13, 2017

Modi’s desperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems like a worried man. State elections in his home Gujarat do not appear to be going well for his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While verbal excess by rivals during election campaigns is nothing new, this time Modi has outdone even his own conspiracy theory bent. Floundering amidst the tide seemingly turning against the BJP in Gujarat, Modi has come up with the fantastic claim that Pakistan is colluding with the opposition Congress Party to defeat BJP in the state. And what proof or evidence does Modi adduce in support of his outlandish claim? A meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house attended by the Pakistan High Commissioner, a former Pakistani foreign minister, former Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, et al. In addition, he quotes the Facebook post of a retired Pakistan army officer hoping for a Congress victory to construct his elaborate but shaky structure of an argument. As if all this were not enough, he accuses Aiyar of putting Modi on a hit list to ensure peace between Pakistan and India. Naturally the Congress Party has hit back to rubbish this conspiracy theory. And as often happens in such matters, attempted to show Modi his own face in the mirror of holding a ‘soft’ corner for Pakistan. Quite appropriately, our foreign office, while rejecting Modi’s airy fairy accusations, has requested that Pakistan not be dragged into India’s domestic electoral battles.

When Modi was elected in the 2014 general elections as prime minister, the expectation widely held by the electorate was that he would replicate on a countrywide basis the Gujarat ‘miracle’ while he was the state’s chief minister. Three years anon, the ‘sheen’ on the Modi economic ‘miracle’ in Gujarat has faded. The main factors in this regard are the imposition of GST and the controversial demonetisation measures of his government. Even those could perhaps have been forgiven had Modi performed up to expectations in boosting investment, development, and the people’s welfare. The other factor in Modi’s seeming dwindling political fortunes is the free play he has given to, if not colluded with, the growth of Hindutva-driven developments. The beef eating row that has led to Muslims being killed by mob vigilante action, the attempted rewriting of history with a Hindu fundamentalist tinge, and even the quixotic campaign to rename iconic monuments such as the Taj Mahal as a Hindu heritage site have all worked against Modi. In Gujarat itself, Modi’s name is no longer an automatic guarantee of electoral success, especially since the rise of activist Hardik Patel as the Gujarat Congress leader. Modi’s entire political persona has been built on the demonisation of Muslims. His turning a blind eye to, if not being complicit in, Hindutva activists attempting to turn India’s diverse history and traditions into the narrow confines of their distorted views has revived memories of his role in the Gujarat communal riots in 2002 when he was chief minister. Modi appears to be in trouble in Gujarat and has therefore fallen back on the age old ‘foreign hand’ trick, with Pakistan centre-stage as the bogeyman, to distract from the increasing unpopularity of his government. Modi may be teetering on the brink of a defeat or at least a weakened showing in his home state. Ironically, while his stint as Gujarat chief minister propelled him to the highest elected office, it may well turn out that it is Gujarat that proves the beginning of the decline in his political trajectory. Modi therefore seems to have fallen victim to the weight of expectations of the electorate, the incumbency factor (India being a huge country with equally huge problems), and reminding people through his Hindutva policies of his role in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 on his watch.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Dec 12, 2017

Musharraf’s rantings Hubris can do terrible things to even sensible people. However, when it afflicts someone who on the one hand has an exaggerated view of themselves and their continued importance (although having been left by the wayside by the inexorable march of events), the result can only be described as pitiable. Former president Pervez Musharraf seems to fall into the latter category. To recap briefly, Musharraf and his fellow generals retaliated to his sacking by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 as a result of the former’s sabotage of the peace initiative with then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee through launching the Kargil war by overthrowing the government. Subsequently, a pliant Supreme Court not only endorsed the military coup (a habit our judiciary has not been able to shake off to date), it empowered ‘CEO’ Pervez Musharraf to amend the constitution. Unfortunately Nawaz Sharif’s second stint as prime minister had so alienated and enraged our liberals that they initially leapt lemming-like off the cliff of democracy into Musharraf’s lap. It took eight years of Musharraf being master of all he surveyed before his own misjudgment in first sacking his own appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry and then ‘decapitating’ the superior judiciary by dismissing 82 judges proved his hamartia (tragic flaw). The ensuing movement for the restoration of the judiciary spelt the death knell for his regime but he enacted one more gross crime to top the assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti by the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf should have counted himself lucky to have been let off and allowed to proceed abroad. Not content with his ‘escape’, the man of irrational hubris attempted a political comeback by returning to the country boasting about the support he enjoyed on Facebook. Floating a stillborn political party did not save him from being arraigned on serious treason and murder charges, all of which his former institution rescued him from on dubious medical grounds. His second ‘escape’ has still not brought home to Musharraf the true lay of the land. Now marginalised in his exile in Dubai, he has fallen into the habit of trying to stay relevant by issuing outlandish statements from time to time, merely to garner attention and headlines for someone clearly a has-been. Recent examples of his twisted logic can be found in his statement the other day professing his ‘love’ for Hafiz Saeed. This is the same man whose outfit he banned while in power, along with some other terrorist organisations. Musharraf has attempted to justify his about turn by arguing that what is going on in Kashmir is not terrorism but a legitimate struggle for self-determination. That may be so, but Hafiz Saeed has proved detrimental to Pakistan-India efforts at normalisation by the attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Unless Musharraf thinks there is also a self-determination movement in Mumbai, clearly the 26/11 attacks were terrorism, pure and simple. As if this did not satisfy the Musharraf bloated ego, he has now railed against the Pakistan government for not siding with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar, arguing the first two had always stood by Pakistan whereas Qatar had not. Foolish as this statement is since it enjoins Pakistan to get squeezed between the rivalries in the Arab world, not to mention the Saudi-led drive against Iran, it does not need an Einstein to figure out that this is not in Pakistan’s best interests, especially when we already have our plate full of problems. The hardest thing for a person of irrational self-esteem is to recognize reality. We have had more than our share of such characters in our tragic history. Musharraf we hope is the last in that sorry lineup. The man should either seek medical help or at the very least friendly advice to let sleeping dogs lie. Otherwise a fugitive from justice and a former military dictator may soon find the law of diminishing returns attracting his foolish and outlandish publicity-seeking all-too-frequent pronouncements.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Business Recorder Editorial Dec 9, 2017

SC’s OLMT green light Twenty two months after the Lahore High Court (LHC) stayed the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project in Lahore on the ground that it threatened 11 heritage sites along its route, the Supreme Court (SC) has set aside the LHC’s verdict on the 27 kilometers long $ 1.6 billion project. Predictably, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif was overjoyed but seems to have been affected by the smog in Lahore in directing his vitriol against the PTI for delaying the project through the courts although it was civil society that was the main protagonist in defence of our heritage. The SC delivered a 4-1 majority verdict, Justice Maqbool Baqar dissenting. It has set 31 conditions for the satisfactory implementation of the project in the light of the SC’s judgement. These can broadly be considered post- and future pre-facto directions. The post-facto part seems to rely on the balance of convenience principle, taking into account sunk costs to date when 79 percent of the civil works, 50 percent of the tracks, and the grey structures of the stations above ground have been completed. However, this leaning on balance of convenience has conveniently ignored the provisions of the Antiquities Act 1975 and the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance 1985 forbidding any construction within 200 feet of any heritage site. The short order announced by the SC provides for reduced speed of trains near these heritage sites to reduce vibration as recommended time and again by the Directorate General Archeology (DGA). The DGA has been directed to conduct a fresh Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), preferably with the assistance of UNESCO. It may be recalled that UNESCO has been raising the alarm, especially with regard to world heritage site Shalimar Gardens, but its requests to allow its delegation to visit Lahore have been denied 10 times through denial of visas. The SC suggests expert organisations such as the British NGO English Heritage could also be consulted. The SC has bound the Punjab government, NESPAK, the Punjab Mass Transit Authority and LDA to ensure no monument is damaged during excavation, construction and after completion, by vibration. It has ordered that an independent, experienced conservation engineer be engaged to monitor the project during construction and in the operating phase. He is required to submit monthly reports to the advisory committee to the DGA on how to ensure adherence to the technical requirements to preserve and conserve antiquities and protected premises. There will be a two week experimental run after completion to monitor and clear vibration levels before commercial operations commence. State-of-the-art vibration measuring equipment will be permanently installed in and around the heritage sites. Care must be taken that excavation does not affect the structures and foundations of these sites. So far so good, but one shudders at the SC direction to stabilise and strengthen these structures if the stabilisation/strengthening of Sheikhupura Fort some years ago is kept in mind, where grey cement buttressing walls were built in violent contrast with the brick structure. Apart from installing accelerometers, velocity transducers, noise detectors and vibration measuring equipment near the heritage sites, the Punjab government is to ensure implementation of additional mitigation and remedial measures recommended in the vibration analysis reports by NESPAK and the HIA reports of Drs Uppal and Rogers, experts earlier appointed by the SC. If, the SC order says, any adverse impact is detected during excavation, construction, execution, work must stop immediately in the interests of protection and conservation. A hotline for citizens to report any damage or deterioration is to be set up. The Shalimar Gardens Hydraulic Tank, damaged beyond repair when the GT Road was being paved many years ago, must be restored ‘as much as possible’. A ‘camouflage’ wall and buffer zone are to be created to save Shalimar Gardens’ beauty from being marred by the ugly housing that has sprung up over the years, encroaching well into the protected 200 foot buffer laid down in the law. So much for the SC’s post-facto pronouncements. For future projects that directly, indirectly or incidentally impact heritage sites, the SC has ordered that wide publicity be given to such undertakings at least six months before commencement, public hearings be held and the requisite NOCs, licences, approvals, permissions be obtained before beginning. The Punjab government has been bound to create a revolving Antiquities and Special Premises Fund worth Rs 100 million to be replenished on a yearly basis to monitor, renovate, reconstruct heritage sites. (Horrors! The Noor Jehan tomb is being ‘reconstructed’ for the sixth time. Does it still qualify as a heritage site on the basis that the crypt underground alone is intact?) A committee of experts led by a retired judge of the SC is to oversee implementation of the SC’s judgement for one year and at least three experts in the field of conservation are to be hired by the Punjab government for one year. What the SC has attempted to do is put the best face on the Punjab government’s doings to date, suggesting monitoring and other remedial measures to alleviate the worst effects of throwing caution about heritage sites to the wind. And it has attempted to tie the hands of the Punjab government in future to adhere to an open and public process of assessment before such projects are undertaken. But what the SC has perhaps missed or is not within its purview is the fact that Shahbaz Sharif since 2008 has adopted ‘Punjab speed’ only for politically partisan purposes. The provincial government of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had worked out a far better plan for an integrated overground in the suburbs and underground in the built up heart of the city mass transit rail linked to feeder lines and bus services. It had been approved by the international financial agencies and the Japanese development organization JICA was on board for funding purposes. That plan was scrapped (as was the Gowalmandi Food Street) on petty political rivalry basis, with nary a thought for what was best for the city, the province and the country. Shahbaz Sharif’s two show window projects, the Metro Bus and the OLMT were targeting the 2013 and 2018 elections respectively. Hence ‘Punjab speed’. What Shahbaz Sharif has wrought in Lahore will one day live in the halls of infamy, whereby a historic city known as the ‘city of gardens;’ has been subjected to widened roads, flyovers and underpasses to facilitate the less than 10 percent residents of Lahore who own private vehicles at the expense of trees, the environment (remember the worst smog this winter) and the health and happiness of Lahoris without in any way being able to solve the traffic gridlock afflicting the city. Modern cities cannot be planned and developed intelligently and in the interests of all their residents, not just a privileged few, in this slap dash, political vested interest driven manner.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Business Recorder Editorial Dec 6, 2017

The Najafi report Although the Justice Ali Baqir Najafi report made public on the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) appears to have delivered a serious blow to the Punjab government, on closer examination it has raised more questions than provided clear answers. The report describes the gruesome events of June 17, 2014 at the Minhajul Quran headquarters of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in Model Town, Lahore as the police having done exactly what it went for. The police, the report says, participated actively in the ‘massacre’ and the reader can easily fix the responsibility for the unfortunate incident. However the report does not name any individual in this respect and appears to hold the Punjab government as a whole responsible. Regarding the incident that resulted in the dearth of 14 workers of the PAT through police firing (a figure disputed by former LHC Chief Justice and retired judge of the Supreme Court Justice Khalilur Rehman in his review of the Najafi report), the report accuses the Punjab government of concealing facts and hindering the investigation, while its officials tried to cover up for each other, preventing the one-man Justice Najafi tribunal from arriving at a definitive conclusion. The report recommends the Punjab government draw up legislation to empower the magistracy to issue orders to fire by the police so that responsibility could be clearly fixed in future. This implies a return to the executive magistracy done away with in the Police Order 2002. It also reflects the question the tribunal was unable to find an answer to: who gave the order to the police to fire? The report says the police response to the stone pelting, etc, by the PAT workers was not commensurate. It describes the claim that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the police to ‘disengage’ as soon as he came to know of the incident as either an afterthought or passed on ‘lazily’ (and therefore to no effect). While there is a great deal more to the report, none of it very complimentary towards the Punjab government, there are also glaring anomalies. The police feel hard done by as their version does not find adequate reflection in the report, particularly the claims of the charged up PAT workers being armed and having fired on the police first. Then the reports of the ISI, IB and Special Branch, most contradicting each other, were not reconciled in a satisfactory manner in the report. Predictably, the Tahirul Qadri-led PAT has received the report with joy, while the Punjab government has rejected it as defective in the eyes of the law and having no legal impact. The latter describes the report as inconclusive, ambiguous and incomplete. While a whirl of controversy therefore surrounds the report after its release, the public is still nowhere near the truth or in possession of a verifiable description of the events of June 17, 2014. Partisan celebration or rejection of the report does not provide any satisfaction. Whether the police acted imprudently and harshly to quell the resistance of the PAT workers to the removal of the barriers they had erected before the Minhajul Quran headquarters or the PAT workers were responsible for initiating what the police describe as an armed clash would need a Solomon to decide. The revelation of the report has set off a new storm of accusation, counter-accusation, defence and counter-defence that leaves the public still clueless about the truth of the whole affair. The Najafi report does have flaws, as Justice Rehman has pointed out, but the truth probably lies somewhere between the Najafi report findings and what may be self-serving claims by the Punjab government and police. Whether, despite the LHC’s direction that the revelation of the report’s findings must not colour the trial in the matter, it has sufficiently muddied the waters to thwart the course of justice is a moot point. Perhaps the only way out of this conundrum is to consider a fresh judicial commission of inquiry to ascertain the facts and pin responsibility for the whole sordid mess.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Business Recorder editorial Dec 5, 2017

Ultra vires agreement During the hearing on December 4 of identical petitions filed by local residents and lawyers against the sit-in that paralysed routine life in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi from November 8 to November 27, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) termed the agreement between the government and the protestors a surrender and ultra vires of the constitution and law. He said the FIRs against the merciless beating of policemen could not be withdrawn by the state unless and until the victims chose to forgive their tormentors themselves. Had the victims been in khaki uniforms instead of blue, Justice Siddiqui remarked, the outcome would have been very different. He then offered the Attorney General (AG) two choices: either present the agreement in a joint session of parliament to assess its constitutional/legal validity or to the federal cabinet, including the mediator (the army). The AG plumped for the latter, leaving the bench to muse why a joint session of parliament was not the better choice. Justice Siddiqui asked the AG to stop mosques and seminaries from issuing fatwas declaring someone an apostate otherwise citizens’ lives would not be secure. He pointed out that the blasphemy committed by the protestors during their sit-in at Faizabad also needs to be probed. In response to a query from the bench, the AG deposed that a report of the losses and damage caused during the sit-in was being compiled and would be submitted at the next hearing. The bench directed the Secretary Defence to investigate how the name of COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa was dragged into the affair with both sides expressing their gratitude to him in the agreement, which embarrassed the COAS and the institution of the army. The Chief Commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and a Joint Director Intelligence Bureau (IB), as per the court’s order of November 27, submitted sealed reports on why the clearance operation failed and who provided lethal weapons, state-of-the-art teargas guns and gas masks to the protestors. The hearing was then deferred to January 12, 2018 to allow the suo motu proceedings in the Supreme Court in the same matter to conclude before the IHC issued any conclusive order. In contrast to the mood in the IHC, a disturbing report says the Punjab Home Department is preparing a list of Tehreek Labaik (TL) leaders whose names are to be removed from the Fourth Schedule of terrorism suspects. All those whose names are removed will be kept under surveillance but the police will not interfere in their affairs. Some 30 names of TL leaders are believed to be in the Fourth Schedule. A meeting is to take place in the next few days between the TL leaders and senior officials of the Punjab Home Department to ‘settle all the issues’. The 1,500 arrested workers of the TL are to be released. The government’s weakness and inability to implement the protocols of the Fourth Schedule has cost the country dearly, and now this new concession is likely to lead to fresh disasters. Khadim Hussain Rizvi of the TL has announced a Lahore-Islamabad march on January 4, the date of the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Even before this new concession by the Punjab government, there appeared to be a divergence between the approach of the federal government and that of Punjab to the TL and its activities. Despite their names being in the Fourth Schedule, the TL leaders appear free to move around and conduct their activities although the Fourth Schedule empowers the government to restrict their travel, speech and activities. While those whose names are in the Fourth Schedule are free to wreak havoc, new names are constantly added to the Fourth Schedule list. If this continues, the 1,500 people in the list might as well not be on it. This, as other aspects of the National Action Plan’s implementation remain twisting in the wind, with serious consequences for state and society.