Sunday, July 29, 2012
Call to judiciary Federal Law Minister Farooq H Naek these days is busy dilating on the new contempt of court law as well as the separation of powers envisaged in the constitution. The other day in Karachi, he returned to his current theme while saying that there was a public perception that the judiciary is against the PPP government. The responsibility for changing this perception, Mr Naek argued, lay with the Supreme Court. He went on to stress that decisions taken by the president, the premier and ministers were protected under Article 248 (wrongly reported in the press as Article 242) and could not be challenged. On the separation of powers schema of the constitution, the Law Minister reiterated the government’s contention that the role of running the government was the responsibility of the executive, legislation that of parliament, and ensuring implementation of the laws that of the judiciary. Naek said there was nothing in the new contempt of court law that court decisions do not apply to the prime minister or president. Immunity to them was granted by the 1973 constitution. He argued that along with an independent judiciary, an independent judicial system comprising upright judges and law officers was necessary for a free judiciary, and stressed the need for changes in the existing system without going into any details of what changes he thought were unavoidable. The government, he said, accorded due honour and respect to the judiciary and was not interested in clipping its powers. This was a direct rebuttal of some speculations in recent days that the government may ‘retaliate’ against the judiciary by curtailing its powers. At the same time, the minister went on, the government did not want any confrontation between institutions which, if they operate within their respective ambits, would strengthen democracy. Since there has been so much sound and fury (signifying misplaced concreteness) of late regarding relations between the executive and parliament on the one hand and the judiciary on the other, particularly in the context of the NRO implementation case, which has led to one prime minister being sent home and a similar sword of Damocles dangling over his successor, it may be useful to briefly revisit the provisions of Article 248: “Protection to President, Governor, Minister, etc. (1) The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, the Chief Minister and a Provincial Minister shall not be answerable to any Court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions: Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the Federation or a Province. (2) No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a governor in any Court during his term of office.” Jurisprudence has distinguished between the immunity from criminal (and civil) liabilities of the named officials, and the liability of the federation or a province, which can be sued. The protection contained in the proviso to clause (1) extends to the person of the officials named, not to any action taken or order passed by them. The immunity is in the nature of an exception to the general rules that no one is above the law, and must be strictly construed accordingly. In the light of these clear provisions, it is inexplicable how and why the Supreme Court has been brushing aside the meaning of this Article. With the greatest respect to His Lordships, we rest our case.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Better sense, finally? The Supreme Court (SC) has become the centre of the country’s life of late. Every day, proceedings in sensitive cases make headlines. The honourable judges’ remarks in court are pounced upon to reinforce or contradict firmly held polarised opinions in the polity. The original jurisdiction of the SC, and its suo motu powers, are being used with such frequency that it has aroused concerns in the legal community at home and abroad. The net effect of all this judicial activism by the SC runs the risk, which may already be at hand, of making the SC controversial, a development neither in the interests of the judiciary nor the polity. For those alarmed by this turn of events, the proceedings in the NRO implementation case the other day may have provided some relief from the mounting tension. A five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa struck a remarkably different tone from what has become the norm in such cases. Despite some bitter exchanges between the Attorney General (AG) and the bench, the outcome must have given the country a chance to take a deep breath after weeks, if not months of an ostensible confrontation between the two apex institutions of state, the executive and the judiciary. The proceedings reiterated the views of the court regarding its previous orders, which it noted had yet to be carried out, that the government should write a letter to the Swiss authorities reversing the withdrawal of the alleged graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The AG countered with his by now well known arguments that the law had not been followed in the case, paragraph 178 of the NRO judgement was unimplementable because the president enjoyed immunity while in office, and that one prime minister had already been sent home unconstitutionally for not implementing the court’s orders. He also pointed to ostensible contradictions between the July 12 and the earlier 17-member bench verdicts in the NRO case. At the end of these exchanges, the atmospherics seemed to undergo a welcome change, with Justice Khosa offering reassuring words regarding the court wanting to dispel the impression that it wanted to derail the system or send another prime minister home. He went so far as to offer that the court could write in its final judgement that the president enjoyed immunity. Justice Khosa attempted to apply balm on the country’s smarting wounds by saying the nation should not be “terrified” of any adverse developments. The court was cognizant of the nosediving of the economy and political instability because of developments in such cases. The court then suggested that the AG play a mediatory role between the two institutions in finding a solution that upheld the position of both sides in the argument. The case was then adjourned for two weeks to allow the AG, now centre-stage despite his often acrimonious exchanges with the SC, to search for a satisfactory solution to the conundrum. Those of a conspiratorial bent are still inclined to see this ‘softening’ of the SC’s stance as a tactical move since the contempt of court case revealed on the same day familiar court harping on about the president and other top officials listed in the new Contempt Act as not enjoying immunity except against criminal prosecution while in office and for acts of an official nature rather than private. These ‘mixed’ signals have persuaded some to see the court waiting for the contempt legislation to be either struck down in toto or partially to reverse what is being referred to as the ‘defanging’ of the court. Such speculations do neither the speculators nor the superior judiciary justice. No civilised society can progress without faith in the institutions of state and the honourable persons occupying such important office. The country places great faith in the restored judiciary’s adherence to the constitution and law, best interests of the country, and respect for other institutions and high offices of state. Let the wisdom of the court find a way out of the impasse that nudges the country in the right direction, and not exercise the impudence to ascribe ulterior motives to the superior judiciary.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Unending bloodshed Pakistan is beset with many woes, not the least being inflation which, despite our public mask of piety (reproduced with a vengeance in the media), saw prices rise on the first day of Ramazan beyond the already strained common man’s pocket. As though this daily affliction were not bad enough, the country is in the throes of endless violence and bloodletting. This has now taken diverse forms, including, but not limited to, the situation in Balochistan and in fact the country as a whole. To illustrate this, an attack on a Coast Guards check post near Gwadar resulted in the deaths of eight personnel and the wounding of three. The surprise attack caught the Coast Guards unawares and unable to retaliate. The attackers got away with all the arms and ammunition of the Guards in classic guerrilla fashion. Later, the Baloch Liberation Font claimed responsibility, one of a slate of nationalist guerrilla groups operating in resistance to the prevalent kill and dump and military operations policy in the province led by the Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies with the backing of the regular military. Balochistan’s troubles are added to by the sectarian campaign of killings of the Hazara Shias and the attacks against anti-terrorist parties such as the ANP, whose rally and protest in the province were bloodied recently. But to single out Balochistan would not be just, since the rest of the country, and particularly the northwestern reaches, are not much better off. The military’s attempts to create and support tribal lashkars (militias) to help it in its fight against the Pakistani Taliban has invited retaliatory attacks on these lashkars, two examples of which were in evidence in Orakzai/Kurram and Upper Dir the other day. To remind oneself that these are largely self-inflicted wounds will bring little comfort unless it is followed up by visionary leadership and steps to rescue the country from the quagmire it is trapped in. The terrorism that has the country in its grip is the unintended consequence of nurturing, supporting and giving their head to fanatics and extremists over decades, which claim to conduct their murder and mayhem in the name of religion. Balochistan is an old and simmering problem dating back to independence. Unfortunately, the initial rejection of the forcible annexation of the province to Pakistan in 1948 has been followed ever since with a harsh attitude of trying to suppress nationalist sentiment through force. Far from achieving the objective of silencing nationalist voices, the policy of violent repression has only exacerbated and made permanent the confrontation between the state and the Baloch. The tragedies inflicted on the country over long years by narrow interpretations of what is in the best interests of the country (and the region) have brought us to this sorry pass, where Pakistan is considered worldwide as the epicentre of terrorism and a state not to be trusted. The path of proxy wars and confrontation with neighbours, while attempting to resolve internal political problems such as Balochistan through force has landed the country in a cul de sac from which escape is only possible if a realistic review is undertaken across the board of the costs and benefits of the present path and alternative ones. One thing is certain. If Pakistan does not mend its direction and seek ways and means of resolving external and internal problems of long standing that are in harmony with the current international trends, not only is its economy threatened with meltdown, the vey fabric of state and society may well unravel. Anarchy and breakdown may follow. There is still time to revisit the policy of projecting strategic and foreign policy goals through armed proxies and the blind adherence to the use of force to resolve political issues internally. But the window of opportunity for correction will not remain open indefinitely. If it snaps shut, Pakistan will be in even deeper trouble than presently. Will our civilian and military leadership wake up to the serious threats to the country’s solidarity and well being and take appropriate steps? That is the million dollar question.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
NA-151 by-election Received political wisdom says it is risky to forecast the outcome of general elections on the basis of by-elections, even if they are held close to the date for national polls. However, by-elections cannot be dismissed out of hand either as indicative of political trends. Former prime minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani’s (YRG’s) son, Abdul Qadir Gilani, squeaked home with a narrow margin over his main challenger and independent candidate Shaukat Bosan, backed by the PML-N, PTI, etc. YRG having been unseated as an MNA and PM by the Supreme Court, it was left to the heir-apparent to bring in the prize for the PPP. But whereas YRG garnered 77,664 votes in the 2008 elections, the younger Gilani could only manage 64,340 to Bosan’s 60,761, a small lead of 3,579. Nevertheless, the outcome thrilled the incumbent PPP and its coalition allies, who were all wont to read into the result perhaps more than it deserved, and at least publicly, ignore the disturbing trend of a decline in the PPP’s fortunes in a constituency considered a bastion of solid support. The Gilani family may also be excused for breathing a sigh of relief and celebrating the win as validation of the political standing of YRG. There could be many reasons for the relative decline in the PPP’s fortunes in the home constituency of the former PM, but a few take pride of place. First and foremost, the disadvantages of incumbency for the ruling party cannot be ignored. Over the last four and a half and a bit years in power, the popularity graph of the PPP has incrementally declined because of the real and perceived failure to deliver to the electorate’s satisfaction. The main complaints of people at large in the country are the energy crunch, inflation, unemployment and other concerns, with economic problems heading the list of grievances. The second major factor was all the opposition parties implicitly uniting behind Shaukat Bosan, even though no formal ‘alliance’ was visible. That may have prevented the opposition vote from splintering and brought Mr Bosan tantalisingly close to achieving an upset. Reports from the ground say the constituency may have been taken too much for granted by YRG, who found little time to visit his constituency during his tenure as PM. Handling the constituency was left to a team of the PPP that included the sons of the elder Gilani, but there are a plethora of complaints at the local level that the loyal workers of the party were largely ignored since 2008. Despite disparities between the official and independent turnout figures and some instances of violations of the new code of conduct adopted by the election commission, the defeated candidate’s conceding that the polls were by and large free and fair strengthens optimism that the country may be on the way to creating a credible electoral process. One development in particular backs up this optimism. The selection of a consensus and widely respected Chief Election Commissioner in Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim is a very positive outcome of the engagement of the government and opposition in line with the new provisions under the 18th Amendment. Talks are reportedly on between the two sides on the modalities of a caretaker government to hold elections, but that process has seen differences emerge in the ranks of the PML-N between Chaudhry Nisar and Nawaz Sharif, the former pressing unsuccessfully for his party to exert pressure on the government for early elections and withdrawing from the talks after not getting his way. All indications are that all sides of the political class by now recognise their mutual interest in seeing that the electoral process goes on without hitch, since this is the only way they can stay in the game, and prevent any extra-constitutional adverse development. The prospects for the next general elections, whenever they occur (and no later than March 2013), point to the possibility that barring minor seat losses and gains, the PPP may still garner a plurality and be in a position once again to forge a coalition government. The reasons for this prognosis are that recent history has reduced all but the PPP to regional or rump parties. Being the only party with a countrywide presence and machinery, the PPP can take on its challengers who are hard pressed to come together in an alliance against the PPP. Unlike 1990, there is no possibility of the opposition being moulded into another IJI with ISI-funded lubrication. A divided opposition must necessarily count its fortunes as positive, but not a winning wicket.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Contempt of court bill The government appears to be gearing up for a political response to the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) insistence on the letter to be written to the Swiss authorities regarding reopening the case against President Asif Ali Zardari. That is why the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 has been passed post haste by the National Assembly on July 9, the Senate just two days after, and signed into law by the president the same evening, in anticipation of the NRO case hearing on July 12. The PML-N expectedly registered its protest and eventually walked out of the Senate against the bill. The PPP’s legal stalwarts, Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan, as in the case of the Dual Nationality bill, have expressed reservations about the contempt bill too. Aitzaz felt that at least two sections of the bill need correction, otherwise there is a likelihood that it would be struck down by the SC. He did state on the floor of the house that the contempt law had been misused against Yousaf Raza Gilani. He also argued that the contempt law contradicted the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Raza Rabbani pleaded for harmony and maturity, given the internal and external challenges facing the country. In that spirit, he said, the government and judiciary must avoid a tussle. Senator Haji Adeel of the ANP criticised the judiciary, saying only time would tell which of the courts’ decisions were correct and which were wrong. Wise words and passionate, but developments in the court seem destined to overtake the efforts of the government. In its hearing of the NRO implementation case on Thursday, the SC rejected the Attorney General’s (AG) reply that the SC’s notice/letter had been brought to the attention of the new prime minister, who had asked the Law Ministry to advise him on the matter, which could take some time. The AG’s plea for the case to be postponed until after the court’s vacations was rejected in favour of an order that the prime minister must write the letter if he wished to avoid Gilani’s fate. It instructed the AG to have the order to write the letter implemented and a written report to that effect presented to the SC by July 25. After the proceedings, the AG stated that if the court’s order were constitutional, it would be implemented. That suggests another impasse, since he left unsaid what would happen if the order were considered by the government to be unconstitutional, as in Gilani’s case. The SC once again reiterated its view that if someone claimed immunity under the provisions of the constitution (Article 248 in the context of the president), he/she would have to apply to the court for it. That may open another Pandora’s box if the court finds differently from a plain reading of Article 248. The government’s response to the insistence of the SC that the letter be written has now taken on political dimensions, not purely legal. It seems government circles are quite prepared for the eventuality that the court may strike down the contempt law just passed, which provided immunity from contempt to the president, prime minister, ministers and chief ministers, on the ground of being discriminatory. They may see this as helpful in focusing public attention on the court’s consistent attempts to show through its orders that it sees parliament as subject to the provisions of the constitution, with the SC the only forum to decide on interpretation of those provisions. Political observers see in this continuing executive and parliament versus judiciary clash all the necessary conditions for a derailment of the democratic dispensation once again. Certainly, going by the country’s history, that is not a thought beyond the bounds of possibility. However, as each truncation of democracy has by now amply demonstrated, such abortion of the democratic process has brought nothing but grief to the country in the past, and is unlikely to bring anything else but more grief in the future, should such an eventuality come to pass. The watchword should have been restraint on all sides and by all institutions of state, but that seems like a lost, forlorn plea under the obtaining circumstances.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Dual nationality bill controversy The introduction in the Senate of the bill to allow dual nationality holders to run for elections has proved divisive and sparked off a controversy both within the PPP and its coalition partners, as well as in the opposition. The PML-N and the ANP, the first the main opposition party and the latter a coalition partner, wanted the sense of the house ascertained before the bill was sent to the relevant parliamentary committee. However, after a lively debate, when Senate Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari decided to send the bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, this triggered a walkout by both these parties. From within the PPP’s ranks, two legal luminaries, Senators Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan both expressed reservations on the bill, particularly pertaining to the inclusion by Law Minister Farooq H Naek of the US in the list of 16 countries with which Pakistan has agreements on dual nationality on the ground that the nationality oath of the US included a commitment to bear arms for the US. Farooq Naek argued that Article 63(1)(c) of the constitution was unfair to those holding dual nationality, precluding their running for election despite being allowed to vote. He pointed out that 90 percent of dual nationals acquire their additional nationality for reasons of employment and/or business. There was no reason, he stated, to doubt their allegiance to the home country. During the debate, remarks such as the bill being an injustice to and a joke with the country were aired. PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah echoed the views of the Supreme Court (SC) on the issue by cautioning that allowing foreign nationality holders to run for elected office could open the door for such people to become the minister of defence or even the prime minister, ignoring in the event the fact that we have had prime ministers holding foreign nationality such as Moeen Qureshi and Shaukat Aziz in the past. The issue never came up before, and certainly not until the SC decided to weigh in by suspending the membership of some MNAs and Senators. Meanwhile, in a related development, adviser on interior Rehman Malik resigned from the Senate. He had been suspended by the SC for having run for election before he renounced his British nationality and was unable to satisfy the court despite producing a certificate of renunciation. In a statement explaining his decision, Rehman Malik said there were those who were painting the bill as aimed at protecting him and others like him, therefore he had resigned and would now advocate the right of dual nationality holders to run for elections from outside parliament. It is not clear whether he would continue as adviser on interior, which Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf wants. The debate on the dual nationality issue within the Senate and in the media and public space indicates that opinions are sharply divided on the issue, both within the ruling PPP as well as its coalition, not to mention the opposition within and without parliament. The likelihood therefore, of being able to garner a two-thirds majority in favour in both houses must remain an open question at this stage. The SC and others’ reservations stemming from national security considerations may not be without weight. However, as already pointed out, this is a recent consideration that skips over the past practice of not raising the issue despite individuals holding foreign or dual nationality having served as prime ministers. The blind eye turned by successive election commissions to the anomaly has also raised eyebrows of late. Had these election commissions done their job, the issue would have been resolved at the stage of filing papers by foreign or dual nationals (except when Moeen Qureshi was ‘flown in’ as a caretaker prime minister). The government’s consideration stems from the demand that expatriates have of late been voicing, including a conference hosted by Daily Times in the House of Lords recently, in which the case for electoral participation by dual nationals was presented. There is little doubt that the weight of financial contribution by expatriates to the country’s foreign exchange reserves qualifies in the government’s eyes, the right of this considerable community to have the doors of elected office opened to them. Identity and nationality have become less rigidly defined notions because of globalisation and the considerable movement of people across borders in search of better opportunities, without necessarily turning their back on the homeland.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Tokyo conference on Afghanistan The core group on Afghanistan, comprising Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan, issued a joint statement at the conclusion of the Tokyo conference urging the Taliban to abandon violence and enter a dialogue with the Afghan government to find a peaceful solution to the country’s long running war. The trio of countries agreed to work together for an inclusive Afghan peace. They also underlined the fact that their joint efforts and sacrifices had decimated al Qaeda’s core leadership in the region. The donors at the conference pledged $ 16 billion to support Afghanistan through till 2015 to ensure that post-withdrawal, the country does not slip back into warlordism and instability. The aid does come with some conditions though, including fighting widespread corruption. The roughly $ 4 billion a year pledged falls short of the $ 6 billion a year the Afghan central bank has said will be needed to foster economic growth over the next decade, which has been dubbed the ‘transformation decade’. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had met Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. That interaction resulted in the US once again pressurising on Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, accused of being responsible for attacks on US/NATO forces in and around Kabul. The rocky relationship between the US and Pakistan seems finally to be returning on track after the issue of the apology for the Salala attack was 'sorted out'. The apology may not have satisfied many in Pakistan, but it was considered sufficient by the Pakistan government to reopen the NATO supply lines. In return, the blocked Coalition Support Funds of $ 1.1 billion will be reimbursed to Pakistan. A compromise was also struck on charges per NATO truck, Pakistan finally settling for $ 1,000 per truck instead of the $ 5,000 it initially demanded. The fresh bonhomie was tempered by Hillary Clinton’s caution that although Pakistan and the US were now moving forward from the impasse of the past few months, the relationship will continue to raise hard questions. She announced a shift in the US’s emphasis from aid to trade to assist Pakistan’s economy. Meanwhile Hina Rabbani Khar announced aid to Afghanistan of $ 300 million for infrastructure and development work, including in the social sector. This marks a further shift in Pakistan’s projection of ‘soft’ power. However, that does not mean that the policy of duality has ended or that Pakistan has clearly and unequivocally broken with its Afghan Taliban proxies. Islamabad is being cajoled to deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table, but things have changed considerably even in the last year or so. It is no longer certain that the Taliban and the Haqqani network are totally in the control of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. Mullah Omar’s Taliban especially had been reported to be straining at the ISI leash. The Qatar direct talks between the US and the Taliban, which had run into roadblocks, seem to have been revived after Washington finally agreed in principle to release the Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay that the Taliban had been demanding. Initially the Qatar initiative seemed to have bypassed the ISI, and reports suggested the foot dragging on the Taliban side was part of this problem. Now it is not so certain that the Taliban are listening in all respects to the ISI. The recent spate of cross-border attacks from Afghan territory, ascribed to the Pakistani Taliban who have found safe havens on the Afghan side with the help of the Haqqani network spotlights the difficulties the mentors may be encountering to get their proxies to go along with Pakistan’s considerations in the Afghan theatre. This development is being viewed in some circles as the Haqqani network ungratefully biting the hand that fed them. The Tokyo conference may represent the will of the countries attending, as well as their hopes for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces. However, interred in these hopes may be some element of wishful thinking, given the uncertainty about what will follow the withdrawal. Questions about the capacity of the Afghan National Forces to contain the insurgency on their own, as well as concerns shared by the world community about the ability of the post-withdrawal Afghan dispensation to govern efficaciously and in the interests of the people, without reversing the gains made in the last 11 years in terms of women, minorities, and democratic rights. Only time will tell whether the hopes of the donors and backers of Kabul are destined to be disappointed or have their best wishes fulfilled.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
‘New’ political theory The Supreme Court (SC) in its detailed judgement on Yousaf Raza Gilani’s contempt of court case has enunciated a ‘new’ political theory that the constitution is supreme, even over parliament. This theory has been reiterated by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry while addressing a ceremony in Karachi. The theory rests on the notion that the concept of parliament’s supremacy is ‘outdated’. The CJP has gone so far as to claim that even the highest court in the UK has declared that the idea of parliament’s supremacy is not in consonance with the times. Perhaps, but has that view led to the abandonment of parliament’s supremacy in the UK? The British constitution is unwritten, its polity relying on conventions that are so deeply ingrained that anyone trying to violate them suffers adverse consequences at the hands of the people. In the UK, the aphorism is often quoted that parliament can declare a woman a man and it cannot be challenged. That light hearted explanation of the unfettered supremacy of parliament stands unchallenged in the oldest democracy in the world, as well as all other later democracies. The constitution is framed by the elected representatives of the people (parliament) and its author is empowered to amend it. Such amendments usually flow from new developments and evolution based on the experience of democratic societies. Can the author, and the institution with the inherent power to amend it, be subject or inferior to its own creation? This is standing logic on its head. The ‘will of the people’, which the SC and the CJP are fond of quoting as something that only the superior judiciary, in its undeniable wisdom, is qualified to define, is reflected in the representatives the people send to the assemblies. There can be no two interpretations of this fact, especially not a ‘mythical’ will of the people that only the superior judiciary is privy to, and may be contradictory to the people’s political expression through democratic elections. It must not be forgotten that despite its position as the final interpreter of the constitution, the judiciary is not an elected institution. If it were to be conceded that the constitution is supreme, over and above even parliament, and given that the judiciary is the sole interpreter of that constitution, this would open the door to judicial dictation. As to the constitution as it stands, there is considerable room for dissatisfaction with many of its features. For example, Article 63, which the SC relied on to convict Gilani, is one of the remaining hangovers of General Ziaul Haq’s amendments, which arguably distorted its character from what the original framers of the basic law intended or put down. So-called ‘Islamic’ provisions, including Articles 62 and 63 that lay down moral (religious?) criteria for the qualification and disqualification of members of parliament respectively, have led, amongst other factors, to an intolerant society relying on narrow interpretations of religious injunctions. Even the 18th Amendment was unable to do away with these Zia-added provisions because those of a mindset close to the late dictator refused to go along. A close examination of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnh’s ideas shows that the constitution as it stands, with its religious connotations, bares little resemblance to the tolerant and inclusive vision he had. The ideas expressed in the detailed judgement of the SC in Gilani’s contempt case and the reiteration of these views by the CJP may be well intentioned, an underlining of the need to adhere to the provisions of the constitution as it stands, but they run the risk of setting up the creation over and above the creator, and opening the door to the judiciary being actually superior to all other institutions as the final arbiter of the basic law of the land. That way lies judicial tyranny, a scary prospect at any time, but especially worrying in the present context, when the restored judiciary has been criticised for being ‘overactive’ and stepping onto the turf of the executive and parliament, two institutions of state that enjoy their own purview under the doctrine of the separation of powers in a democratic polity. The worst part is that these newfound doctrines of the superior judiciary may have less to do with high constitutional principles and more to do with the immediate state of confrontation between the government and the judiciary. Such expedient conceptualisation must be avoided in favour of solid precedent and established principles that have guided democratic polities since they emerged in human history.