By Iftikhar Jameel
In Pakistan, various institutions have established fronts against each other which are being pointing out by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his speeches and media talks. In rare developments, a bench of the Supreme Court and another of the High Court of Islamabad have on the same day, pulled up the all-powerful army for failing to curb open defiance and protests of Islamist militants in which six people died, and instead, for opting to play mediators.
The army had done so last November, spurring a ‘request’ from the civilian government, to clear the key intersection at Faizabad that links the national capital with Peshawar.
The high court on April 25, 2018 heard a judge – a serving judge at that – stating that the army was the only military force in the world that was engaged in commercial activities like “cement, meat and bread.”
The twin incidents indicate that military-judiciary alliance in Pakistan is showing signs of stress, much to the chagrin on the all-powerful army and glee of their common targets – the politicians.
The two judges are seen to have become too bold in their pronouncements for the comfort of the army since two have forged an undeclared alliance to cleanse the country’s political stable, beginning with the ouster from the prime minister’s post, Mian Nawaz Sharif.
The army in Pakistan has got the judiciary on its side whenever it has chosen. The judiciary at the top has endorsed each military takeover in the past invoking the Doctrine of Necessity.
The Supreme Court on April 25 also took another holy cow, the intelligence agencies who work on collusion with the army.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court who had questioned the army’s defiance of the civilian government last month as well, lashed out at security agencies for “failing to produce a new report” on last year’s Faizabad sit-in.
After a weeks-long protest at the Faizabad interchange that had disrupted life in the capital, the government and protesters reached an army-brokered agreement in November 2017, in which the former had conceded to the latter’s demands. One of the demands was the resignastion of the then federal law minister.
Justice Isa is part of a two-member SC bench, along with Justice Musheer Alam, which was hearing a suo motu case regarding the use of abusive language during the sit-in and the difficulties caused to residents of the capital by the roadblocks placed by the agitators. Justice Isa asked the deputy attorney general if the agencies had a report to submit. The deputy attorney general told the bench that no such report has been furnished because the court had not passed any orders in this regard.
To this, Justice Isa said that the security agencies should have submitted a new report when the court had expressed its dissatisfaction over the previous report on the same issue. “Who is paying you? Who is paying the Inter-Services Intelligence? No one should consider themselves above the law,” he said while addressing the deputy attorney general.
“The army did not establish this country and the state will not be ruled on the whims and wishes of anyone. Read history to know how Pakistan was established; Quaid-i-Azam was not surrounded by a brigade but a leadership willing to create Pakistan,” the judge observed.
Last month, the SC had rejected ISI’s report on the Faizabad sit-in, calling it “unsatisfactory”. “This report is deeply unsettling: it has been prepared by one of the premier agencies of the country, yet a journalist could have given more details [about the protests] than this report,” Justice Isa had said after reviewing the document.
Taking about the inaction on part of the government against the Faizabad protesters, Justice Isa remarked: “No one moves against them who block roads, resort to torture and torch vehicles,” he said.
“Those claiming to be ‘Aashiq e Rasool’ used derogatory language – this is not Islam. They are enemies of Islam; they portray a horrible picture of the religion.”
In the Islamabad High Court, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also criticised the military while hearing a petition demanding to make the Faizabad sit-in inquiry report public. The court, during earlier hearings, had lashed out at the government as well as the army for the role assigned to the military “as the mediator” to end the sit-in. Justice Siddiqui had pointed out that the army chief instead of following the orders of the chief executive became a mediator. “Who is the army to adopt a mediator’s role?” the judge had inquired. “Where does the law assign this role to a major general?”
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a constitutional forum that examines the conduct of superior court judges and then recommends their removal from the top post, issued the show-cause notice to Justice Siddiqui on complaints filed by MNA Jamshed Dasti and advocate Kalsoom Khaliq alleging that the judge had, during the hearing of petitions against the Faizabad sit-in, passed “unwarranted remarks” against the army.
In his reply, Justice Siddiqui said both the complainants “are only proxies”. “In fact the complainants have been brought at the behest of someone else. I have un-rebutted evidence to this effect, which I shall produce if required.”
On April 25, Justice Siddiqui took on the army again when he remarked: “No army in the world is involved in commercial activities but our’s is selling even cement, meat and bread.”
He said that the court will issue a notice to defence secretary to know about the stance of the ministry over the issue.”They want to earn as per a commercial model but want to be dealt with like an armed force,” he said. Justice Siddiqui went on to say that people have been made mental, economic and moral slaves.
The court issued a notice to the deputy attorney general, seeking a reply on the issue. Army’s engaging in commercial activities, which has been encouraged by successive civilian governments to keep the men in uniform happy, has been the butt of criticism in Pakistan’s liberal circles and business circuits, the latter feeling the heat of competition on their turf. It has been the subject of a book, “Military Inc.” by analyst Ayesa Siddiqua.
(The author is geo-political analyst and the contents of the article are his views and not necessarily be agreed by the newspaper. Editor)