Pakistani judiciary made two historic decisions in last couple of weeks. These two decisions can bring a positive change in the power structure of Pakistan. First- the Supreme Court hear the case on the extension of army chief. It was the first time that this issue landed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Supreme Court declared the extension given to army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa by the PTI government without any legal jurisdiction and asked the Parliament to make laws on this issue. Army chief considered as the most powerful position in Pakistan as he enjoys huge clout. Now the ball is in the court of politicians to decide the matter.
It was revealed during the hearing that there exists no legal provision to extend the three year tenure of army chief. General Ayub Khan- General Zia and General Musharaf give themselves extension several times after imposing military rule. General Kiyani was the only army chief that get the extension in the tenure of a civilian government.
Second- the special court hearing the case of high treason against General® Musharaf finds former military dictator guilty of abrogating the constitution and sentenced him to death penalty under article 6 of the constitution. It is such a first decision of this kind.
Both the decisions are clear indication that judiciary has changed the direction of decades old tradition of providing legal cover to military dictators. The judiciary not only hears the case of army chief’s extension but clearly pointed out legal flaws in the process. Even though- General Qamar Bajwa get 6 months to serve meanwhile parliament asked to sort out the matter. It will be the first time that this matter will be discussed in detail in the parliament.
Both these decisions if implemented with full spirit can strengthen the supremacy of constitution and rule of law. It is an opportunity for the politicians to establish the civilian supremacy and rule of law. Both the decisions set new precedents in the country. A special court convicting a former military dictator of high treason and sentencing him to death has set a precedent that few in the country could ever have imagined possible.
There is no doubt that Pakistan is changing – and for the better. The dreams of sustained democracy and constitutional rule can realise if this process continued. The judiciary has shown its commitment and now it is time for politicians to show commitment with the ideals of rule of law- civilian supremacy and democratic rule.
The decisions conform to the law and Constitution of the country – these are legal judgments that vindicate the present courts as fair and honest and ready to take on the powerful and mighty. Both the decisions are extraordinary considering how the judiciary has conducted itself in the past. These verdicts means that the rule of law is applicable to all – nobody is above the law. Previously, there used to be a hierarchy but now every person is subject to Pakistan’s law and the Constitution. This seems the beginning of a new era- the era of rule of law supremacy of constitution.
It confirms that the judiciary is independent and deciding cases in accordance with the law and Constitution. It sends a message that no one is above the law.
The decision in high treason case is a landmark judgment. It will be a great deterrence against unconstitutional acts. This decision has far reaching consequences. All martial law enforcers remained and acted in a state of insecurity vis-à-vis international and domestic legitimacy and validation of their takeovers on return to democracy.
There are possibilities that the decision of high treason case against General Musharaf might not be implemented. But its symbolic and historic significance will remain.
There are few who are arguing that such decisions might demoralise the forces. The historic fact is that it is not the court decisions in accordance with the law and constitution which demoralise the armed forces but on the contrary it is the illegal and extra constitutional steps and measures taken by a military dictator which demoralise the forces and society.
Everyone in Pakistan understands very well that we need strong and professional army. Our circumstances and especially Indian aggression force us to keep a strong and well managed army. Our soldiers have sacrificed their lives to protect Pakistan. We owe a lot to the martyred. We must respect and honour the army as an institution.
But when martial imposed and constitution abrogated then the opposition starts against military rule. Those who impose martial laws and establish military dictatorships are the ones who bring disrepute to the prime institution of our state. We must respect every men and women who put their lives at stake for our protection and safety. There must be no undue criticism on our soldiers and officers who are busy in their professional duty. They have nothing to do with politics and power. The bad decisions of some individuals at the top bring bad name to the whole institution.
We need to learn the necessary lessons from the past military interventions to avoid them. The biggest lesson is to keep the army away from direct or indirect rule. It is important to keep the armed forces away from the politics. Any institution will face resistance and criticism when indulge in the politics.
The state institutions must work within their domain defined in the constitution. Every institution must concentrate on its own work. The judiciary must concentrate on providing justice. Army must protect the country. And politicians should run the government with the practical help of bureaucracy. It is must to keep the morale of the institutions high. We need strong armed forces for our defence. We need democratic rule and supremacy of constitution and law to make Pakistan a great country. The independence of judiciary is must to protect the rights of people and to establish the rule of law. No country in the world can progressed and achieved high economic development and prosperity without establishing the rule of law democratizing the society.
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