ISLAMABAD - Participants of a roundtable conference titled ‘Judicialization of Politics: Issues and Remedies’ on Friday urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan to reposition itself as an independent institution in its own right, not as an institution against democracy and the executive.
The participants observed that politics were being dictated by the superior courts, which was leading to a sort of judicial martial law in the country.
A number of legal experts, human rights activists and political workers participated in the conference organized by the School of Political and Strategic Communications (SPSC).
Eminent lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir said in her telephonic address that the superior judiciary should remain impartial in dispensation of justice.
“A cursory look at the court’s decisions indicates that the superior judiciary wants to influence the functioning of Election Commission of Pakistan and in setting up of the caretaker government,” she commented.
Listing a number of cases in which the government complied with the court’s verdicts, Asma asked the superior judiciary to define the concept of implementation.
“If implementation means beheading all democrats, I would say the government did not comply,” she said, adding that the court verdicts did little to improve jurisprudence.
She also called on the superior judiciary to set out a criterion for taking suo motu notices.
SPSC Executive Director Mazhar Arif gave a comparative overview of judicialization of politics in various countries and specifically focused on Pakistan.
He identified various similarities and differences from similar experiences in other countries and termed Supreme Court actions “a judicial coup” that was creeping slowly and could endanger the federal parliamentary democratic dispensation.
PPP leader Taj Haider referred to the clash between the government and the court as a clash between democrats and security establishment.
“The Pakistani judiciary was part of the establishment and is still very much a part of it. Therefore, in this clash the judiciary stands on the side of the establishment. We have to contain the establishment and the judiciary. Running the government is not the job of the judiciary. It is the job of the elected representatives,” he said, adding that it was not judicial activism but “judicial adventurism”. Haider called for the formation of Judicial Services of Pakistan on the pattern of ICS. “A judicial academy should play its role in capacity building. The arbitration councils at village level should be formed civil cases. In criminal cases there should be no arbitration. Office of the prosecutor general should be strengthened. Legislation for witness security should be done immediately. Every province should have independent Supreme Court which should also be a final appellate authority,” Haider suggested.
Asad Jamal, a constitutionalist based in Lahore, listed various instances of court verdicts in which the impartiality of the court was in doubt.
Tracing the recent trend of judicialization of politics in Pakistan, Jamal said it started with the decision in the Steel Mills case. “The judiciary never challenged the military rulers. This is a historic baggage which is reflected in the court’s decisions. The judiciary has become a sort of united front which has done institutional barricading.”