Out of the docket, into the fire
A 17-member Supreme Court bench has rejected the review petition against its verdict on NRO delivered on December 16, 2009. After the judgment the government is required to pursue the cases of the NRO beneficiaries which stand automatically reopened. At one stage, during his arguments in support of the review petition, Babar Awan had maintained that the government has majority in the parliament and can get the controversial ordinance passed by it if needed. The fact that it failed to do so during the nearly two years available to it indicates that the government is not sure of the outcome of voting over the defunct law. Both MQM and PML(Q), two of its major coalition partners, had in the past opposed the NRO. Terming the SC’s 2009 verdict historic, Altaf Hussain had paid homage to the apex court on the ruling and called upon the government to implement it. A few months back Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan had maintained that judiciary might rule against the NRO even if it was ratified by the parliament in case it was seen to contradict the constitution. It would be risky therefore to take recourse to the parliament.
With Memogate also landing up in the SC, sections in the PPP feel that the party is being cornered through legal proceedings. What Shazia Marri, Information Minister Sindh, said is symptomatic of the perception but not a way out. In democracies, court verdicts are not changed by “knocking at the door of the people’s court”. The PPP is apparently worried about Zardari’s Swiss cases. The PPP maintains that these cases were politically motivated and false. The ideal way for President Zardari would be to volunteer to defend himself in the Swiss courts. With his innocence established, the PPP would gain a moral victory. The other way is to invoke Article 248 which gives exemption to the president from any lawsuit. This likely to take the issue back to the SC as lawyers differ on the Article’s interpretation.
What the government needs to do in the meanwhile is to start implementing the SC verdict so that there is no clash between the two institutions. Meanwhile, all institutions of the state without exception have to realise that it is only by preserving and strengthening the democratic system that the country can be extricated from the quagmire where it finds itself today.