Not a mugwump | Pakistan Today

Not a mugwump

  • There’s enough confusion as it is

A person who works in a large organisation in a well-organised country has to ensure he does not step on interdepartmental toes. He cannot for example change the light bulb in his room, unless he works for the department that has the job of doing so. Changing light bulbs is the job of the department of maintenance, which functions according to its own protocols. If the person has any ideas regarding which bulbs would be better, which protocols may be safer for users, or which time may be more convenient to change bulbs around the office, there are the interdepartmental meetings and he is free to attend if he heads his own department, or he may offer his suggestions to the head of his own department who might place them on the table at that meeting.

That is a system that works, that produces results, and one in which no person makes a chump of himself or the country. Or at least less than he would otherwise.

It should be clear where this is headed.

IK asked the media not to criticise his government for three months, to give it time to settle in. But it is impossible for the media or others to wait for a period of three months following the antics of the self-appointed morality police suddenly sprouting everywhere, even among the governmental top brass. An example is the Punjab minister for information who took it upon himself to pass offensive remarks against a Pakistani film actress. A fellow PTI leader later condemned the minister’s words, and tried to explain his mistake by saying that it happened because he had ‘assumed the portfolio for the first time in his political career.’

Interesting that the minister had assumed a political portfolio even before assuming the portfolio of gentleman. 

That incident just about sums up the situation, which is reminiscent of a traffic accident where every passerby stops to intervene as police, medical advisor and moron rolled in one, resulting in chaos. Each participant leaves the scene congratulating himself on his self-righteous interference. On the road, in the meantime, the accident victim dies for lack of proper care.

For those who prefer their analogies spelt out, the poor self-abused country of Pakistan fits in as the large organisation and the accident victim — and the guy with the missing light bulb and the interferers are government officials, more specifically officials of the judiciary who owe more to their profession than they seem to understand.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan is the head of the branch of government known as the judiciary. He heads all the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and the constitution fixes that number at seventeen. He is the chief administrative officer of the entire court system of the country and ranks just below the Chief Justice of the Federal Shariah Court, the parallel justice system allowed in the country, aside from the third, the tribal jirga system, and a fourth normally rampant in a jungle.

The CJP is responsible for supervising federal judicial policies and conducting judicial business in the Supreme Court.

He is nominated by the prime minister and confirmed by the president of the country. He has the ceremonial duty of administering the oath of office to the president of Pakistan, which if you note does not make him the president of Pakistan or anything else; he remains the CJP.

It is also very important that the CJP should be a mugwump, which may sound like something out of a book by Rowling or Dahl, and with good reason, but it is a term that means ‘a person who remains aloof and independent, especially from party politics.’ For a relevant phrase, we must thank Britain’s Boris Johnson who may not be an admirable person and possesses an execrable hairstyle, but he did coin the term ‘mutton headed old mugwump’.

There are others to shoulder the burden of activism. The judiciary is probably the only branch of government where its members, the judges, are better advised to stay aloof from the public and governmental affairs

Our CJP may be the first part of Johnson’s quote, but he ain’t no mugwump, a title he rejected on numerous occasions but most recently when he declared that IK was no one’s blue eyed boy.

With due respect, you don’t make such statements, Justice sahib, just as you don’t butt into business that rightfully belongs to someone else, from building dams, to dictating which fund a convicted person’s fine is to go into or lurking around corners on the watch for booze. This has little to do with the judiciary, and it is not advisable.

There are others to shoulder the burden of activism. The judiciary is probably the only branch of government where its members, the judges, are better advised to stay aloof from the public and governmental affairs and keep their opinion to themselves, all the better to maintain dignity, inapproachability and neutrality. The time spent lurking in corridors would be better spent reading up on how a judge must comport himself.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at

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