While all PML(N) supporters, not just party Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, jubilant at his acquittal on appeal by the Islamabad High Court in the Avenfield Flats anti-corruption reference, there arises a question as to why the original decision was made. It should be remembered that the Flats reference was initiated by NAB and sent to an Accountability Court, but had been referred to the Court by the Supreme Court, which had also appointed a supervising judge to ensure that the trial court decided the case on time. It had been claimed by Nawaz’s partisans that he was being removed from office as PM, and ousted from politics, so that the vacuum cold be filled by Mr Imran Khan and the PTI. If he was ousted back in 2017, he is being brought back now through the reversal of the decisions that ousted him then. Whereas decisions were made then to oust him, the decision now is to bring him back. The role of the judiciary, both higher and subordinate, seems tame, to say the least. Mian Nawaz could neither be ousted nor brought back without the judiciary giving the right decisions.
Was the judiciary doing all this off its own bat, or at the behest of some other player? The attitude of the Bandial Supreme Court gives rise to the impression that the tilt towards Mr Khan emanated from the judiciary, but the admission last year by outgoing COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa that the military had been intervening in politics, indicates that the source of these decisions was not the judiciary. While a judge’s judgements are usually protected from review, and reversal is not usually a ground for disciplinary action, it would seem that retired judges, even if from the apex of the institution, have some explaining to do.
While judges are rightfully preserved from the pressure of the mob, it should not be forgotten that they do not exist in some splendid judicial isolation, but are part of society, to the extent that, even after retirement, they are still paid from taxpayers’ money. It is only in the fitness of things that the judges of the time should be asked about the decisions they made then, which are being so blithely reversed now. It should not be forgotten that this is the first occasion for such a harsh light being shone on past decisions, but is hardly likely to be the last, not with Mian Nawaz’s other cases coming up for reversal.