Hot Potato

The need for stability is shown up by the IHC judges’ letter

The letter by six judges of the Islamabad High Court first resulted in a meeting of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and an agreement to set up a commission of enquiry. The Cabinet meeting to approve this, and to determine the Terms of Reference of the Commission, had to be postponed once, and it only on Saturday that it was announced that a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, would head the commission. However, Mr Justice (retd) Jilani wrote to the Prime Minister saying that the TORs were problematic, and declined the assignment. This was followed by his current successor as Chief Justice, Mr Justice Qazi Faez Isa, taking up the matter in the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction and constituting a seven-member bench, which will hear the case from Wednesday (today). The matter seems to meet the definition of a hot potato, in that it seems that there is an almost instinctive urge to pass the matter on to someone else, anyone else.

Mr Justice Qazi had first called a full-court meeting of the Supreme Court before meeting the Prime Minister, and apparently passed the matter to him. He quickly passed it on to Mr Justice (retd) Jilani, who in turn, threw it back to Mr Justice Qazi. Mr Justice Qazi then did what the bar associations and the legal fraternity had been calling on him to do, which was to take suo motu notice of the matter. The old childhood game of Pass-the-Parcel comes to mind. It is almost as if no one is sure when to cry ‘stop!’, or controls the music whose stopping will signal the parcel must not be passed.

The matter is one which demands investigation. The claims of the judges must be either verified or disproved. Apart from the demands of natural justice, it is vital for the restoration of the stability that the February 8 polls were supposed to bring. Though almost two months have passed since then, stability does not seem to be restored. That the instability is not limited to the judiciary was shown by the postponement of the Senate elections in KP, because of the refusal of the Speaker to swear in women members from opposition parties so that they could vote. That in turn unhinges the succeeding election of the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman. And so it goes.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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