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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Did NRO lead to democratic transition or cause billions of loss?

News Analysis |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) has issued notices to retired general Pervez Musharraf, former president Asif Ali Zardari, and former attorney-general Justice (retd) Malik Qayyum in a plea against the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Read more: Nawaz rubbishes speculations about him seeking ‘NRO’

Feroze Shah Gilani had submitted a petition in the apex court against the NRO beneficiaries which allegedly caused a loss of billions of rupees to the exchequer. The petitioner pleaded before the court that those who fabricated this law must pay back the losses of billions of rupees, incurred due to the implementation of NRO.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar heard the petition.Though the apex court has already declared the NRO null and void, and this fact was conveyed to the petitioner. Nevertheless, notices were issued to both former military and civil presidents.

Musharaf had issued the NRO on October 4, 2007. Politicians, political workers, and bureaucrats were granted amnesty despite being accused of corruption, money laundering, embezzlement, and terrorism between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999.

After issuing the notices to the respondents, the court was adjourned for a month. Zardari was apparently the major beneficiary of NRO along with other alleged culprits mentioned above.

Read more: NRO: What it was and what it became?

Not all the Critics agree with this as far as benefits attributed to Zardari. Some analysts believe that since democracy was on crossroads in Pakistan, military regimes dominated the country for long period of times. Musharraf had already ruled for nearly a decade, the army was in control of the political system and in the presence of these cases against the looters, there was no way forward.

Resultantly, to break the hegemony of the establishment-backed political system, American allegedly brokered this deal with Musharraf at a time.

Musharraf had signed his ‘political death’ warrants, when he dismissed Iftikhar Chaudhary in March 2017.

On March 9, Musharraf attempted to forcefully convince Iftikhar Chaudhary to resign. He removed him unwillingly which led to a judicial revolt which was spearheaded by lawyers and civil activists and hijacked by PML-N. Finally, on July 20, 2007, the thirteen-member Court declared a historic decision to reinstate the CJ and dismissed the charges leveled against him. Musharraf had to accept the decision and admitted that judicial independence and the rule of law in Pakistan was the way forward for Pakistan.

Read more: Is internal instability leading Pakistan towards chaos?

It weakened Musharraf considerably, and a way opened for democratic transition, but, at the same time, it gave unprecedented powers to the judiciary. The Suo moto cases of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhary became exemplary and remained unprecedented until the emergence of CJ Saqib Nisar. In a way, it shows why NRO was apparently necessary for Zardari to make way for the political transition.

Judicial activism convinced PPP to negotiate NRO with Musharaf. It gave PPP political leverage and proved a short-lived renaissance for politically dead Musharaf.

Supreme Court had declared the law unconstitutional on December 16, 2009.

Now again, judicial activism is on rise like never before. Judiciary is dominating and is trying to appease the masses with populist decisions-which are benefiting the people in welfare suo moto actions.

Read more: CJP denies calling PM a ‘faryadi’

The current events in the country after Panama revelations led to judicial ascendance, once crossed by Iftikhar Chaudhary. Nevertheless, how will summoning the NRO beneficiaries-Musharaf and Zardari will pave the way for recovering the losses born by exchequer remains to be seen?

NRO was meant to put the full stop on the political vengeance of previous decades to make way for clean democratic future. Those attempted to reconcile and move away from old cases of embezzlement and corruption has to answer CJ Saqib Nisar. So, was reconciliation not a way forward for democratic transition or maybe it was a cover-up operation to forgive the alleged culprits of past to allow a superficial and flaw transition which led to a monetary loss of billions. Can we know it, may be, may be not!