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Monday, April 22, 2024

Pakistan’s Judicial Crisis: A Repeat of History?

The article discusses the current judicial crisis in Pakistan and draws a parallel with the 1997 incident when the Pakistani judiciary was attacked by supporters of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The aftermath of that incident was managed by using bribes and manipulation, resulting in the triumph of Sharif's party.

Jhoot hai sab tareekh hamesha apne ko dohraati hai
achcha mera khwaab-e-jawani thoda sa dohraaye to

The above verse by Andaleeb Shadani loosely translated says “It’s a lie history repeats itself, if true lets have dream of my youth back” The verse written in a nostalgic lament of inconsistencies of histories repeat can be attributed or assigned to Pakistani politics. The present judicial crisis seems to be a repeat of a previous generation.

Read more: The technocrat thought: Answer to Pakistan’s woes – Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan

Alleged Political Rewards and the 1997 Supreme Court Incident in Pakistan

In November 1997, after months of escalating tensions and tug of war between the Pakistani judiciary and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif PMLN goons led by MNAs and MPAs attacked the Supreme Court premises while a contempt of court case against Nawaz Sharif was being heard. The attack was so severe and so physically threatening that the judges escaped at the last moment from the mob rioting and baying after their blood. Now the same party with a brother of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifs, Shahbaz Sharif in power leading the same confrontation path which seems to be leading to the same conclusion a physical cum virtual confrontation with the judiciary.

The most interesting thing was that the 1997 incident aftermath was managed by PMLN in their usual modues Operandi. Those were the heydays of using “chamak” to get desired results. Rafiq Tarar Former Chief Justice of Lahore High Court and who retired in 1994 as a Supreme Court Judge allegedly went to Quetta with a briefcase of money to persuade a parallel Supreme Court bench and who after lots of twists and turns and the specter of two Supreme Courts finally triumphed against the Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan Sajjad Ali Shah.

That resulted in some stage-managed sequences after that Sajjad Ali Shah and his supporters vanquished vanished in the sunshine and the Champion of democracy Nawaz Sharif ruled Supreme with all his glory. The “gunfight at the OK corral” left many casualties including the then president of Pakistan Farooq Laghari who had earlier betrayed PPP by stabbing them in the back by standing with PMLN to dismiss Benazir Bhutto’s government. Nawaz Sharif without any care for the optics rewarded Rafiq Tarar a comparatively insignificant figure in Pakistani politics) by backing him to replace Farooq Laghari as President within a month of the Supreme Court incident and he was elected as President of Pakistan. The general belief is that Rafiq Tarar like so many other judges later on in PMLN history was rewarded for services rendered.

In the democratic world, very few examples can be given for a Supreme Court justice becoming President of the country or Governor of a province. Despite remaining president for four years till General Pervez Musharraf removed him in 2002 Rafiq Tarar remained a totally insignificant figure in Pakistani politics further strengthening the perception that his elevation to the presidency was nothing but a payment for service given.

Read more: A peep into Pakistan’s chequered history

Fast forward to 2023, the same situation albeit in a changed Pakistan. Supreme Court is under attack. According to the report physical attack is under consideration. Reference attack under consideration. Noncompliance attack going on. Parliament attacks in progress. Character assassination attack being orchestrated. Divide and rule mode attack being perfected. We have the state ministers, state media, state spokespersons, and all state machinery being applied rigorously to clip the wings of the present Supreme Court and its Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

A real sense of “déjà vu” brings a tingle to one’s spine when we look at the characters leading the attack. Ataullah Tarar the Grandson of the beneficiary of the alleged “ Quetta briefcase saga “ and dividing of the Supreme Court episode culminating in unashamedly accepting the position of President of Pakistan.

This is proof that the apple never falls far from the tree

Ata Tarar has the pedigree for conspiracy & muddying the water. However, on the other hand at least one more person in the assembly from the Rafiq Tarar family ( Saira Afzal Tarar) fully demonstrates that loyalty to the Sharif family is well paid by PMLN and paid through generations.

Rafiq Tarar’s loyal sycophancy progressing to Ata Tarar’s total commitment to the Sharif family shows that nothing much has changed in Pakistan Muslim League (N). Why should anything change? PMLN over the years have shown that they reward loyalty to the Sharif family in every currency possible. It was well demonstrated a few years back when they installed a comatose judge as Sindh Governor for the last few days of his life ensuring that his family becomes entitled to all the perks and privileges that are due to a governor’s family after his death. How can we expect Rafiq Tarar’s grandson to have loyalty towards Pakistan when his ancestors benefitted from serving Sharif instead of Pakistan?

Read more: Pakistan’s broken system: How can we fix it?

Actually, the process has regressed personalities as Rafiq Tarar was of much gentler demeanor & behavior than Ata Tarar who is known for his offensive gestures & abusive words. Hope the next generation is loyal to the state rather than families. We can but hope.


The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.