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PML-N and PPP united against the judiciary?

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Senators showed great concern over the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan to overturn an amendment made by the parliament on Thursday during a session of the upper house. Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani, in an effort to diffuse tensions between the state institutions, called for immediate dialogue to lower the political temperature. SC, on Wednesday, had overturned a clause of the Elections Act 2017 which allowed the deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to become the party head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).  

Raza Rabbani was asked by the Senators that as the chairman Senate, he should play his part in the ongoing crisis of the confrontation between the government and the judiciary. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar was one of the petitioners who had challenged the Elections Act 2017 but yesterday, he also expressed his reservations against the SC verdict. “The judgement cannot be applauded as it has the potential to increase political instability in the country,” said Babar.

A weak judiciary will work in the favour of both parties according to media analysts, so the discussion of the PPP leaders in Senate suggests that a parliamentary amendment to reduce the power of judiciary might be in the making.

PPP appears to have changed its stance on judicial reviews of amendments even though they were party to the petition filed in the SC. It is believed that PPP expects a serious backlash against them by the SC so they want to curb the SC’s authority before they can move against them. Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) declared the decision to be a bad omen for the parliament and democracy. He argued that it was the right of every party to elect their leader without interference from any state institutions.

Kakar reiterated that it was the job of the parliament to create legislation and it cannot be challenged by any courts. Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif of the MQM quoted the speech of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar in which he stated that lawyers were his soldiers and said that the CJP wants to give an impression that the lawyers would support him in case of clash with the government. He stressed the need of creating another Supreme Court comprising of impartial judges to review constitutional matters.

Read more: PPP’s guarded approach to Nawaz’s confrontation with judiciary

The second disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the SC has been considered an attack on the parliament by legislators. Government and opposition parties appear to be on the same page in believing that overturning a constitutional amendment is synonymous with undermining the supremacy of the Parliament. On the other hand, the very act of discussing the judiciary or its decision is a violation of the Article 68 of the Constitution which declares that the conduct of judges will not be discussed in the Parliament.

So the PML-N is expected to have offered a deal to the PPP to support its stance against the judiciary in return of support in the general elections. The leaders of PML-N and PPP face similar charges of corruption and the growing sphere of accountability might engulf the PPP too.

Claiming to be the authors of the constitution and violating it themselves inside the parliament has been condemned by legal experts and civil society activists. They believe that laws should not be made for personal and short term gains but for the long term betterment of the country. The three pillars of the state: executive, legislative and judiciary, should work in harmony for fostering democracy in the country.

Constitution has placed checks on the powers of all three pillars of the state. According to law experts, there is no such thing as absolute power in a democracy as claimed by many parliamentarians of Pakistan. The parliament, while supreme, cannot enact any law that violates the fundamental human rights of the citizens or contradict any existing laws. A clause of the Elections Act 2017 was a violation of Article 63A of the constitution, that’s why it was uprooted by the judiciary.

Read more: Does the constitution allow the judiciary to review amendments?

Political experts also express the need for dialogue to explicitly define the boundary of state institutions so that no confusion remains among the public and the officials. Growing ties can be seen between the PML-N and the PPP. The first hint of a new relationship between the two was observed during PAT’s public rally in Lahore against the Model Town Massacre. PPP had condemned the language used by the fellow participants of PTI and AML against the PML-N.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) declared the decision to be a bad omen for the parliament and democracy. He argued that it was the right of every party to elect their leader without interference from any state institutions.

A clandestine alliance between the PPP and the PML-N is expected to be underway as the PPP has become confined to the Sindh province with little or no chances of winning any seats in Punjab, the hub of PML-N. Similarly, PML-N has little chances of winning any seats in Sindh. Due to the difference of their domains, they cannot be considered political rivals; PML-N knows that PTI is its real political competitor in the upcoming 2018 elections.

Read more: PM Abbasi attacks judiciary and seeks parliament supremacy

So the PML-N is expected to have offered a deal to the PPP to support its stance against the judiciary in return of support in the general elections. The leaders of PML-N and PPP face similar charges of corruption and the growing sphere of accountability might engulf the PPP too. A weak judiciary will work in the favour of both parties according to media analysts, so the discussion of the PPP leaders in Senate suggests that a parliamentary amendment to reduce the power of judiciary might be in the making.


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