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SC dismisses contempt petition against Sharif: mercy or caution ?

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News Analysis |

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has dismissed yet another contempt of court petition against the former premier Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, one day after dismissing another petition against Nawaz and his brother Shehbaz Sharif. The petition was filed by Sheikh Ahsanuddin who argued that Nawaz committed contempt of court in his GT rally immediately after the 28th July 2017 SC verdict which disqualified him as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Read more: Daniyal Aziz “scandalizing the court”

The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar stated that, “Commenting cleanly on a [court] decision is the right of every citizen.” He remarked that the accused may have crossed the lines on some other occasions but not during the GT road rally. Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that courts should practice forgiveness and their capacity of forgiveness is higher than that of the petitioner. They also dismissed a contempt petition against PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique.

Interestingly, the arguments presented by the apex court while dismissing contempt petitions on Tuesday were much different than the ones presented today. The CJP had stated that the court will hear petitions against Nawaz Sharif at an appropriate time. He did not talk about forgiveness or the right of every citizen to criticize the decisions of the court in a respectful manner. The court also dismissed contempt petitions against former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, PTI leader Firdous Ashiq Awan, former Senate chairman Nayyar Bukhari and Captain (retd) Safdar.

Sharif has been accusing the court of playing favorites.

A number of political leaders have accused the SC of discriminatory behavior. The most prominent among them is the former PML-N head Nawaz Sharif himself. He has started a tirade against the judiciary ever since his disqualification and accused them of disqualifying him over not receiving salary from his son. Sharif has also been accusing the court of playing favorites for not punishing his political rivals and army officials over alleged corruption.

Caution of the Supreme Court

Legal experts and media commentators believe that the decision of the SC to not take up contempt petitions against Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, the leaders of the anti-judiciary campaign, exhibits abundant caution by the apex court. It is believe that the court is not in the mood of moving against the Sharif family since they do not want to provide any more dirt to them to throw against the courts.

If the court moves against the Sharif family now, they will become political martyrs and it will add strength and vigor to their anti-judiciary rhetoric. Nawaz Sharif has been playing the victim card ever since his disqualification and shifting the focus from the actual issues faced by him. The three graft cases against NAB over offshore companies have not been mentioned even once by either Nawaz or Maryam during the public gatherings while rallying support for their cause.

Read more: SC questions the delay in appointment of accountability court judge

The Sharif father and daughter duo have been spinning around Nawaz’s disqualification and distracting the public from corruption scandals against him. On the other hand, the SC is targeting the secondary leadership of PML-N. The most known examples are that of Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry and Nehal Hashmi. SC has rejected explanations by the first two and decided to indict them on contempt charges. Hashmi will be indicted for a second time after uttering profanities against the judiciary immediately after his release from jail, ironically, in a contempt case.

Possible future issues for the Supreme Court

The selective delivery of justice by the SC in contempt cases has greatly narrowed down the definition of contempt of court. They are identifying contempt on the basis of specific language and exact words rather than connotations or innuendos, completely ignoring the overall rapport of the speech. Many media observers and political analysts believe that Nawaz and Maryam have clearly committed contempt on the standards under which Daniyal and Talal have been summoned.

Read more: Original SC order of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification

The new narrow definition of contempt will create hurdles for all future cases under the High Courts and the SC itself. Judges will not be able to respond appropriately to personal attacks because of the precedent set by the current SC judges. This move by the SC has also been considered as a political move which the public servants are sworn to stay away from.

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