The most common argument that I get asked day in and day out, is “Judicial issue is diverting the governments attention from the core issue of the economical crisis”, in response I have endlessly argued against the rhetoric, since I have long since believed that the economical problem though valid and very important is more of a transient issue, and a fall-out from the mis-adventures of the old administration (read Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz & Q-League).
Economic stability needs time and a genuine commitment from the leading politicians to solve, only possible with a sincere effort and the courage to look towards a better Pakistan rather then hunting for a juicy under the table wad of cash. Whilst an independent judiciary will play its due role to ensure justice is served to the people of Pakistan and the people are not forced taking matters into their own hands to exercise their own version of civil courts served mob-style on the streets.
The existence of an independent judiciary will more importantly keep our bureaucrats and politicians in check and act as a deterrent for them hopefully preventing them to make a quick buck, while the country goes to hell. Aqil Sajjad has done well in trying to explain the argument in his article which was published in the The News this Saturday
By Aqil Sajjad published in The News on Saturday May 17th
It is being said by some people that the present economic crisis is a result of the uncertainty created by the lawyers’ movement. Some people even say that the judges’ issue is diverting government’s attention from more pressing national issues. Such arguments are being given for ignoring the judges’ issue so that the economy can be put back on track. However, a closer scrutiny of the economy shows that the present economic crisis has nothing to do with the lawyers’ movement that started on March 9.
Loadshedding due to power shortage started in 2006 and any well informed person knew at that time that it was only going to get worse since the Musharraf government had made no serious attempt to address the problem. Similarly, the pressure on foreign reserves and the rupee was also very much expected due to the record trade deficit. This again had nothing to do with the lawyers’ movement. Likewise, many analysts were saying well before March 9, 2007, that the economic growth momentum was not sustainable.
In the light of the above points, it should be clear that our present economic crisis is a result of gross mismanagement by the Musharraf government and it could be anticipated. The lawyers’ movement and the related political uncertainty is definitely not an important contributing factor in this crisis.
Is the judges’ issue delaying a resolution to the economic crisis? Should civil society give up its demand for the restoration of the judiciary? Again, I believe the answer is clearly in the negative for the following reasons:
- The judges’ issue does not stop the government from working on the other issues.
- A solid institutional basis is needed to put the country on a sustainable path of progress. We keep on having these political crises because we do not have sound institutions. Ignoring the judges’ issue in the name of economy will therefore only bring temporary relief, if at all. But if the judiciary does get restored, then we might have a better institution which should help the country in the long run.
- An independent and credible judiciary is also needed to keep the excesses of the government under check. We all know how large-scale corruption and nepotism damage the economy. In the Steel Mills case alone, the government was giving away billions of rupees to the buyer by selling this national asset well below its value. The Supreme Court headed by honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry prevented this big loss to the nation by stopping its privatization. It would therefore be totally ridiculous to argue that civil society’s emphasis on the restoration of the judiciary is a hurdle in improving our economy. Those who care about eliminating corruption so that our resources can be directed towards the development of Pakistan and the well-being of the people must come out strongly on the side of the legitimate judiciary. They should not side with those who are only trying to protect their power and loot through the NRO.
If civil society backs down on this issue for any reason, it will only make self-seeking politicians feel bolder. On the other hand, if civil society wins this battle, it might allow the people of Pakistan to assert themselves more strongly on other issues too. Whether it’s food crisis, inflation, law and order, education, healthcare, or any other such issue, our leaders will feel that they can not totally ignore the wishes of the people and get away with it. For this reason, even if one is not sure whether the judges’ issue ought to be the No 1 priority, one should put one’s full weight behind it. Such a national consensus on an issue provides a rare opportunity for establishing the power of the people which might not come again in our entire life time.