Op-ed article published in Dawn, 6th December 2007 by Muneer A Malik, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association who is currently hospitalised following renal failure during his detention in Attock jail
It was heartening to see Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif finally sitting together. The formation of a joint ARD-APDM committee is a positive step. The committee is to agree on a minimum charter of demands that must be fulfilled before the opposition parties participate in the elections.
Naturally, the primary agenda of the opposition parties is to ensure an atmosphere where free and fair elections are possible. But such elections are impossible without the restoration of the superior judiciary to the status quo prevailing on Nov 2. There can be no transition to democracy without an independent judiciary.
Consider this. The Election Commission of Pakistan (EC) is responsible for the overall organisation and conduct of elections. It comprises a retired Supreme Court and one serving High Court judge from each province. The actual nomination and polling process is supervised by District Returning Officers (DROs), Returning Officers (ROs) and Assistant Returning Officers (AROs). Serving district judges, additional district judges and civil judges perform the duties of the DROs, ROs and AROs respectively. The Chief Justices of the provincial High Courts have administrative control over the subordinate judiciary. They control their appointments, transfers and promotions.
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