Pakistan’s return to political normalcy is proving hard to manage for its politicians. The exit of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) ministers from the Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani cabinet has injected more uncertainty into the country’s politics.
The proximate cause of the withdrawal is the inability of PML(N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to agree on the reinstatement of 57 supreme court and high court judges, led by former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The judges were sacked by President Pervez Musharraf on 3 November last year when he proclaimed emergency in the country.
This, however, is only the surface of the problem. There is widespread, if unstated, mistrust among various actors in the drama. There’s no love lost between PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf. At the same time, there is suspicion that PPP chief Asif Zardari and the president may be too close to each other for PML(N)’s comfort.
Of the three actors, Musharraf and Zardari may have reasons not to be too happy with the return of the former chief justice. Chaudhry had declared the emergency proclamation by Musharraf illegal. The possibility that a reconstituted court may declare his re-election as president illegal cannot be ruled out. Similarly, the blanket discharge of Zardari from corruption cases against him may also be set aside. These and other matters had been under challenge in the Chaudhry court. The prospect of political losses for Musharraf and Zardari, if Chaudhry comes back, may be very real.
These are testing times for that country. A satisfactory and credible solution to the judges’ issue is a must if Pakistan’s judiciary is to regain credibility. That the supreme court under Chaudhry upset the apple cart for many is clear: It was one of those rare occasions in Pakistan’s history that judges displayed immense courage in the face of executive malevolence. Unless the judges are restored to their position, the legitimacy crisis of the present government will continue.
Musharraf and Asif Zardari, too, must realize that the world is watching them. If they put their personal interest before that of their country, political stability may continue to elude Pakistan.
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