Pakistan: Judicial Coup Replaces Military Coup | 2018-04-21 |

Straight Talk

Pakistan: Judicial Coup Replaces Military Coup

Abdul Mannan

    21 April, 2018 12:00 AM printer

Pakistan: Judicial Coup
Replaces Military Coup

Abdul Mannan

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, wanted a country for Muslims of the sub-continent which, according to him, will be democratic and its people will be free from the oppression and exploitation of Hindu zemindars, loan sharks and from other forms of oppression. On 14 August in 1947 a new country named Islamic Republic of Pakistan was born. In his maiden speech in the newly born Pakistan, Jinnah however announced that Pakistan will be a country of people of all faiths and religious beliefs. Unfortunately, after 71 years of its existence, the country has been ruled by military dictators for 33 years and none of its 18 elected Prime Ministers could complete their full five year terms. The country witnessed at least three coup d’états, in 1958, 1977 and 1999. However the first coup d’état was staged not by the military but by its judiciary in 1954 when the Pakistan’s Federal Court overturned a decision of the Sindh High Court which held the unilateral dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) of Pakistan by the Governor General  Ghulam Muhammad was ultra vires of the India Independence Act 1947. The decision of the Governor General to dissolve the CA was challenged in the Sindh High Court by the President (Speaker) of the Assembly Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan from Faridpur, who  succeeded Jinnah after his death in September 1948. The Sindh High Court Presided over by Justice George Constantine unanimously ruled in favour of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan which was later challenged in the Federal Court (Supreme Court) by the Government. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan had a difficult time filing his deposition before the Federal Court as the government practically put him under an undeclared house arrest while barristers were flown in from England to appear on behalf the Government. The Federal Court Presided over by Justice Mohammed Munir overturned the decision of the Sindh High Court invoking for the first time in the twentieth century the infamous ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ (an act that would otherwise be illegal becomes legal if it is done bona fide under the stress of necessity, the necessity being referable to an intention to preserve the constitution, the State or the society and to prevent it from dissolution). In Pakistan this derogatory statement has been reiterated time and again to subjugate democracy and the rule of law so that dictatorship and evil forces could survive next six decades.

That was the beginning of the end of possible democratic rule in Pakistan and it continues till today. In Pakistan all dictators forcibly seizing the state power were legalised by Pakistan’s Judiciary by using this doctrine. In Bangladesh when Zia and Ershad seized power, the Chief Justices did not hesitate to become their Presidents and legitimise the unconstitutional seizure of power by military dictators. In 1971 when the ‘Butcher of Baluchistan’ General Tikka Khan was appointed the Governor of the then East Pakistan, Chief Justice of Dhaka High Court Justice B A Siddiky refused to administer him the oath of office as the country was in political turmoil and the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sk. Mujib was in complete charge of the civilian rule of East Pakistan. Justice Siddiky did not have the courage to defy the authority and instructions of Bangabandhu. Immediately after the military crackdown on March 26, that same Justice B A Siddiky administered the oath of office to General Tikkha Khan. Later, after the assassination of Bangabandhu, Justice Siddiky was appointed the permanent representative of Bangladesh to the UN by Zia.

Jinnah the founder of a strange country called Pakistan died of lung cancer (then diagnosed as TB) without any medical care in a broken down army ambulance while he was being taken to a military hospital from the Karachi airport. Its first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated in a public meeting in Rawalpindi and years later its elected President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in a sham trial by the military orchestrated by General Zia-ul-Haq, the military ruler who in turn was assassinated by another conspiratorial move in a mysterious explosion aboard an aircraft carrying him.  Zia-ul-Haq relied on the half educated Mullahs of Pakistan to establish his power base and today the unholy nexus amongst the Judiciary, the Mullahs and the Military is working hand in hand to destroy whatever is left of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Zia is held responsible for talibanisation of Pakistan when he introduced his interpretation of ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (Rule of the Prophet Muhammad (PBuH)’ in the name of Islamisation. Zia-ul-Haq, in the name of Islamisation, amended Pakistan’s Constitution and incorporated a clause saying “a person convicted of crime of ‘moral turpitude’ and sentenced to jail for not less than two years can contest election if five years have lapsed since his release”. What constitutes a moral turpitude can be a matter of interpretation and subject of objective and impartial enquiry and since the death of Zia-ul-Huq this section of the Constitution has been used by the military for its own gain and Pakistan’s judiciary has been a willing partner in all types of mischief done by the military.

 As the Military coups have become a bit outdated, they cleverly use the Pakistan’s judiciary to unseat elected governments in Pakistan as Pakistan’s military thinks they should have the last say as to who rules the country and how it is done. Its military is the largest organised political power in Pakistan and is also considered the most corrupt military machinery in the world. In 1958 when General Ayub Khan usurped the state power and declared martial law throughout the country, West Pakistan’s Chief Justice Malik Muhammad Rustam Kayani said, ‘Pakistan’s army has really conquered its own country.’  Time and again Justice Kayani’s words have been proved to be true by the Pakistan military. Today not only it has a willing ally in the judiciary but also amongst some political parties who willingly  conspires with them to come to power on the condition they will always be subservient to the army. The latest move is the unprecedented removal of its elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from his post disqualifying him and his daughter Maryam for life from politics for the reported corruption by them revealed in the ‘Panama Papers.’  Nawaz was grooming his daughter to succeed him in politics. Pakistan’s Chief Justice Saqib Nisar found Sharif and his family guilty as charged of corruption in July 2017 and ordered his removal and on in February 2018 the Supreme Court also removed him as his party’s Chairman and finally on April 13, 2018 the disqualification verdict came from Justice Nisar and his colleagues at the Supreme Court. This is Sharif’s third removal as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and first disqualification for life. Sharif was first elected in 1990 eventually to be dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on corruption charges. Sharif successfully challenged the dismissal in the Supreme Court but was forced to step down by the army Chief Abdul Waheed Kakar in 1993. Sharif was again re-elected in 1997 but again he fell victim to the judiciary and military conspiracy and his army chief Pervez Musharraf ousted him in October of 1999 and exiled him to Saudi Arabia. Pervez Musharraf was made army chief by Sharif by prematurely removing General Waheed. Pervez Musharraf declared himself the Chief Martial Law Administrator and created a unique position for him titled Chief Executive before he forced himself into the office of the President and held on to that position till August 2008 until he was removed in a popular public uprising. Later he was also accused of plotting the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

According to Adnan Rasool, a Fellow of Georgia State University, USA ‘people (judges) sworn to defend the Constitution become a threat to democracy.’ (The Conversation. March 28, 2018). Chief Justice Nisar did not stop just slamming a life time ban on Sharif, he has also put a ban on any political speeches by Nawaz Sharif in public rallies for next six months. The court also slammed a ban on Pakistan’s media prohibiting any sort of discussion or criticism on the recent moves by the Judiciary. 

A general election is due in this July. Political analysts comment that the removal and subsequent ban on Sharif by the Supreme Court has come on the behest of the military as he was trying to resolve long standing crisis with India and Afghanistan through negotiations and peaceful means which Pakistan army does not endorse. Nawaz put priority to the development of the country rather than continuing with endemic quarrel and tension with its neighbours. Pakistan army has believed, it is an undefeatable fighting force though the three wars fought with India since 1947 have all been lost and brought shame not only to its military but to the country. Because of Pakistan’s murky history it is gradually becoming a pariah state and today it stands on the brink of disintegrating with the continuous political unrest and insurgency in Baluchistan for its separation from Pakistan. However, its political leaders openly say unfortunately Baluchistan does have a Mujib.

USA has announced that from 1 May Pakistan’s diplomats’ movement in USA will be severely restricted. It has also been globally identified as the incubator of militancy, religious intolerance and terrorism and has been branded as the most dangerous country in the world.  After the recent judicial coup it perhaps have ushered a new era of instability that could be dangerous for its neighbours notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power.

Interestingly Pakistan’s opposition leader and one time celebrated cricketer and Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI)  Imran Khan has praised the Supreme Court’s ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not realising that it is a matter of time that the axe may also fall on him. Imran Khan aka Imran Khan Niazi is the nephew of General A A K Niazi, one of the prime accused of genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 who surrendered to the Commander of Joint Forces of Mukti Bahini and Indian forces General Arora on December 16, 1971 in Dhaka. In the last general election Imran Khan struck an alliance with the Talibans during the election to win in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP). Pakistan People Party’s Chief Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of  slain Benazir Bhutto  and  popular known as `Mr. Ten Percent’ for his corrupt practices  is also happy as he also thinks the exile of Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan’s politics may become a blessing for him and increase the chances of PPP doing well in next general election. Already numbers of party leaders from Nawaz’s Muslim League (PML-N) have defected to PPP and PTI.

By any definition for 71 years Pakistan lived in a murky past looks towards an uncertain future and for these it has to blame its judiciary, the mullah’s and the military. They form an unholy alliance and are aided by the country’s short sighted political leaders and its civil-military bureaucracy for their personal gains. It the end it is the people who loses.


The writer is an analyst and a commentator