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June 1, 2019

Emerging crisis for IK


June 1, 2019

Former president Pervez Musharraf could have stayed much longer in power if in March 2007 he had not forced the then Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to resign. He was shocked when the ex-CJ said ‘no’.

Are we going to see a similar kind of political-cum-judicial crisis for Prime Minister Imran Khan after Eidul Fitr or this time some better sense would prevail within the government to avert it?

One thing is certain that the political temperature will go high in summer as no one from either side is ready to cool it down but the emerging judicial crisis could get serious if not handled properly and with political maturity.

The government which has already confronted with serious economic and political crises cannot afford yet another crisis after NAB chairman’s controversy. So whosoever is behind the opening of ‘judicial front’ is not a friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

President Arif Alvi who has been trying to make himself relevant with back-to-back events at the presidency created sensation when he sent references against Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who enjoys good reputation and strong enough to show dissent. The other is from Sindh High Court Justice KK Agha.

Opposition parties have geared up for post-Eid movement and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has convened an All Parties Conference in the second week of June, which has now coincided with the first hearing of the SJC.

The PPP which has tested the government in the first round in Islamabad when police used force to disperse party workers through baton charge and tear gas already decided to go all out with Maulana.

The PML-N’s high command too have now directed its cadre to go head on with the government, both inside and outside the Parliament and stand with the lawyers in the case of three judges, who will be facing references.

Under the present circumstances it will not be easy for a technocrat like Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to present the national budget on June 10 despite his experience under the previous PPP government. There could be pandemonium in the National Assembly on that day, Opposition sources said.

One fails to understand why government has chosen this time to move references when the country is passing through serious economic crisis and rising price hike already raising questions about its one after another finance team.

Sources said PM Imran Khan and Interior Minister Ijaz Shah’s silence over the PTM issue and attack on army’s check post did not go well within the Establishment.

It was only after 48 hours of the attack that PM’s special assistant on information and broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan was asked to give her reaction on the incident. Earlier, the vocal minister Murad Saeed was the only one who spoke on the issue and that too without any policy guideline.

Therefore, one fails to understand that under the present crisis who actually was interested in such a judicial reference and that too against the Judge, who is known for his repute and integrity. Opposition parties believe the move was politically motivated to bring judiciary under pressure and get rid of Justice Isa in particular.

Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association have reportedly showed their solidarity with the judges including Justice Qazi Isa of the Supreme Court and its appears that we may see lot of happenings before the first hearing of the Supreme Judicial Council on June 14 for which notices have already been issued to the Attorney General, who will appear as the public prosecutor.

One has to wait and see what exact charges would be levelled against them but legal and political circles believe that some people within the government and certain quarters are not happy with some bold decisions of Justice Isa, who if survives the present crisis would be the chief justice of Pakistan, in the next few years.

The move has already been criticised by the legal and political circles and the government faced embarrassment when the Additional Attorney General Zahid F. Ebrahim son of former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim resigned under protest and thus created history. Never before, father and son had resigned on certain principles. FG Ebrahim was among the judges who did not take oath under Gen Zia’s PCO. He had even resigned as attorney general during Benazir Bhutto’s government as well.

Zahid Ebrahim in his resignation clearly stated that the reference has nothing to do with any accountability but to tarnish the reputation of independent judiciary and judges.

Sources said the government has moved the reference against the three judges at a time when it was already facing criticism for the alleged ‘video leak’ of NAB Chairman Justice Javed Iqbal (retd) through a private TV channel, owned by the person who was serving as a special assistant at the PM House and part of its ‘media team’.

It is still premature to say the actual motive behind the ‘audio and video’ leak allegedly of NAB chairman with a woman, but apparently it could be an answer or warning to him for his reported ‘on the record and off the record’ talk with country’s leading columnist Javed Chaudhry.

As situation stands today, NAB had denied the interview while the columnist stand by his column and was ready to face the consequences.

Some believed that ‘media had been used’ in the controversy. The chairman leaked the information and the journalist picked it as his ‘scoop’. In a counter attack too the ‘video’ allegedly reached the channel and was aired.

Political observers believe that it will be quite a challenge for the government in particular whether they will try to ease the tension or go ahead without giving any space to the Opposition and would go all out against former president Asif Ali Zardari and former premier Nawaz Sharif and their team and will not take any U-turn this time.

Former president Pervez Musharraf badly misread the situation in 2007. One wonders whether ‘Kaptaan’ has read the wicket well before taking the risk of opening new fronts.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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