Marred by a long history of compliance towards the military, Pakistan’s judiciary has found itself in an inescapable quagmire that exposes an unholy alliance with non-democratic forces.
The reaction to Saqib Nisar’s leaked audio reveals more than the audio itself. The former top judge has denied the authenticity of the tape but has not yet decided to go to court against Fact Focus or even his former colleague, Judge Rana Shamim, who made a similar allegation. Neither did the court find it appropriate to summon the former Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Unsurprisingly, PTI ministers and advisors immediately shared a doctored audio clip of Mian Nawaz Sharif in which he calls himself a thief in response to the forensically verified audio of Saqib Nisar.
Giving a new definition to the Post Truth Era, political touts with dubious loyalties rise to defend the former Chief Justice of Pakistan as if he is a leading PTI office-bearer with innumerable services for the party.
And regardless of meek denials of interference by the incumbent Chief Justice, pertinent questions regarding the recent role of the judiciary have spread like wildfire across Pakistan and beyond.
Words of politicians and even journalists may be appropriately discounted as rhetoric, however, when serving judges, especially the top judge in the land makes a claim, one is forced to take it seriously.
But words are still merely words, and when not substantiated with action, they become as meaningless as claims of 10 million jobs, 5 million houses or building a dam to change the legacy of Pakistan.
Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad may be completely justified in taking pride over his Supreme Court and the hard work they do by putting in extra hours but the fact remains that the people of Pakistan have doubts over the integrity of the same court which faces accusations of the most unbridled nature.
What are the implications for the judiciary if it is actually true that the top judge of the land colluded with undemocratic forces to unfairly punish a serving Prime Minister?
What if the judge was also involved in a conspiracy to facilitate another politician to come in to power?
What if the judge himself says that there will be no independence of the judiciary but “so be it”?
Isn’t this something that shakes the very foundation of justice in the land we are adamant on calling pure?
Doesn’t Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed realise the impact on the reputation of the institution he leads by such magnanimous allegations?
Or is there only “selective action” in such cases? Has Pakistan’s judiciary decided to continue with its shameful history of compliance towards those who consider the constitution merely a piece of paper?
If this is so, why is there a need for an independent judiciary in Pakistan? Judges should openly state that they are subservient not to the law but to certain powers and make it clear to everyone about what kind of a nation we are.
Does the judiciary’s utility lie in serving the role of a mirage in an allegedly “democratic” country where judges are free?
Such facades may serve some, but not all who expect the judiciary to fulfil its role according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, despite it being just a “piece of paper”.
Perhaps it is time to throw such a piece of paper in the dustbin and stop pretending that as a nation, we have anything to do with democracy or a neutral political process.
Pretence leads to discord so let us for once be honest, if not with the people then at least with ourselves and understand that Pakistan has never been a democracy and has always, directly or indirectly been ruled by the military.
Why has the truth become contemptuous as if we are allergic to basic facts but find solace in a manufactured reality where all is well except that it is not?
Wherever we go on from here, the judiciary of Pakistan has suffered an irrecoverable loss to its reputation.
In any legal case involving powerful actors, the people of Pakistan will remember the alleged words of a former Chief Justice casually explaining how “decisions are dictated in Pakistan”, a country with a judiciary in tatters.