Supreme Court legitimising future rule of Bilawals, Hamzas

Published: October 22, 2010

The Supreme Court's decision failed to address all issues put forward by petitioners.

For the last year and a half, the government and judiciary seem to be involved in a very exclusive ball game. From the NRO to the judges’ notification case, the government has remained the Supreme Court’s main concern. Members of the PPP have been reported for the infamous $60million, threatened with Article 6 and a few have been called to court.

In retaliation, the government has reminded the judiciary of its limits, accused it of victimising a single party and even tested the waters by reminding the judges of the ‘reality’ of the executive order.

As the tug of war between the country’s two strongest institutions continues, the public waits in the sidelines for justice. Yet, every new decision is deemed “historic” and a whole lot of noise is made over the possible consequences.

Today, yet another one of these historic decisions has been pronounced.

Thinking about the judiciary

Article 175-A has been referred back to the parliament for reconsideration. According to the verdict, the article poses a threat to the independence of the judiciary. Legal experts, politicians and media moguls applauded the SC’s decision to refer the matter to the parliament instead of declaring it void by itself. But so far, nobody has bothered to mention the fact that this decision deals only with the one matter that affected the courts directly.

While the new process of appointing judges remained the most controversial amendment made, it was by far not the only amendment challenged in court.

An amendment to Article 63-A of the constitution handed over disqualification powers to party heads, whether or not they are elected members of the parliament. While this fact in itself might not be so dangerous, the sub clause 4 of Article 17 of the constitution has also been shelved through yet another amendment, removing the need for mandatory intra-party elections.

This amendment is akin to nailing up the coffin of democratically constituted political parties in the country.

Amending power to the people

Combined, both these amendments ensure that the Bilawals, Hamzas & Monis’ of the future remain the lawful and constitutional heads of the PPP, PML-N and PML-Q for decades to come. Not only that, the spawn of today’s leaders will enjoy the power to get any parliamentarian of their own party disqualified, if they refuse to toe the line and dare to take up a position on their own.

In our country, where democracy is overshadowed by blind hero worship, doing away with the necessity of holding intra-party elections is equal to giving constitutional cover to dictatorial leadership within the parties.

The current “democratic” government is already a puppet in the hands of the president (who also enjoys the position of co-chairman of the PPP). After a couple of years, the strings will probably be given to Bilawal Bhutto, who doesn’t have any political expertise to speak of.  The PML-N, similarly, is being run as the family enterprise of the Sharif brothers and with the new and improved constitution, any hope for new political leadership has faded.

The right decision – but for who?

The Supreme Court has heard arguments against both these amendments, alongside the judicial appointment process. But the initial decision revolves around the one matter that concerns the judiciary directly.

It is possible that the lawyers arguing against the said amendments failed to make a strong case, but failing to utter a single word against a constitutional change which gives legal cover to hereditary rulers of political parties raises concerns that the judiciary might be viewing the 18th amendment in a very self-centered way.


Sadaf Khan

A broadcast journalist based in Islamabad who was formerly associated with Geo News and Dunya News. She blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    And the winner is?Recommend

  • Ahsan Mansoor

    Sadaf bibi, hold your horses. The case is adjourned till January 2011. Most probably those clauses will also be referred back to Parliament but its ok if Judiciary wants to settle the issue related to its own institution first and later come back to other clauses. For now those clauses are not the most pertinent issues facing this country, atleast not till January 2011 I am hoping.Recommend

  • Mubasher

    Please hold on. Supreme court is in the process of clearing itself from political influence. Once this goal will be achieved, ultimately, courts will be able to deliver justice. INSHALLAH. Please spread the good news, as we are directed by the ALMIGHTY ALLAH. Recommend

  • Hasan

    It would appear that many SC cases are adjourned in Pakistan with few ever being decided.Recommend

  • Syed

    Of course SC has accepted and allowed dictatorship (which is not limited to military only) by giving unlimited powers to the non elected heads (dictators) of these political parties to keep safeguarding their dynasties and thus SC remained part of the problem and not part of the solution. There is already a big question mark on them for not opening up corruption cases against sharif brothers, the famous 15 years old Air Marshal Asghar’s Khan Petition, and decision on Punjab Govt case which is being run on ad hoc basis for the last one year !!!!!!!!!!!!! Recommend

  • Salman Naqvi

    I agree with the analyst. There are other issues with the 18th amendment that affect the nature of Pakistani democracy but these clauses were never challenged (unless I am unaware of those cases). The tug of war between parliament and judiciary was probably a much needed exercise in our state system and the verdict seems to prove that saner options can be exercised by the power brokers.

    Having said that, the issue of parliamentary control by non-elected parliamentarians and the absence of intra-party elections are the most shameful aspects of the 18th amendment. These alienate the 180 million people of Pakistan; and its 80+ million voters. If our choices are to be limited within party based democracy the control of our lives will be shifted from the 23 families of the 60s and 70s to the 5 of the 2010s. Recommend

  • Ishaq Narejo

    what cj wanted, got from his brother judges, other things does not matter to cj.Recommend

  • Hasan

    *”ISLAMABAD – Chairman People’s Lawyers Forum, Senator Sardar Latif Khosa, has said that the judiciary in its judgment has accepted sovereignty of the Parliament.
    Talking to at the Supreme Court building on Thursday, he said that the court could not direct the Legislature, adding the Parliament was asked to make amendment in the Article 175-A.
    He rejected the impression that the court had directed the legislature to reconsider the new procedure regarding the appointment of judges.

    According to Khosa, the Parliament is under no obligation to make any of the changes as proposed by the SC on Thursday.

    And the nonsense goes on and on….!!!Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Quite an alarming situation but the panic mode does not need to get panicky for now. The case is partially resolved. It would be revisited in January ’11.Recommend

  • samina

    i think they are all in leaque with each otherRecommend

  • Patriot

    For those friends of ours suggesting us to wait…thats all we have been doing since the restoration of judiciary…name one genuine long term relief this judiciary has provided to us in the last year and a half?? i remember aitezaz ahsan promising “ab doodh kee naddiyaan bahain gee” and our woodwards Kamran Khan cliaming “ab maeeshat ka payyaa chalay gaa, stock market boom karay gee”…aisa toa kuch naheen huaa…things are just getting from bad to worse…looks like this whole lawyer’s movement was one big conspiracy to derail pakistan and see how successfully it has done the task. Recommend

  • Basil Nabi Malik

    Premature discussion. The SC only issued an interim order on one aspect of the case, with the rest to be dealt with in the full judgment to be given later. And frankly, the court has already hinted at these questions being of a ‘purely political nature’ in the order itself, thereby invoking the doctrine of political question whereby the judiciary refuses to decide political issues such as the name of KP.

    And as far as intra party elections are concerned, i just dont get all of this hue and cry. Party elections were made a part of the constitution as well as statutes in Pakistan. Even if taken out of the constitution, the statute still exists today. Therefore, you STILL need elections in parties. And as far as as disqualifying members of parliaments by heads, its a good step. It was initially created to halt horse trading, and was quite effective in doing so. And in a parliamentary democracy, party lines are toed as it is, not individual lines (as you have been voted in the parliament on a party ticket, not independently).Recommend

  • faraz

    After the 2007 restoration of chief justice through the lawyer’s movement, the political parties filed a peitition in the Supreme court to declare Musharraf unfit for re-election in uniform. Chief justice Iftikhar formed a 9 member bench which had 6 notoriously pro Musharraf judges. Fakharuddin G Ibrahim appealed the chief justice to form a full-bench in this historical case, but the appeal were rejected. Quire predictably, the 9 member bench allowed Musharraf to get reelected in uniform! We should seriously reconsider our views regarding the “judicial revolution”Recommend

  • Meherzaidi

    Only justice given to common man, his dignity restored can be way to any free judiciary or parliament otherwise there will be God’s justice soon.Recommend

  • Sarfraz Hussain Naqvi

    SC would do a great job if it can interpret the constitution to mean that Democracy is a Government of the PEOPLE for the PEOPLE and finally by the PEOPLE. Currently it is a Government of the servants of the voters for their near and dear ones where voters get the left over crumb. Recommend