May 26, 2018

Slow on the uptake

Editorial by Pakistan Today

Both politicians and the establishment

Reacting to  reports that some of the pro-PML-N microbloggers had been arrested under cyber-crime laws, Nawaz Sharif has criticized the action as according to him this amounted to   suppression of the opponents’ views which is against the freedom of expression granted under the constitution. Those arrested were presumably  supporting a  political discourse popularized by Nawaz Sharif himself among PML-N workers  after the Panama case verdict. During the march from Islamabad to Lahore and later the former Prime Minister made insinuations suggesting that his disqualification was in fact the outcome of an underhand compact between the army and  judiciary.

Parties in power often  pass double-edged laws because they want to use them against political  opponents forgetting that these could  turn into their own nemesis in a changed political scenario.  The Cyber Crime Law under which two of the PML-N bloggers  were booked was  passed  last year when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister.  In fact the first batch of bloggers to  be  arrested   belonged to the PTI, leading Imran Khan to accuse federal government of abusing the  law. Now when the law pinches the  PML-N,  Nawaz Sharif calls it foul play.

The judiciary and army are highly respectable institutions. This explains why in  democracies the two are rarely subjected to criticism. There is a need to realize  why the two are a frequent target of criticism  in Pakistan. The past history of judiciary is unfortunately less than glorious. It  has often lent itself to be treated as a handmaiden  by  military rulers and powerful civilian leaders to pass  judgments that  have left a  blot on its reputation. Under former CJ Ifthikhar Chaudhry the judiciary once again entered the political minefield.   The army has a history of  overthrowing elected governments. Even  now it takes decisions related to security and foreign affairs that come under the purview of the elected government.  Positive changes have taken place overtime but much more needs to be done by the two to be seen as purely professional institutions fully focused on their constitutional role and not transgressing  into  other institutions’ turf.

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