Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been deposed, this time not by the military but the judiciary. Ironically in Pakistan’s last seventy years’ history no Prime Minister has completed his full term.
The voters may elect their Prime Minster but their right to his or her removal is left either to assassins or judiciary or the military with the help of the bureaucracy. Since the birth of Pakistan in 1947 the most powerful and organised political party of that country is perceived to be the combination of all these villains. In last seventy years Pakistan’s constitutional freedom has been suppressed and coups, corruption and cronyism have prospered. The demise of democracy in Pakistan is directly attributable to its judiciary. When the rot began in the early fifties, one person Maulavi Tamizuddin Khan, a Bengali from Faridpur (now Rajbari) who was the second President (now Speaker) of the Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly after the sudden demise of the first President and Governor Mohammad Ali Jinnah tried to save Pakistan’s democracy in a desperate attempt when the Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly in 1954 as per the desire of the Pakistan army. The Constituent Assembly was in the process of framing Pakistan’s first constitution and once constituted it was expected that the country will come out of the dominion status, become a Republic and the civil supremacy will prevail over the governance of the country. Pakistan’s ever ambitious military thought otherwise and was unwilling to relinquish its power over the state machinery and forced Ghulam Muhammad to dissolve the assembly without any reason. Earlier, he dismissed the Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin who enjoyed the confidence of the Constituent Assembly. With the dismissal of the Prime Minister and dissolution of the Constituent Assembly the politics of conspiracy and intrigue in Pakistan began to take root in the country’s politics which now has taken the centre stage and there is no sign of it being leaving the stage. By all analysis such developments can just expedite the country’s journey towards its ‘collapsed state’ status destination. It is already considered a failed state.
Maulavi Tamizuddin Khan was a perfect gentleman, who studied in Calcutta’s Surendranath College, Presidency College and University of Calcutta. He began practicing law in Faridpur and later became involved in politics, first with Indian National Congress and later with the Muslim League. When Ghulam Mohammad dissolved the Constituent Assembly Maulavi Tamizuddin Khan challenged the unilateral decision of the Governor General in Sindh High Court and the court ruled the dissolution to be ultra vires. The Federal Government appealed in the country’s Federal Court and in 1955 the court ruled in favour of the government, invoking the maxim of ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ meaning ‘extra legal actions taken by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are found to be constitutional’. The court comprised of five members where Justice Muhammad Munir presided. Justice Munir was the first judge to use this doctrine in modern times to justify the conspiratorial acts of Ghulam Muhammad. Only justice to disagree with the decision was the junior most judge of the bench, Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius, who later on became the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The verdict was considered an irrevocable blow to the democratic norms of the country. Before the case was heard by the Apex court every possible attempts were made to stop Maulavi Tamizuddin Khan from filing his deposition before court to counter the arguments filed in the Federal Court by the Federal Government. The Federal Government hired the best possible lawyers from England to appear on behalf of the government. The court did not stop just by declaring the acts of the Governor General to be valid but also declared the supremacy of the Governor General over the Constituent Assembly. The saner segment of Pakistan’s population still holds Maulavi Tamizuddin Khan in high esteem and one of the major highways of Karachi is named after him.
The legacy of conspiracy and intrigue that Ghulam Muhammad created in the early years of Pakistan continues till today. Before Ghulam Muhammad moved against the Constituent Assembly, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951 while he was addressing a public meeting in Rawalpindi. Just before Pakistan was poised for going into a general election under a newly drafted constitution in 1956 General Iskander Mirza, the first President of Pakistan abrogated the constitution at the behest of General Ayub Khan, the Army Chief of Pakistan and martial law was declared on October 7, 1958. Mirza was booted out by Ayub Khan on October 27 who ruled as the first military dictator of Pakistan till 1969 when he was overthrown by a popular upsurge spearheaded by the students of East Bengal. Before leaving office Ayub Khan handed over the power to General Yahia Khan, the Army Chief. Ayub Khan died in silence while Yahia Khan had to abdicate office to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto after the fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. Bhutto was overthrown by General Ziaul Hoque in 1977, arrested and hanged, charging him for murdering one of political colleague. Ziaul Hoque died in a mysterious plane crash. Zia was a blue eyed boy of United States and was the key figure in creating the Taliban with the help of US finance and advice. He was also very close to CIA. When Bhutto was deposed his widow Nusrat Bhutto filed a suit against Zia in the Apex Court challenging the validity of the 1977 coup and deposing of Bhutto. Again the ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ came to Zia’s rescue. Zia is also credited for sponsoring ‘jihadi’ jingoism in Pakistan and in the name of Islamisation dismantled everything that resembled civilisation. From the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan to the removal of Nawaz Sharif recently by the Supreme Court of Pakistan seventeen Prime Ministers had to leave office prematurely either due to assassination or judicial or military coup.
The case of Nawaz Sharif being removed from office by the Apex Court of the country is an example of continuation of the legacy created by Justice Munir in 1955. Nawaz and his family members were accused of corruption as their names appeared in the Panama Papers, accusing them of money laundering through offshore companies. Imran Khan, one time celebrated cricket captain of Pakistan, now leader of Tehreek-e-Insaf Party which rules Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and leads his party as an opposition party in Punjab and Sindh raised alarm against Nawaz Sharif’s corruption as leaked in the Panama Papers and demanded his resignation. Imran is alleged to have strong ties with the Pakistan’s military. He is the nephew of General Aamir Abdullah Khan Niazi who surrendered to the Commander of Joint Forces on December 16, 1971 in Dhaka. Imran Khan managed to kick lots of dust across Pakistan, especially in Punjab and compelled Pakistan’s Supreme Court to initiate an investigation against Nawaz Sharif and his family’s corruption. The court appointed a Joint Investigation Team (J.I.T) bypassing Nawaz Sharif government and as expected the J.I.T found the allegation of corruption against the deposed Prime Minister to be true which was not unexpected. Nawaz Sharif’s party Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was expected to win the next election scheduled to be held after one year. To add to this Nawaz was doing his best to mend fences with India which the Pakistan Army does not endorse.
Historically Pakistan army would like to keep the animosity between Pakistan and India alive as that serves their monetary and political purpose. First time Nawaz was booted out by General Pervez Musharraf as Nawaz would not approve the Kargil war and removed Musharraf for starting one. Ironically it was Nawaz who was shown the door and Musharraf became the self appointed President of Pakistan. Incidentally Nawaz himself has been deposed thrice.
A judicial coup is in the making was perceived even before Nawaz was removed. Madav Nalpat writing for the Sunday Guardian on 6 November 2016 wrote ‘analysts in key countries who engaged in tracking developments in Pakistan warn the GHQ Rawalpindi has initiated plan to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the middle of 2017. Instead of a Musharraf-style military coup, this time around the planning is for the Pakistan Supreme court to perform the (not very difficult) task of finding Nawaz Sharif guilty of corruption and initiating his prosecution. The grounds given will be the Panama Papers revelations, along with fresh evidence against the Pakistan Prime Minister that has been gathered by GHQ Rawalpindi, including undeclared assets in the United States and Canada. …The Pakistan Prime Minster is known to be against giving an extension to the Present Chief of Army Staff (General Raheel Sharif). …(if the extension is not given) (it) would involve a fresh election in Pakistan, where General Raheel Sharif would take over as the leader of a coalition of parties that would act as the “Third Front” separate from both the PML (Nawaz) and the Zardari-run PPP. The expectation is that the popularity of the present army chief would be sufficient to ensure that this coalition gets a majority in Parliament; especially there would be a division of votes between PPP and PML (N).
According to the analysts …GHQ Rawalpindi “has dossiers on every top leader of both the main parties”, and “these would be leaked during the campaign” to contrast them with Raheel Sharif.” Nalapat also writes “…Imran Khan’s latest agitation was scripted by GHQ to ensure that Pakistan Supreme Court took up the matter of Nawaz Sharif’s corruption, thus setting into motion the chain of events expected to end his downfall.” According to Nalapat the analysts in key countries “claim that Imran Khan has reached an understanding with the military to accept the leadership of Raheel Sharif in future coalition government, in which he would be the Foreign Minster.” If the predictions are true, and from the previous political legacy of Pakistan it is expected that much of it will be true, then Pakistan is back to square one and will find it difficult to get out of the shadows of the legacy left by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, Justice Munir and his cronies. Democracy in Pakistan will remain a far cry unless the evil axis of judiciary-military and bureaucracy is broken.
The writer is an analyst and a commentator