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Editorial | Judiciary’s Refusal To Take Up The Burden Of Govt’s Choices Was Inevitable

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The chief failing of the ruling party that has led Pakistan into Naya Pakistan is its utter inability to take responsibility for its own words and actions. This may have been an unpleasant but excusable fault while it was in opposition. It is likely to prove to be the party’s undoing in government.

Nothing exemplifies this failing more than the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s expectation that the superior judiciary take up the burden of the ruling party’s policy choices. And as was inevitable, Chief Justice Khosa responded that the government must own up to its own actions.

The government has pursued what it considers accountability against political leaders who are both immensely popular and central to the opposition. Having reached the limits of what it could subject these political leaders to, the government found itself compelled by circumstances to let former PM Nawaz Sharif go abroad for treatment. These circumstances are all of the ruling party’s own choosing. Moreover, if letting the former PM go for treatment is unpalatable to the PTI’s core constituency, that is again a product of the party’s own politics. It would be pertinent to recall here PM Imran Khan’s repeated insistence that he would not grant an “NRO” to his opponents. In retrospect it would appear unwise to have nurtured such expectations among his supporters.

Rather than simply confess to a U-turn which dwarfs all previous ones, the government took an even more disastrous approach. It began to raise questions on the judicial process by which Nawaz Sharif sought relief on medical grounds. “Are poor prisoners in prison allowed the same leniency as these rich politicians?” asked leading PTI figures repeatedly – with a naivete that is more appropriate for helpless bystanders than ministers.

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The culmination of this sorry episode has been PM Imran Khan himself asking the judiciary to weigh in on the matter and clear up a “perception” which was largely the creation of his own political machine.

Unfortunately, in pursuit of its political goals, the PTI has forcibly roped in and made controversial almost every segment of Pakistani state and society. Clearly, the super judiciary does not appreciate being treated in the same way.

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