After Justice Isa’s Victory, Imran Khan’s Anti-Corruption Narrative Has Come Crashing Down
The Qazi Faez Isa review judgment is a watershed moment in Pakistan’s judicial history. Consider: A larger bench of the Supreme Court first delivered a judgment in which it threw the matter of Justice Isa’s assets to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), even after it had struck down the presidential reference which had started the whole fiasco. That was the majority judgment. Minority judgment had struck down the reference and had quashed all proceedings against Justice Isa.
Justice Isa and his wife filed reviews against the majority judgment and the same bench reversed its earlier judgment (6-4) and has withdrawn all directions vis a vis FBR inquiries against Justice Isa’s wife. Generally the courts look at only points of law in review petitions but the Supreme Court decided — as is manifestly in its power to do so — to undertake a broader examination of the facts. This is unprecedented, historic not just in terms of independence of judiciary but the context in which the entire presidential reference unfolded.
The sham presidential reference was motivated by the fact that the government wanted revenge for Justice Isa’s Faizabad dharna verdict. That judgment was historic as it did not just name the ruling party as complicit in the Faizabad protests but had also spoken about the influence of shadowy agencies in enabling the protests. We had all seen that happen with a certain general distributing money and stating “Kya hum aap ke saath nahin hain?” (Aren’t we with you?). All religious turmoil in Pakistan is always political leverage. Justice Isa had the courage to call it out. Now he stands vindicated with this review judgment.
Directions in the original judgment were withdrawn as they should’ve been and it may rightly be seen as a triumph of constitutionalism and sheer decency over those in this country who have made the very idea of constitutionalism a sham in Pakistan. These highly indecent forces have had to take a step backwards and this means that almost every injustice in Pakistan can ultimately be reviewed and set right by the apex court. It has given our Supreme Court the opportunity to stand as the guardian of all fundamental rights and liberties granted in our constitution. It is now up to legal practitioners and jurists to further build on this triumph of constitutional law.
The detailed judgment is not out yet, but there are further consequences to be considered. The original majority judgment had not mentioned mala fides in fact on part of the President, the Law Minister and much tainted Shahzad Akbar with his spurious Asset Recovery Unit. When the original judgment came out, Akbar was seen on TV claiming that since the judgment had not mentioned mala fides of fact in the judgment, he was home free. We have seen over the years that all major scandals from Broadsheet expose to Bashir Memon’s revelations etc Shahzad Akbar is the central figure. He thinks of himself as the ‘accountability czar’, but his efforts are always tainted by self promotion and self interest. Picked up by Imran Khan, who milked the drone issue for political popularity, because of his anti-drone petitions, Shahzad Akbar has been the front man for every bloated inquiry against Imran Khan’s political rivals. It is now time for a comeuppance.
If the detailed judgment says that there was mala fides in fact and law, all three characters of this drama will face legal action. The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will fall foul of Article 62 of the Constitution. The PTI should begin looking for a new candidate for the office. Farigh Naseem, the Law Minister, is also likely to meet the same fate. The worst still will be the fate that awaits Shahzad Akbar, the Accountability Czar. He will now stand accountable for his excesses in office. His mala fides in the Presidential Reference, the allegations against him by Bashir Memon, and his role in the Broadsheet saga might just land him in jail as it rightly should.
Finally Pakistan stands on the threshold of victory. Today we have a Supreme Court Justice who refused to bow down. We have a Supreme Court willing to stand up for a brother judge by handing down a verdict based on justice and fair play. We have a former DG FIA who has spoken out and exposed this damnable government.
Of course there are nay sayers. Aitzaz Ahsan, husk of the person he was, who now claims that this verdict would leave judges unaccountable. Maybe loyalty to Zaman Park is greater than loyalty to the country. Perhaps he has forgotten his own role as the advocate for the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Did that not leave Judges unaccountable? No Mr Ahsan you cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. The Supreme Judicial Council remains active and open to references, provided those references are not tainted by mala fides of fact and of law. No one has clipped the Supreme Court’s power to broaden its authority to sit in judgment over a judge and hold him accountable. What it has done is free the judiciary of nefarious shadows over its independence and impartiality.
The biggest loser in this entire saga is Imran Khan. His entire anti-corruption narrative has come crashing down. It has become clear to all and sundry that the narrative is a façade for political victimisation. For once people can see clearly that he indeed is selected, who is willing to sacrifice integrity in order to stay on the same page as the Bajwa regime. Other than sheer incompetence with which his government has run the country for the last 2 and half years, it seems that the time is running out for him.
Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Imran Khan’s time is up. He was once this nation’s hero but he lived long enough to become its biggest villain. It is time to do the right thing and bow out with dignity if he has any left.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.