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Islam and Politics ( 25 March 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Restoration of Judiciary Movement in Pakistan: A Smokescreen for Helping the Permanent Establishment Maintain its Hegemony

By Shamshad Elahee Ansari


 Movement for restoration of judiciary in Pakistan reached a climax when Nawaz Sharif brothers managed to escape from house arrest and played a role of a catalyst. President Asif Ali Zardari had to bow under pressure andPrime Minister Gilani made an announcement to reinstate ousted CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry. Pakistan Government was under tremendous pressure, both internal and external. Lawyers’ community managed to garner support from various political quarters and interestingly middle class of Pakistan broke the silence and participated in a massive people’s show on the street. It’s known that US exerted enormous pressure on President Zardari to resolve this issue quickly as this crisis was pushing the PPP’s Government deep into political chaos and anarchy. US could not afford to have an unstable Pakistan where he is having the maximum risk and stakes in the name of war on terror.

Massive people’s participation in Punjab leaves many analysis and political scientist to theorize this phenomenon of Pakistan. Let us examine the nature of this movement, its relevance, implication and fall out step by step. Military establishment, big landlords, feudal class, traders and industrialist are the main components of Pakistani government with prominent comprador traits. Owing to this class character, the ruling class of Pakistan has always been a part of the imperialist and reactionary forces internationally and internally. As a result, for more than half of its life-time, Pakistan has been under military rule. Every ruling general served the interest of these four major components of the state and consistently worked against the democratic forces or the forces for radical changes within the Pakistan’s society. Land reforms were never implemented consciously by any ruler. The CIA world fact book states:

“At independence Pakistan was a country with a great many small-scale farms and a small number of very large estates. Distribution of landownership was badly skewed. Less than one percent of the farms consisted of more than 25 percent of the total agricultural land. Many owners of large holdings were absentee landlords, contributing little to production but extracting as much as possible from the sharecroppers who farmed the land. At the other extreme, about 65 percent of the farmers held some 15 percent of the farmland in holdings of about two hectares or less. Approximately 50 percent of the farmland was cultivated by tenants, including sharecroppers, most of whom had little security and few rights. An additional large number of landless rural inhabitants worked as agricultural laborers. Farm laborers and many tenants were extremely poor, uneducated, and undernourished, in sharp contrast to the wealth, status, and political power of the landlord elite.”

 One can understand the character of Muslim League who fought for the creation of separate nation of Muslims. On whose behest did they do so is a separate issue altogether. On the current scenario, it further says:

“Government policies designed to reduce the concentration of landownership had some effect, but their significance was difficult to measure because of limited data. In 1993 the most recent agricultural census was that of 1980, which was used to compare statistics with the agricultural census of 1960. Between 1960 and 1980, the number of farms declined by 17 percent and farms decreased in area by 4 percent, resulting in slightly larger farms. This decline in the number of farms was confined to marginal farms of two hectares or fewer, which in 1980 represented 34 percent of all farms, constituting 7 percent of the farm hectarage. At the other extreme, the number of very large farms of sixty hectares or more was 14,000--both in 1960 and in 1980--although the average size of the biggest farms was smaller in 1980. The number of farms between two and ten hectares increased during this time. Greater use of higher-yielding seeds requiring heavier applications of fertilizers, installations of private tube wells, and mechanization accounted for much of the shift away from very small farms toward mid-sized farms, as owners of the latter undertook cultivation instead of renting out part of their land. Observers believed that this trend had continued in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“In early 1994, land reform remained a controversial and complex issue. Large landowners retain their power over small farmers and tenants, especially in the interior of Sindh, which has a feudal agricultural establishment. Tenancy continues on a large-scale: one-third of Pakistan's farmers are tenant farmers, including almost one-half of the farmers in Sindh. Tenant farmers typically give almost 50 percent of what they produce to landlords. Fragmented holdings remain a substantial and widespread problem. Studies indicate that larger farms are usually less productive per hectare or unit of water than smaller ones.”

Its pertinent to know the agriculture contributes to Pakistan’s GDP ($454.2 billion-2008) about 20.4%, Industry 26.6% and Service sector 53% but as far as the employment is concerned, Agriculture still share a largest part i.e.43%, Industry 20.3% and Service about 36.6% (2005).

So the real problem of Pakistan’s economy is stagnant agriculture sector which is criminally ignored by every Military or so-called democratic elected Leader of Pakistan. The vast proportion of rural unemployment is the cause to pushing its youth to leave the country for Gulf or any other destination. This section is the real target area for all religious fundamentalist forces to recruit their cadre. Needless to say, the lone terrorist caught after Mumbai attack also belongs to the same section of Pakistani society.

We have almost the same or worse situation on the question of land reform even after 60 years of creation and independence of Pakistan. Political power remained to be a favourite ball between either generals or so-called democratic forces which were serving the interest of feudal classes, traders and industrialists. Few people know that when the middle class of Pakistan was organizing nationwide struggle in the name of restoration of judiciary, Haaris (landless peasantry and women workers) were also on the long march to Karachi and they were barefooted. They walked on foot hundreds of miles from interiors of Sindh to state capital Karachi, demanding immediate disbursal of land and calling for change in tenancy law. Media ignored them and gave full prominence to Judiciary restoration movement which was a show of posh cars and four wheel drives. Restoration of judiciary was the most favoured issue exploited by both major political parties in Pakistan. Both parties made it a main issue against Parvez Musharraf regime and fought a street battle together. Nawaz Sharif continued to pressurize PPP dominated Govt since Asif Ali Zardari assumed office of the Presidency of Pakistan. This was the only issue which has the national appeal and both main parties tried hard to vouch for the voters by raising this issue on the national platform.

It would be relevant to see the political strength of the main political parties in the last general election of Pakistan. Pakistan People’s Party has 124 seat with 30.6% of the popular votes in the national assembly of 340 seats. PML (Nawaz) has 91 seats (19.6%), PML(Q) 54 Seats (23%),MQM 25 seats (7.4%), Awami National Party 13 seats (2%), Jamat Front of Islamic Parties 7 seats (2.2%). PPP and PML (Q) are the only political parties which has a national presence. It’s interesting to know the provincial assemblies thru political parties and their representation. PPP has 107/371 in Punjab, 93/168 in Sindh, 30/124 in NWFP, 12/65 in Baluchistan, PML(N) 170/371, 0/168,9/124,0/65,PML(Q)84/371,9/168,6/124,19/65. ANP 0/371,2/168,48/124,4/65 and Jamat Front of Islamic Parties- 2/371,0/168,14/124,10/65 in the respective states. It is surprising to know the PML(Q) is supported and favored by Former President Parvez Musharraf who has the second most popular vote bank of 23%, more than Nawaz Sharief i.e. 19.6%

In the light of above stated analysis of vote bank of the political parties, we can understand the anxiety of Nawaz Sharief why he perused the restoration of judiciary issue? But before coming to this issue, let us examine the state of Pakistani Judiciary system and why the people of Pakistan were mobilized for the demand to reinstead terminated CJ along with several others HCJs which was done by then President Parvez Musharraf on November 3rd 2007? Its irony to know the short term memory of peoples of Pakistan that they forgot, the same CJ took oath (1999) under Provision Constitutional Order (PCO) issued by Parvez Musharraf and as many as 11 Judges has to resign to pave the way for Iftikhar Chaudhray. He was supposed to remain on the seat for the maximum years of service i.e. 65 years in the history of Pakistan. Same CJ favoured Musharraf on various accounts during his tenure as CJ of Pakistan until he started getting some revelation. It’s a matter beyond anyone’s comprehension about the behaviour of a person. A Person is straight, upright and genuine from day one or he would wait for the right moment to start moving in right direction? Experience tells us that former is correct and later is bogus and farce. An upright CJ will start functioning from day one when he was on the district level and stop Peshkaars to accept bribe even for allocating fresh dates of the cases. He will not accept ration, free services provided by corrupt lawyers and court employees in lieu of favours. He will not allow the creation of any caucus of lawyers, leaders, local Police and Civil Administration who would help rich people to buy JUSTICE. Don’t they know that what is the general perception of people regarding Courts of justice? We all know a popular saying in our subcontinent, ‘enter the court if you have iron feet and hand of gold’.

All serving judges know this fact very well that they are a part of a most corrupt institution of the state and if they start cleaning it, they won’t be getting promotion. All promotions are political decision and one has to reconcile with this fact for the sake of one’s individual career otherwise he would simply retire from District level court itself.

 A statement issued by Asian Human Right Commission in August 2006 summaries the situation of Pakistani Courts as ‘the judiciary in Pakistan only delivers justice for the few - the rich, influential or militarily powerful - not justice for all.’ Dr. Faqir Hussain, Registrar of Pakistan Supreme Court give a very grim view in his paper “The Judicial System of Pakistan states about the pendency cases before the court as ‘On 1st February, 2007, a total of 10914 cases were pending in the Supreme Court. Approximately 13000 – 16000 cases (both petitions and appeals) are annually filed in the Court.

 Besides, around 30,000 applications/letters are annually received under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and processed by the Court’, it further elaborates the situation with High Courts and states, ‘A large number of cases are pending in various High Courts. In the Lahore High Court, a total of 75,195 cases, in the High Court of Sindh, 27,291 cases, in Peshawar High Court, 13,610 cases and in the High Court of Baluchistan, 2445 cases were pending on 1st January 2007’. (See table below)

  Strength of Judges and Administrative Staff of Superior & Subordinate Judiciary 



Supreme Court

of Pakistan

Federal Shariat Court

Lahore High Court

High Court of Sindh

Peshawar High Court




Chief Justice & Judges







Administrative Staff















Distt & Sessions Judges/ Addl Distt & Session Judge/ Senior Civil Judge/ Civil Judge







Administrative Staff















So, above figures are all about the state of affairs of Judicial system of Pakistan of which Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhary has been an integral part. Do we expect him to revolutionize the whole judiciary system of Pakistan now onward? One need not remind people the words of the founding father of Pakistan Mr. M.A. Jinnah about his vision and undaunted determination for the state. On August 11, 1947, the founder of the newly-formed State of Pakistan, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, announced that the country would be a secular state. In his speech during the inauguration of the first Assembly of Pakistan, just three days before the independence of country, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah put forward a vision of secularism by announcing:

"You may belong to any religion caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the state. In due course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state".

AHRC statement on August 10, 2006 further says’ Mr. Jinnah outlined the country's political system, which was to be based on an elected parliamentary system. The assembly unanimously adopted this system as the basic guidelines for the future constitution. However, following the demise of Mr. Jinnah, Pakistan has progressively abandoned its founding democratic principles and become ever more autocratic and theocratic. The judiciary in Pakistan, rather than taking the path of Jinnah's guidelines, has supported the military and the autocratic governments under the pretext of "saving the country" and the paltry doctrines of necessity rather than seeking to uphold the ideals of justice. It concludes on a very sad note:

“Pakistan has been under 31 years of military rule out of the 59 years since independence. The judiciary has bent under the various doctrines of necessity instituted during this period, and has failed to deliver justice in any credible form or to deliver "justice for all".

During Parvez Musharraf regime, the call of the restoration of Judiciary had a different meaning since all political parties were demanding the restoration of the political process including the freedom of the judiciary, They were waging a struggle against a tyrant Military ruler and calling for a democratic change but PML(N)’s all-out support to the Lawyers movement and seizing the leadership of the long march was a thoroughly calculated move and a part of shrewd strategy of these leaders of the Punjab. Nawaz brothers as they were dislodged from power after a swift verdict of Supreme Court, found many birds to kill with a single stone. With dominant representation in the Pakistan establishment Punjab has hardly been able to digest the PPP Govt at the centre. Punjabis constitute 44.68% of Pakistan population whereas Sindhi population is only 14.1%, a little less than Pashtun i.e. 15.42%. It’s very obvious to understand the pain of Punjabi mentality. They cannot possibly adjust to the idea of remaining marginalized in a state which they otherwise dominate. Restoration of Judiciary issue was a quick, readymade issue for PMN (L) to ask for its pound of flesh. The whole nation was already gripped with its fever and thus Nawaz Sharif decided to intervene and snatched the leadership. PMN(L)’s opportunistic political behaviour can be seen from the fact that not one leader could  utter a single word against Talibanisation and its threat to the state. The criminal silence on this issue of fundamentalist threat is total exposure of the main opposition party called PMN (L), they were raising a non-issue on the national arena such as restoration of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry as if this would solve all the problem of Pakistan. They did not have anything to offer on the long pending issue of land reform, uprooting corruption from Pakistan’s public offices, free and fast justice to citizen, employment generation, arrest of inflation rate, reduction of defence budget, peaceful co-existence with neighbouring countries etc. Those were the days when black coat community played an important role in nation building and was considered to be the most enlightened section of the society. They resisted British rule and were successful in breaking the shackles of imperialist forces. All great leaders of Pakistan and India were lawyers but what is the state of this community now? They are known for their corrupt money and illegal practices in general. They are the one who represent corrupt courts and deliberate delaying tactics of justice since they earn more money once the case is delayed. What can Pakistan expect from this community now? Are they ready to shade their corrupt traits?

India faced a similar situation in late 1980s when the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh implemented Mandal Commission report and all upper castes came on the road, protesting against the recommendation. Congress and BJP cadre played a vital role to instigate this notorious movement when several students died. Organized self-immolation move were made to target VP Singh Govt which finally lost majority in the parliament. None spoke on the real issue such as rate of inflation, employment generation, increase in budgetary allocation to education, development etc. Indian press and electronic media also created a hype when TN Shehsan was chief election commissioner, they painted Shehsan like a lord from heaven gifted to India and India will soon solve all its problem provided he became President. He also fought election after his retirement and we all know the result. Seeking solutions through an individual has a long tradition in our sub-continent. This sort of politics is the reflection of our backwardness. Consequently, Individual Leaders play an important role in the whole sub-continent, The Gandhi Family in India, Begums of Bangladesh, Bhuttos of Pakistan all are grim reminders of the same mentality. We don’t talk about system, institutions and their reformation; we talk, we vote, we follow individuals without giving any thought to programmes, manifestoes or agendas. Unless we shift our focus from Individuals to basic issues, the dawn, which was dreamt by our forefathers, will remain a distant dream.

History teaches us that any movement fought under the weak, boneless, reactionary, petty bourgeoisie element does not help the society progress. Such a leadership can give a call to bring people on the street and thus effectively release the pressure from social and political pressure-cookers and only help the Permanent Establishment to maintain its hegemony. The anger and anguish, which found release in the name of restoration of the freedom of judiciary of Pakistan has paved the way for sustaining the corrupt system. A leadership committed to the progress and prosperity of the people would have used it for radical changes in the system and society. Pakistan lost an historic opportunity which comes only once in decades. Pakistan has only to thank for this the leaders who led this movement and essentially wasted the energy of the masses.

Let me quote a poem, most expressive of the anguish of this situation. Is it any wonder it was composed by Habib Jalib, who spent most of his life behind bars in independent Pakistan?

deep jis ka mehallaat hee mein jalay

Chund logon ki khushiyon ko lay kar chalay

Voh jo sayay mein har muslehat kay chalay

Aisay dastoor ko, subh-e-benoor ko,

Mein naheen maanta, mein naheen jaanta


Mein bhi khaif naheen takhtaa dar say

Mein bhee mansoor houn keh do aghyar say

Kyon Dartey ho zandaan kee divaar say

Zulm kee baat ko, jail kee raat ko

Mein naheen maanta, mein naheen jaanta


Phool shakoon peh khilnay lagay, tum kaho

Jam rindoon koe milnay lagay tum kaho

Chak seenoon kay silnay lagay tum kaho

Iss khulay jhoot, zehain kee loot ko

Mein naheen maanta, mein naheen jaanta

Tum nein loota hai sadiyoon hamara sakoon'

Ab naa hum par chalay gaa tumhara fasoon'

Chaaragar mein tumhein kiss tarah say kahoon'?

Mein naheen maanta, mein naheen jaanta