Last week the Supreme Court gave the Prime Minister another three weeks to decide his course of action regarding writing the letter to Swiss authorities. The Prime Minister had pleaded that he was sincerely trying to find a way out of the impasse between the PPP-led government that has already sacrificed a Prime Minister for stubbornly refusing to implement the apex court’s order, and the court that is obviously not amused by the government’s defiance of its constitutional authority. In the run up to the Prime Minister’s appearance in the court, anchorpersons and commentators in the media passionately pleaded and prayed for restraint from both sides and urged them to find a ‘middle path’ to save the system. The posturing of these so-called well-wishers of democracy, posing as fair and sagacious parents trying to make peace between two children, was more than disturbing. What exactly are they trying to save by their brand new doctrine of necessity?

The past conduct of the judiciary is criticised for justifying unconstitutional military takeovers using the crutches of the doctrine of necessity. Since his restoration, the honourable Chief Justice has said on many occasions that the doctrine of necessity is now buried, and this stance is appreciated even by his most rabid detractors. This resolve not to bend the Constitution for the benefit of those in positions of power is a basic element of democracy and a progressive outcome of the rule of law movement, which fought for the restoration of an independent judiciary that could uphold this principle without fear or favour. So why would these advocates of the ‘middle path’ and ‘restraint from both sides’ wish to take us back to a time when the decisions of the courts were dictated by the interests of those in power rather than their responsibility to uphold the Constitution? Are they suggesting that the courts should accept the violation of the Constitution by an elected government, but not by a military dictator?

Essentially, those pushing this new doctrine of necessity down the judiciary’s throat would like the honourable judges to ignore the Constitution and let the government get away with its lawless behaviour. What else is one to understand by this ‘middle path’ advice to both sides? The Supreme Court has passed an order and it should be implemented. The patience with which the court is conducting the case, with or without the expert advice of these patronising media-persons, is the only restraint it can practise. On the other hand, the government could either write the letter ordered by the Supreme Court or it could continue to defy the court orders, creating outlandish justifications for its patently unconstitutional behaviour. Even if one were to accept the logic of a ‘middle path’, it is the government’s responsibility to find one. It is for the wily legal wizards in the PPP fold to prepare a draft that would save their President from prosecution in Swiss courts while withdrawing the illegal letter written by the former Attorney General in consequence of the now-defunct NRO, as ordered by the court.

Rather than trying to create unconstitutional laws that fly in the face of democratic ideals, allowing high government officials to defy court orders without the fear of being punished for contempt of court, the PPP wallahs should either follow the court order or be ready to sacrifice another Prime Minister. This should not invite a military intervention that the new necessity-doctrine peddlers wave in front of our eyes like a warning. Electing another Prime Minister or announcing elections are both constitutional and democratic ways of dealing with the crisis. But clearly, it is not a matter of just one letter or implementing one order. The Zardari dispensation is hell-bent on making the independent Supreme Court ineffective and controversial, eroding its moral authority so that it can carry on unhindered on the unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal path that it has chosen for itself. Do we need to revive the doctrine of necessity to add a few more months to this so-called democratic government? Surely, for strengthening democracy, it is essential that the doctrine remains buried.

The question remains: what exactly are the so-called well-wishers of democracy trying to save by asking the court to give up its constitutional responsibility of ensuring that its orders are followed? Will it not be a big blow to democratic principles if the court allows the government to get away with defying its orders and violating the Constitution, just because the PPP jiyalas are threatening to bring the whole house down to save the skin of their Co-Chairperson? Should the Supreme Court fear the consequences of its judgement and favour the Prime Minister, who seems to be doing little more than buying time? What is the democratic ideal that Zardari’s PPP is fighting for, and for the sake of which, these media pundits espousing half-baked democratic principles, would like the court to choose the ‘middle-path’? Is the government defying the Supreme Court because the honourable judges are stopping it from serving the people?

Clearly, democracy is not another name for the Zardari dispensation. The future of democracy is not hinged upon this dictatorial regime completing its term to the last day. Democracy will not suffer if another Prime Minister is shown the door for disobeying court orders and being more loyal to his party Co-Chairperson  rather than the Constitution. If the so-called well-wishers of democracy are so concerned about saving the system, instead of asking the court to reinvent the doctrine of necessity, they should be advising the PPP government to either act according to the Constitution and obey the orders of the Supreme Court or take their devious case of not writing the letter to the court of the people and call for early elections. If deviations from constitutional rule for extra-constitutional considerations are not acceptable in case of military rulers, they should not be acceptable in case of an elected government that, in any case, is behaving more like a self-serving dictatorship than a pro-people democracy.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com