The Supreme Court verdict on the Asghar Khan case relating to political bribes has spawned the expected result of political parties enjoying the schadenfreude of mudslinging after the verdict laid bare those involved. Quite unexpectedly, the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, has entered the fray, questioning the wisdom of the court for delivering the judgment so late in the day and at a time when the general elections are so near; in his opinion, it would fuel political instability in the country. Where the election commission chief criticised the timing of the order, which he felt had made the ruling uncontroversial, he pointed to the lapses the judges themselves have made in the past, he has opined that it is time to forget the past and look to the future; “we all have committed mistakes in the past.” Justice Ebrahim made these observations to the BBC on Monday. First of all, one might ask him if the verdict ill fitted the moment, how far his own remarks could be considered timely. Most likely, it would add confusion to an already unnerving situation and might furnish an argument to those who are supposedly harbouring a secret wish to postpone the elections to serve their own end. He is himself on record having said that free and fair polls are the only way for Pakistan to get out of the impasse it is in at the moment. Thus, his remark tends to impinge upon the very purpose of his office and is uncalled for. Secondly, the CEC’s call to bury the past somehow could be interpreted, at least by interested parties, as an allusion to the NRO as well. It would have been better if he had kept himself out of the controversy. Strangely enough, the Supreme Court, which has identified the FIA as the agency to establish which politicians have taken the bribe, has cast doubt on its credibility of being a fair institution to do the job.

Already, the PPP, the aggrieved party because the unethical manoeuvrings behind the scene were intended to keep it out of power following the 1990 general elections, has been, understandably, quite bitter, though gleefully warning the beneficiaries of the illegal handouts of a dire reckoning. The focus of criticism of the PPP, the PML-Q and the MQM has been the PML-N, influential political figures of the parties constituting the Islami Jamhouri Ittehad and others who were known to have received large sums of money. On its side, the PML-N has been vehemently denying any inference from the judgment that it had benefited from the largesse. While reposing full confidence in the Supreme Court and accepting its verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has questioned the reliability of the FIA to investigate the matter and proposed the formation of a national commission.

The decision of the court on a case filed so long ago does bring to mind the maxim, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, an argument put forward by some, including grandson of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan who has hotly contested the slur on his grandfather, who, he maintains, possessed high moral standards and was not able to defend himself. Nevertheless, the judgment was absolutely necessary to bring out an act of historical political deviousness for political generals and dishonest politicians to learn their lesson.