NRO Verdict: A Dangereous Path


Finally the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a much awaited judgment on National Reconciliation Ordinance 2007 after hearing the case for 7 days. The judgment has, at one hand, made urban citizens smile, it has greatly perturbed rural population – the bulk of PPP vote bank. The urban population has been the main recipient of propaganda campaign sponsored by the establishment in connivance with media, who has shown unprecedented support to the establishment in recent months. In the past, most of the media had to stand with army-dominated secret agencies sponsoring this propaganda, under duress and for fear. But this time around, the media dynamics have changed to a great extent. Corporate interest of the media owners and individual interests of major columnists / reporters and TV talk show anchors have taken a new turn. 

As soon as President Asif Ali Zardari took oath, some media sections also took oscillating positions on a rapidly moving political pendulum. Those who were eying on lucrative positions owing to their close relationship with the President, were greatly disappointed when they were not even contacted by the presidency. Others had a more "jihadi" stance against a slightly left to the center PPP. There were yet others who were very successfully lured by PML-N leadership, who is not only fond of doing it but is also very well trained in such measures since the days when they received huge amount of cash from secret agencies for establishing notorious IJI in opposition to PPP. All of them got together to defeat a president who was trying to play smart and outwit army by getting financial support for people, right in the hands of civilian government unlike past fundings by the donor countries (mainly USA) that used to go directly to the armed forces. The sin was unpardonable. So, Mr. Zardari had to face it!

Newly unleashed judiciary – the Azad Adliyah – got a nod from establishment to break the DEAL Mr. Chaudhry had entered in, brokered by army, for getting reinstated in March 2009. It is interesting to note here, that NRO came under attack in Nov – Dec 2009, despite the fact that it was in force since Oct 2007, precisely the point when PML-N stalwarts were too anxious to join hands with same Zardari lead PPP. He still was a "NRO laundered" president when Mr. Nawaz Sharif was trying to make up with him and meeting him under carefully created media hype. But it was not about time yet, I think. Mr. Sharif was still trying his luck with Zardari to get his share. All he was interested in was, laying off of 58-2(b) and 17th amendment (that would allow him to be a third time prime minister, without a president carrying a sword on his head). He did not intend to "derail the democratic system", since it involves money and resources to fight an unncessary mid-term election. The short cut seemed, getting it done through chopping off the third time PM bar and 58-2(b). So, if necessary, he could always make a move towards contesting an election and getting on the band wagon, with an unpredictably pro-establishment MQM and the comrades in waiting under the flag of PML-Q. 

But Zardari, it appears, proved to be a hard nut to crack. The man was able to foresee the plan. He did not loosen his grip on necessary constitutional clauses. In this case, it became necessary for Nawaz, to get rid of the president, and become one. In this way, there won't be any need to abolish 58-2(b), or 17th Amendment, because what fun would it be becoming a 58-2(b)-less president? The traditionally anti-PPP media sections, the sections of media that could not get benefits it had been eying on, MQM – the great political pendulum, PML-Q comrades and a greatly misguided urban citizenry all flocked together to buck up an activist and obliged judiciary to "correct" the "corrupt politicians". The Corrupt politicians in this case obviously meant PPP leadership, especially Zardari. And to "correct" meant, it was obvious too, deposing Zardari from presidency. The easiest way was to use a highly manipulatable media and civil society and gather them under the morally high grounded flag of "Anti-Corruption". 

Everything is, so far going according to the plan. But our worthy intellectuals (mainly coming from urbanized upper middle class / elite of Punjab) probably forgot that creating a public euphoria about such a verdict and thus influencing the court, would result in many controversies and power imbalance that would not only derail democratic system, but would also affect a concerted action against terrorism dangerously prevalent in the country. Surprising, also, was the fact that the worthy court did not take any notice of every B'Grade reporter turned TV anchor talk endlessly about the NRO, which had to be treated as sub judice. 

Supreme Court gave the judgment despite the fact that it had given an opportunity to the Parliament few weeks ago, to get the Ordinance validated by it. Giving the judgment against the validity of NRO, it seems that the worthy court has said loud and clear that the Ordinance had been acceptable, had it been validated by the Parliament. But since it has come to the court, it is not going to allow a "notorious" ordinance in the statutory book. Strange it may sound, but still our media pundits are happy about a "historic" judgment. 

It may also be noted that the judgment recognizes the highly controversial clauses of the constitution 62(f) whereby the prerequisite for acquiring public office has been attached to being undefined "sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and Ameen". The said clause was added to the constitution by the then dictator Zia ul Haq through a Provisional Order (14) in 1985. Those who are rejoicing must also remember that they are not only validating but legitimizing Zia ul Haq's notorious tailoring of the constitution in favour of marrying religion with the business of state. 

Whereas Nawaz Sharif, powered by media jihadis and civil society muftis, remains worried about 17th amendment, he surely is not concerned about the unjust and unfair amendments made by Zia ul Haq through P.Os and notorious 8th Amendment. It may be reminded here, that Nawaz Sharif during his HEAVY MANDATE days did not repeal 8th amendment, he only trimmed it by giving off 58-2(b) that suited him. He was, also, not worried about NRO till he had hopes from Zardari. 

The present judgment, among many other things, builds upon Mr. Salman Akram Raja's contention that the "Legislative judgment cannot be enacted by the Parliament. [ Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain (AIR 1975 SC 2299)]" and states in section 14 of the judgment that ". . . no change in the basic features of the Constitution, is possible through amendment as it would be against the national reconciliation . . ". This would be against the spirit of section 239 (6) of the constitution whereby legislature (Majlis-e-Shoora) is fully empowered to amend any part of the constitution. 

Strangely enough, the worthy court, whereas, speaks about those who benefited from the Ordinance, it is absolutely silent about the author of the Ordinance, General (R) Pervez Musharraf. The court also, did not consider that if it has started opening cases  in retrospect, probably no one including superior judiciary itself, is going to be above it. In some cases, the honourable judges have to open cases against their own children, and some of very important cases pending before the court since very long. few among them are, notorious Sabza Zar case, Mehran Bank case and IJI formation and doling out money case filed by Asghar Khan.

Media is watching its own corporate interest. Civil Society is confused. Citizens' minds are manipulated. Political parties are trying to build on the opportunity provided by you, you have treaded on a dangerous path my lord!