Quit if you can’t deliver

A full bench of the Lahore High Court has asked the federal government point-blank to “sit at home” if it cannot deliver on rapidly deteriorating law and order in the country. ‘The government should demonstrate its writ as there would be no place for hiding if civil war erupted,’ observed the court, as it was hearing a number of petitions against the ongoing PTI-PAT protests. To utter dismay of man in the street, aptly reflected in the judges’ observations, the government appears helpless in restoring normality. As to what really stops it from restoring law and order there is no clue, except for the laconic comment made by its law officer in the court that it did not want ‘to show its muscle’ – as if soft handling of criminals is a better option. But the court is intrigued as to what is holding the government back from taking effective measures to restore writ of the state. To a member of the bench, Justice Khalid Khan, such an ambivalence on the part of the government is reminiscent of the fall of Dhaka (then Dacca) that came as a shocking thud amidst abounding disinformation that all was well on the warfront in the then East Pakistan. For over four months, the country is beset with an unending tumult: life in major urban centres is hostage to the wishes of political adventurists, but the high offices in Islamabad and elsewhere pretend looking busy executing long-term plans and schemes for the ‘welfare and prosperity’ of the people, unconcerned about immediate threats to their very existence.

The full bench observed ‘it is high time the government should wake up as there had been no public peace for the last four months’. How to wake up the full bench of the Lahore High Court wants the government to move further by taking appropriate actions against persons nominated as accused in cases ranging from violation of law and order to inciting trouble to committing high treason. How come Dr Tahirul Qadri could leave the country when he hasn’t bothered to even obtain bail in any of the 40-plus cases against him in various cities of Punjab – that is a matter of serious concern for the court. Strangely enough, not only the federal government is reluctant to reply to the petition seeking his arrest and proceeding in the court of law, he too seems to be trivialising the role of courts of law and justice by refusing to put up his appearance in person or through his representative. Rightly then, the court has decided to proceed ex-parte against Tahirul Qadri. Isn’t it disingenuous that while the former president General Pervez Musharraf cannot leave the country because he is being tried under Article 6, but Qadri can come and go at will? Is it then the case that Nawaz Sharif government has its own worldview independent of the law of the country and that implementation of law is subject to its discretion? Anyone who is nominated as accused in a non-bailable offence must be arrested irrespective of his social status or political clout as the government has just no other option. The prime minister and his ministers are under oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, which mandates that obedience to the constitution and law is the obligation of every citizen. The authorities owe an explanation to the people of Pakistan why the PTI and PAT leaderships have been exempted from arrests when they are nominated in many cases under non-bailable offences. Or is it that people in the FIRs have been nominated just to put them under pressure and they were not involved in those crimes? The law brooks no space for political compromises howsoever well-intentioned these may be. The government perhaps seeks to avoid confrontations that it could possibly invite by pursuing cases in courts against PTI and PAT. But the government has miserably failed to realise that at stake is not the survival of the Nawaz Sharif dispensation; it is about the due process of law to obtain the cherished goal of a robust, uncompromised rule of law in Pakistan.