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A government in contempt

Those who thought that sanity would return to the ranks of the government, and that they would take the requisite steps to facilitate the holding of elections for the Punjab Assembly as per the constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court adjudication, must be highly disappointed.

But then, those who have had the opportunity of either knowing the brands recognized as Sharif and Zardari dynasties, and those who may have associated with them in one capacity or the other, are not surprised at the provocative contempt of both the constitution and the apex court that they have already been guilty of committing.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) submitted a report to the SC on April 11 that the government was reluctant to provide Rs21 billion required to conduct the elections. At the same time, the government has moved a money bill in the National Assembly and the Senate seeking parliamentary approval for the release of funds. This is being dubbed as a wilful and deceitful ploy to delay, even block the release of funds.

What is candidly clear is that the federal government, prime minister and his cabinet, Punjab provincial government, ECP, parliament members who signed the resolution passed by the National Assembly and secretaries, interior and finance are rendered guilty of committing contempt of the apex court by not adhering to the directives contained in its adjudication. They are now at the mercy of the court which, after deliberating the ECP response, shall decide on how to proceed further.

Notices have since been issued by the Supreme Court to the secretary of finance, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, ECP and the attorney-general to appear before the CJP in his chamber on the day this piece appears in print. In a candid warning to the contemners, the notice states that “failure of the federal government to comply with the order of the court is prima facie disobedience. The consequences that can flow from such prima facie defiance of the court are well settled and known. Every person who embarks upon, encourages, or instigates disobedience or defiance of the court can be held liable and accountable”.

The notice further reads that “the question of provision of funds for such a vital constitutional purpose is something that requires immediate attention which takes priority over proceeding against those who may have committed contempt of the Court”.

The respondents have been ordered to appear before the CJP with a complete relevant record and they shall all place before the court separately detailed reports as to why its order has not been complied with.

It is now an established reality that the government is not willing to hold elections irrespective of the constitutional strictures, the adjudications of the apex court and the will of the people. Two separate orders of the Supreme Court have been rubbished simply because the criminal cabal fears a massive hammering at the hustings at the hands of the PTI. They are, thus, biding time to improve their electoral lot and then jump in the arena though chances of that also appear slim.

The parallel plan they are working on is to exploit the deteriorating economic conditions in the country to declare a state of emergency and postpone elections indefinitely. In the intermediary, a so-called national/technocratic government, mostly comprising members of the ruling criminal cabal, could be inducted to run the day-to-day affairs of the state.

In their desperate eagerness to evade elections and escape the prospect of accountability for their myriad crimes which they have temporarily dodged through executing self-serving changes in the NAB laws, they are overlooking numerous imponderable consequences. First and foremost, if the government is held in contempt by the apex court, and if they refuse to relinquish charge in a display of open and blatant defiance, they will lose their legal and constitutional stature as the bona fide government of the state.

Consequently, international organizations and multilateral groups will refuse to negotiate and deal with an illegitimate fabrication. Pakistan would be virtually declared a pariah state operating outside the ambit of the law – which could attract countless sanctions. Thus, the country would be totally alienated from the international community, attracting boundless scorn, contempt, and harm.

The question is whether Pakistan will be able to survive through such an experience – and, if at all, for how long? In the first instance, and with the present economic state of the country and with its strategic assets under strict scrutiny by the international community, it would be well-nigh impossible for it to last even a few days under unrelenting pressure from countless directions. Internally, it will be faced with massive public uprising which could turn violent.

It is seldom that one experiences a comparable instance where a bunch of crooks, convicts, absconders, and under-trial criminals are handed over the reins of power through a conspiracy-riddled operation involving internal and external actors. In just about one year, they have brought the country to the brink of economic meltdown with inflation surging to 50 per cent and life having become an excruciating torture to live.

For the Supreme Court, backing off is not an option as, in that case, its own legitimacy may be gravely dented and it may, yet again, fall into the sordidness of a much reviled and despised doctrine of necessity syndrome. For the criminal cabal, there is no end to deceit and trickery. There is no meeting between the two. In its bid to have its order implemented, the character and conduct of a host of individuals and institutions will likely be stripped naked.

We have a government that is in contempt of the constitution and the law. This is that moment when it will have to be decided whether the state will operate as a legal and constitutional entity or plunge to being reckoned as a pariah fabrication. The court’s endeavours will also re-establish that the illicit and sprawling empires of our beneficiary elite are camouflaged in a host of grievous crimes.

Raoof Hasan, "A government in contempt," The News. 2023-04-14.
Keywords: Political science , Supreme court , National Assembly , Accountability , Elections , Pakistan , ECP , PTI