There it is

There it is
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar, has hauled up two notorious wrong doers, namely Dr Shahid Masood, anchorperson, and Rao Anwar, a senior superintendent of Sindh police. Dr Masood has been banned from appearing on television for three months while Rao Anwar awaits his fate. Both men have one thing in common: they are assets of the Miltablishment. How, then, has the CJP made bold to lay a hand on them?

Dr Masood is venomously anti-PMLN and brazenly pro-PTI. He has also been spreading venomous lies against independent media “colleagues” who don’t always see eye to eye with the way the Miltablishment is going about “restructuring, redefining and re-imagining Pakistan”. He has got away scot free because of the impotence of the defamation law, the lethargy of the lower courts and the restraints on PEMRA imposed by the higher courts. But he made the fatal mistake, earlier this year, of arousing the ire of the public and media by trying to exploit and sensationalize the abduction and murder of 8 year old Zainab from Kasur. This provoked the CJP to take notice. When he failed to produce evidence of his outrageous claims, and then feigned remorse, he was banned from continuing with his television show for three months.

Rao Anwar is a different kettle of fish. He has publicly notched up a few hundred “police encounters” against dacoits and terrorists in Karachi at the bidding of his patrons “Law Enforcement Agencies” (sic) whose “cleanup operation” has been hampered by the weak prosecution process of the police and courts, creating space for him to become their blue-eyed cop. But he tripped over himself when he executed a popular young Pakhtun media star, Naqeebullah, in one such police encounter and then fled in the face of media and public opinion, demanding that he should be brought to book. For over a month, thanks to his powerful patrons, he evaded arrest. But when the demand for his arrest became the core peg of a rising new protest movement of Pakhtun civil society in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the patrons decided to diffuse public sentiment by mysteriously escorting him to the Supreme Court where the CJP promptly ordered his detention and dispatched him back to Sindh province (where his patrons rule the roost) for interrogation by a JIT (led by the nominees of the patrons).

To be sure, Dr Shahid Masood will be careful not to provoke public opinion and push the Supreme Court to hold him accountable again in the future. But he is not likely to stop spreading lies and preaching his hateful narratives and conspiracy theories against alleged detractors of the Miltablishment after he returns to the idiot box. Similarly, Rao Anwar will not get his come-uppance even though he may have to suffer a period of rest and recreation from his onerous duties in the service of his patrons. Thus are the scales of justice tilted.

Meanwhile, a SC judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, seems to have stirred up a small storm by his ironic remarks about Panamagate and Iqama in a case before him pertaining to the disqualification of Sheikh Rashid from contesting elections for not fully disclosing his assets. Now, as we all know and as he proudly confesses, the good Sheikh is an invaluable asset of the Miltablishment. The good judge is clearly not. Consequently, a petition has suddenly cropped up challenging Justice Isa’s earlier appointment as Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court which enabled him subsequently to be elevated to the SC. This is akin to the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head while he adjudicates the fate of Sheikh Rashid. Another judge, Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court, has been issued a notice by the Supreme Judicial Council for showing contempt toward a “constitutional institution” (aka Pakistan Army) relating to the dharna in Islamabad two months ago led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasul Allah.

As the Austrian Emperor in the late 18th Century, Joseph II, was fond of saying by spreading his hands in resigned despair: “There it is”!

At least some judges are beginning to stir, prompting Nawaz Sharif to say that “voices of dissent are being heard in the SC and this is not an ordinary thing”. He is hoping against hope that the Miltablishment may be obliged to loosen its hold over the fate of the cases against him, or grip them so tightly that more judges are provoked to spell out their independence. Sensing an opportunity to appear reasonable rather than intransigent, he has offered to “negotiate” with “state institutions” in the larger interests of “rule of law and democracy”. Indeed, he is ready to sit down with all stakeholders, and not just with the opposition as decreed by law, to find a consensus interim prime minister who can steer the country, parties and state institutions out of this moment of crisis.

This is an offer that should not be ignored.

Najam Aziz Sethi is a Pakistani journalist, businessman who is also the founder of The Friday Times and Vanguard Books. Previously, as an administrator, he served as Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, caretaker Federal Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan.