Equal accountability laws for ‘Rogue Elephants’ and ‘Sacred Cows’

Pakistan has been witnessing judiciary’s activism against politicians since its inception. Pakistani politicians are perceived as ‘Rogue elephants’ and are always in the line of fire under generals, judges and the media. The history of politicians’ victimisation by judiciary and generals, especially during military dictatorships in Pakistan, goes a long way back. Victimisation was at its peak under Gen. Ayub Khan in 1959, as he introduced the Elected Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO). An estimated 6000 persons, including 78 top leaders, mainly from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were disqualified.

Gen. Zia ul Haq deposed and hanged Elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and detained hundreds of his close aides. Bhutto’s daughter Benazir Bhutto was convicted by a judge of Lahore High Court under orders from PML-N leadership. Her husband and former President Asif Zardari spent 11 years in jail for corruption charges. Nawaz Sharif was deposed and convicted in a Plane Hijacking Case in 2000 and then again disqualified in 2017by Supreme Court of Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a contempt of court case. If we begin listing politicians who have faced rigorous trials and were detained for months and years, it would need to compile in an entire book.

Alongside these ‘rogue elephants’, there happen to be judges, generals and journalists, who are treated as ‘Sacred Cows,’ not only by society but by the law as well. If historians start compiling the names of judges, generals and journalists, who were held accountable for corruption charges alone, it would only amount to a few pages. The historians would also outline how several judges of high and supreme court deviated from their oath and compromised justice for personal or political reasons, with no accountability. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had declared former generals Hameed Gul, Asad Durrani and Aslam Baig guilty of spending tax-payers’ money to block Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s victory in 1990s but the generals suffered no repercussions. Malik Qayum, the judge who had ordered the disqualification of Benazir Bhutto under orders by PML-N leaders, resigned after his audio tape, which proved that he was taking dictation from a close aide to Nawaz Sharif regarding Bhutto. Yet, Gen. Musharraf appointed him as Attorney General of Pakistan rather than holding him accountable.

Amidst the ongoing judicial hunt for rogue elephants, a judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Dost Muhammad Khan, said, “Judges and generals must be held accountable like other citizens.” He made these remarks while hearing an appeal, filed by National Accountability Bureau, against the acquittal of three accused of corruption. Unfortunately, Mr Khan missed the name of the third sacred cow, which is the media. Regardless, his statement has made an opening for the politicians of Pakistan, who saw dissolution of several parliaments from 1988 to 1997, for the same issue when they tried to promulgate laws for across the board accountability. According to reports, a new accountability law is being promulgated but accountability of judges and generals is not mentioned in the proposed bill. The learned judge must guide the nation regarding the laws that the state needs to implement in order to hold judges and generals accountable.

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