Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, met Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, on March 27th. The sudden and unscheduled meeting between the executive and judiciary’s heads stunned almost every political activist in the country.
Both dignitaries released stereotypical statements after the meeting. Prime Minister’s camp says that he assured the CJ of the government’s support for the latter’s efforts to revamp the judicial system whilst a press release by the Supreme Court says that the CJ told the PM that the court would keep dispensing justice fearlessly and independently.
However, situation is not as transparent as it seems. The meeting took place under mysterious circumstances and the press release by the CJ to brief the media makes the situation even more clandestine, especially when Abbasi openly proclaimed that he is not concerned with the decisions of the SC against Nawaz Sharif: “Nawaz Sharif is my prime minister and will remain my prime minister.” On the other hand, Abbasi’s leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been openly challenging the Supreme Court in public gatherings through blatant criticism of the judiciary. The SC is hearing yet another case regarding Sharif’s disqualification.
The Saqib-Nisar led Supreme Court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case. It also removed Sharif from his party’s presidentship. Another judge of the SC, Ejazul Ahsan is supervising the accountability courts’ proceedings against the entire Sharif Family. The SC is also hearing a contempt of court cases against Abbasi’s two ministers, Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz.
After this meeting, Sharif and his daughter have visibly controlled their verbal bombardment of the Supreme Court. The CJ, who was hearing a contempt case against a PML-N leader Nihal Hashmi had indicated that he would make an example out of him for those who are in contempt of the court, forgave Hashmi.
Chief Justice Nisar and Nawaz Sharif have been arousing public sentiment through their respective stances. Nisar shows commitment towards making merit-based decisions and purging government institutions of corrupt elements.
Sharif kept playing with the public’s sentiments through a vibrant masses-contact campaign by claiming that he was the top victim of injustice by the Supreme Court. He termed the SC’s decision against him as a conspiracy against democracy, hatched by Pakistan’s military and judicial establishments. His political narrative, which attracted the masses, revolves around the ‘sanctity of vote’. He says that votes are the real verdict against any decision.
The aforementioned meeting has brought the Chief Justice and Sharif to a difficult standstill. If Sharif is exonerated in the cases against him by the SC or accountability courts, people will perceive it as a compromise that would seriously damage the SC’s credibility.
If Sharif ceases his campaign against ‘anti-democratic conspiracies’ and backs down at this point, neutral persons, who extend all out support to his narrative for the sake of democracy, will definitely think that he has sold his supporters and the ‘sanctity of vote’ doctrine to save his dynasty. Let’s see who backs out?