Is Judges’ Issue Impeding Progress on Economy?

Posted on May 19, 2008
Filed Under >Aqil Sajjad, Politics, Society
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Aqil Sajjad

It is being said by some people that the present economic crisis is a result of the uncertainty created by the lawyers’ movement. Some other people are saying that the judges issue’ is diverting attention from more pressing national issues. Such arguments are being given for ignoring the judges’ issue so that the economy can be put back on track. Below, I will try to address these arguments.

Iftikhar Chaudhry and Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan

A closer scrutiny of the economy shows that the present economic crisis has nothing to do with the lawyers’ movement that started on March 9.

Load shedding due to power shortage started in 2006 and any well informed person knew that it was only going to get worse since the Musharraf government had made no serious attempt to address the problem. For example, we can check this news report from 2006: Pakistan needs to tackle energy crisis or this one from Jan 9, 2007: Pakistan’s Energy Crisis to Worsen in Next Two Years

Similarly, the pressure on the foreign reserves and the rupee was also very much expected due to the record trade deficits. This again, had nothing to do with the lawyers struggle, as we can see from this report dated Jan 2007: Pakistan Trade Deficit Widens as Imports Rise and this one from March 9, 2007 (the day Musharraf sacked the CJ): Trade gap widens to record $8.89bn

Likewise, many analysts were saying well before March 9, 2007 that the economic growth momentum was not sustainable. For example, check the following piece dated May 1, 2006 from the daily times: Is GDP growth sustainable?

In light of the above, it should be clear that our present economic crisis is a result of gross mismanagement by the Musharraf govt, and it could be clearly seen coming well before March 9, even when Musharraf was comfortably entrenched in power. The lawyers’ movement and the related political uncertainty is definitely not an important contributing factor in this crisis.

Is the judges’ issue delaying a resolution to the economic crisis? Should the civil society give up its demand for the restoration of the judiciary? Again, I believe the answer is clearly in the negative for the following reasons:

1. The PPP can simply restore the deposed judges while removing those who have taken oath under the Nov 3 PCO and then we would not have this political uncertainty. The blame for any political uncertainty therefore lies on the shoulders of the Musharraf-Zardari-Rehman trio and their foreign backers.

2. The judges’ issue does not stop the government from working on the other issues.

3. A solid institutional basis is needed to put the country on a sustainable path of progress. We keep on having these political crises because we do not have sound institutions. Ignoring the judges’ issue in the name of the economy will therefore only bring temporary relief if at all. But if the judiciary does get restored, then we might have a better institution which should help the country in the long-run.

4. An independent and credible judiciary is also needed to keep the excesses of the government under check. We all know how large scale corruption and nepotism seriously damages the economy. In the steel mills case alone, the government was giving away billions of rupees to the buyer by selling this national asset well below its value. The Supreme Court headed by honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry prevented this big loss to the nation by stopping the loot sail. It would therefore be totally ridiculous to argue that the civil society’s emphasis on the restoration of the judiciary is a hurdle in improving our economy. Those who care about eliminating corruption so that our resources can be directed towards the development of Pakistan and the well-being of the people must come out strongly on the side of the legitimate judiciary. They should not side with those who are only trying to protect their power and loot through the NRO.

5. Our governments are usually unresponsive to the needs and demands of the people. This is because they face very limited pressure from the electorate and the civil society. Zardari and co are also thinking that they can get away without restoring the judges and the people will not be able to do anything about it.

If the civil society backs down on this issue for any reason, it will only make people like Musharraf and Zardari feel bolder. On the other hand, if the civil society wins this battle, it might allow the people of Pakistan to assert themselves more strongly on other issues too. Whether it’s food security, inflation, law and order, education, healthcare, or any other such issue, our leaders will feel that they can not totally ignore the wishes of the people and get away with it. For this reason, even if one is not sure whether the judges’ issue ought to be the no 1 priority, one should put one’s full weight behind it. Such a national consensus on an issue provides a rare opportunity for establishing the power of the people which might not come again in our entire life time. We must not lose such a golden opportunity by getting into petty squabbles over whether issue x is more urgent than issue y.

Thiis article was Initially published on the emergency times and a slightly different version by the daily News as a letter.

25 responses to “Is Judges’ Issue Impeding Progress on Economy?”

  1. Well…….. for one, solving the Judges’ issue is not going to result in over-night miralces in economy. Agreed that this issue needs to be resolved…… however, it does have baring on overall national image and hence impact country’s investment outlook.

    Also, we need to realise how global economic issues (high oil price, global food shortage, climate change) are and will impact the country. And with the whole country focused one one matter, its hard to see how we are doing anything about these matters.

    I belive Hamid Mir reported on GEO, that PPP-PML(N) coalition did not even manage to appoint an Agriculture and Foods Minister, even after spending weeks in formulating government. So all of this does have an impact on the current situation, however this is only one of the many factors.

  2. Rehan says:

    I think the judge issue is getting us nowhere. Get over it. The country is ready to move on. You have made your point. No let us get on with running this country. Mr Chaudry is NOT national hero and Mr Sharif is a corrupt, opportunisitic, vengeance-seeker. Move on.

  3. readinglord says:

    Sorry! A correction in the second line of my previous post: please read ‘putting the cart before the horse’ for ‘ putting the horse before the cart’.

  4. readinglord says:

    The very proposition ‘Is Judges’ issue impending progress on economy?’, in my view, is absurd. It is like putting the horse before the cart. The issue in fact is the non-implementation of Art. 6 of the Constitution for declaration of emergency obviously to get rid of the unwanted judges. But no one among the electioneering politicians dares to catch the bull by the horn. It requires a revolution to get rid of that virus which is plaguing the entire system. The signs are that it would come soon ‘Inshaallah’.

  5. Eidee Man says:

    If by “progress” you mean the process of the rich getting richer, then probably yes.

    True progress will only be achieved when we begin to focus on the long-term issues such as independence of the judiciary.

    Also, I don’t give as much blame to PPP as they are getting from some quarters; personally I think that Nawaz Sharif is supporting this issue primarily for political points.

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