Iftikhar Chaudhry Reinstated: What Now?

Posted on March 16, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Politics, Society
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Adil Najam

The news of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s reinstatement made one feel good. Real good. After a long time. It reminded one of all that we have been through. It reminded one, also, that exactly two year’s ago ATP had published the result of a Poll on whether the CJ’s removal was the right move. Maybe, the powers that were should have heeded our reader’s advice right then and spared themselves and everyone the ordeal:


(This Poll was conducted 2 years ago)

As I mentioned on NPR’s show All Things Considered today (read and listen to story here), I think what has happened has been truly revolutionary. However, as one wrote yesterday, the story is far from over. It has just taken the newest twist. It is a good twist. But we know much more is to follow. But what?

We do remember, of course, that he had been reinstated earlier too – by his peers in the Supreme Court. We also remember that promises and announcements are made by our political leaders to be broken. We also note that in listening to the speech it is not clear exactly what the terms of the decision are and exactly what the nature of the reinstatement will be. Also unclear is what the new power dynamics in Pakistan will be after this demonstration of the power of the people. It is very clear that this is a moral and political victory not of any political party or political leader but of the Pakistani people and of the Justice movement. But we also know that victory has a thousand fathers and many, including the vanquished will seek to take credit for it.

In short, more questions than answers loom before us and all indications suggest that things may become more unclear in the next many weeks than less.

But let me be totally clear, this is good unclarity, even necessary unclarity. What we have seen today is truly historic. As I have argued many times on this blog it was proved again that Pakistan is a democratic society trapped inside an undemocratic State. For two years now a citizen movement – a movement of progressive, liberal, educated, non-violence forces – persevered in the face of hardship, jailings, persecution, and ridicule even of their friends. And yet they fought on – non-violently and in a principled way – for an abstract idea. The idea that institutions matter. That justice matters.

For this to have happened in a society where too many on the extreme are trying to make points by violence (as extremists tried to do again today), where zealots and miscreants murder and cut off people’s ears and noses simply because they do not agree with them, where innocent people are blown up because of one’s misguided sense of religiosity, for this to have happened and for such major change to have come about in a peaceful way makes one very very happy. Ecstatic really.

Jinnah’s spirit must be smiling today. I certainly am.

But tomorrow, we all have to start asking ourselves the question: What next? The answers won’t be easy, but one hopes that people will show the same clarity of purpose they did here. There will be many questions. Here are some I can think of. I am sure our readers will add more questions. I am hopeful that they might also guide us on a few answers:

  • Will this become Nawaz Sharif’s victory? If so, what will that mean for the power dynamics of Pakistan. If not, what does that mean for the power dynamics of Pakistan?
  • Asif Ali Zardari remains the President. Bruised, beaten and weakened. But President nonetheless. Gen. Musharraf made an art-form of retreating under pressure and each time things became worse. How will it play out now?
  • What about the dynamics within the PPP. A number of senior PPP leaders have been sidelined or have dropped out (including Aitizaz Ahsan). Does this mean that they will be brought back in – or might force their way back. What does this mean for the future of the PPP; with or without Zardari?
  • What about the current court, including the new inductees and the balance of opinion in the Court? How would a reinstated Chief Justice Chaudhry act in that Court, especially on issues of political significance? Will he be able to act or will the media made every case before him a circus?
  • And even if everything goes without hitch, what is the future of the amazing Citizen’s Movement that has been constructed here? My own hope is that a new politics may emerge in Pakistan around the faces and frameworks of this movement and that it will remain true to its aspirations rather than succumbing to political temptations.

There are, of course, so many other questions.

But the real one remains: What next?

61 responses to “Iftikhar Chaudhry Reinstated: What Now?”

  1. bonobashi says:

    @Bloody Civilian

    Perfectly correct analysis, but what is one to conclude, other than on never compromising on principles? Unfortunately everything cannot be created overnight, as Aamir Ali has already pointed out in his rather characteristic uncomforting way. It needs time and steady sustained effort.

    This heartening victory for a newly self-aware civil society cannot, and should not obscure the facts that it was helped by a strange combination of forces, not always seen in the past as positive or encouraging.

    First, the Americans offered a helpful shove between the shoulders of the slow and backward at the right moment. Second, the military behaved admirably, with complete rectitude. They really deserve notice. And I have to point out that however much we might criticise Musharraf, the present leadership was handpicked by him. If this is the trend, there is hope for the future. Third, politicians rode the wave. On another blog, someone said that he did not trust NS. So what? Don’t trust him; as long as he helps the democratic cause, he is a wind in the sails, a helpful ally. Every time he acts democratic, he weakens his own ability to take an undemocratic stance. Even if he falters in future, he has been helpful now, and can be isolated and picked off if he misbehaves. Fourth, a section of the right also pitched in. I think it was you who spotted and remarked on the discipline that they brought in.

    What is the point? The point is that it is helpful to have a broad alliance until deep wrongs have been righted. There will be time for course correction later. I suggest this to you and others of your mind without for one moment suggesting a compromise on principle. Taking the help of these four factors, at least for some time, should not compromise the cause of democracy, and the stakes are too high to resort to Castilian points of punctilio.

    The other point is that more struggles are imminent. It is time to stop celebrating and start identifying which matter needs the next urgent attention, and which in terms of strategy and priority will attract the broadest possible coalition. It may be possible to drop one of the supporting allies for the next phase, if that is inevitable; dropping all four must prove fatal.

    Above all, please, patience, please. Mao was asked about the effect of the French Revolution on human society; he replied that it was too early to tell. The failures of 61 years cannot be set right in one.

  2. Bloody Civilian says:

    “Only Jinnah delivered”. Lesson learnt: Never compromise on principles, and you will not be disappointed (since you will not have any expectations of any one not cleaner than clean). I might have been relieved to see Musharraf make the right choice on 10/11/2001. But I never forgave him for 12 Oct ’99, and his culpability under Article 6. Similarly, I wrote off Imran Khan the moment he supported a dictator. The rest of IK’s politics has followed the same confused pattern that his lack of solid underlying principle suggested.

    That is where Jinnah was even better than Gandhi. Gandhi didn’t mind supporting the Khilafat Movement as long as it meant it brought the mullahs round to the nationalist cause. Or civil disobedience. Jinnah saw it as misplaced opportunism or irresponsible politics. Jinnah showed that he possessed the necessary, principled, visionary flexibility of a politician, in jettisoning ‘Pakistan’ and accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan. Nehru revealed that not only was he lacking in flexibility in his singular commitment to Indian nationalism, but was even prepared to go back on an agreement (i.e. the Cabinet Mission Plan.. as he showed on 10 July ’46).

    Azad too, it must be acknowledged, was solidly a man of principle. He not only remained true to his pact with a secular, united India… he had the courage to call a spade a spade. All of them were a very different class of men (and women) than we have available today.

  3. Watan Aziz says:

    Yes, judges have exceeded their limits too.

    Case in point Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. He was not content when he hauled NS, a sitting PM (if I am right, the first ever), in his Court to establish the independence of the judiciary but then went on to exceed his limits. Shah was both petty and vindictive. Never mind the goons of NS who rampaged the court afterwards and brought shame to his time as PM for ever (besides many other things). Both NS and Shah were losers in the court of public opinion (at least for me).

    The vanguard of the independent media, the functioning political system, a law abiding executive and a parliament that reflects the will of people is an independent and judicious, justice system. Fix the judiciary, then in time, each turn of the wheel, more things will get fixed ever more.

    But all of this will take longer time, real effort, patience and above all, daily conversation in the open to fix the wrongs. These wrongs did not happen overnight; they will not be fixed overnight.

    However, I would like to add that people should not get carried away with a single man. We have ben on this path before. Only Jinnah delivered. I am not impressed with all this talk about one man. The last one I compromised my opinions for was Sultan Musharraf. No more. Now, it should be the cause of service to humanity.

    Frankly, I do not care much about these oaths either. They mean nothing if nothing is respected. There is a lot a good jurist can do, even within PCO oaths if the jurist is so inclined. And what about all those priors who did not take the PCO oath; were they more holy? More independent? This is false truth.

    Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan is one of the few Constitutional offices. It was not CJ

  4. Ex-Pakistani says:

    There is a lot of hope in the air. Pakistan must have taken a step forward, but don’t forget with every step forward come two steps back; remember this is Pakistan we are talking about. Dream on, this is ship isn’t going anywhere.

    Ifti is just Mian Sahib’s puppet, there is no activism in Pakistan, I am not about to fall for this sham.

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