EDITORIAL: The way the country’s top politicians are turning their guns on central and sensitive state institutions out of frustration and desperation is indeed very unfortunate. First Imran Khan wouldn’t stop unloading on the military establishment for not intervening to rescue his collapsing government.

And now Maryam Nawaz is going hammer and tongs at the judiciary for issuing verdicts that don’t particularly suit PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz).

This is clearly a carefully crafted narrative designed to snatch the initiative in what has become a very ugly political slugfest into which the judiciary has been dragged as well. Since we’ve reached a point where everybody – even organs of the state and their top functionaries – are being considered fair game, there is a very real danger of the kind of implosion that the country might not recover from.

At the heart of this latest crisis is the perception among the ruling PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) coalition that some judges are tilting more towards the agitating opposition in some of their most sensitive judgments than the law would allow.

It makes matters worse, of course, that definite indications have been emerging from within the judiciary itself that portrays a divided court. The nine-member bench hearing suo motu proceedings about elections in Punjab and KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) is the latest, most valid case in point. The chief justice’s composition of a nine-member bench instead of hearing by a full court is being questioned from within the bench itself and by others outside.

Little surprise that the government expressed serious reservations and demanded that the two honourable judges in question recuse themselves to remove the alleged stain of impartiality from the proceedings. And since an audio tape allegedly featuring one of the judges and a former chief minister had been doing the rounds for a few days, the Pakistan Bar Council was also drawn into the mix.

Now, the longer the Supreme Court takes to address these concerns, the more it will become the subject of public debate. And then it will no doubt be forced to initiate contempt of court proceedings against some of the louder voices questioning its decisions and tactics. While this is regrettable, perhaps even potentially disastrous because it can, in the long run, impact negatively on the image of the highest court in the land.

It is important to point out that things would never have reached such a pitch if the political elite had the ability to settle political matters within the political domain. But all of them, without exception, have been so consumed by what has become a zero-sum rush for power that they have no qualms about even stampeding through central institutions.

Still, that does not excuse some of those institutions from acting in completely impartial ways expected of them. It seems we have finally come to the crossroads where all arms of the state are in urgent need of a rethink and reset. But that, too, requires the kind of civility and vision that is utterly lacking from the country’s elite.

After reducing mainstream politics to its dirtiest level in Pakistan’s history, they are now bent upon making the pillars that hold it up controversial as well. And that can’t be good for anybody.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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