Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified as prime minister, but whether or not the Supreme Court decision will strengthen Pakistan's democracy is an open question. Photo: Reuters/Files
Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified as prime minister, but whether or not the Supreme Court decision will strengthen Pakistan's democracy is an open question. Photo: Reuters/Files

It can be termed a de facto judicial coup. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has finally announced its verdict regarding the fate of those politicians who were disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. This decision means that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif is being disqualified from holding any public office for life.

It was a decision everyone knew long before it was announced, as the invisible forces are not ready to give any space to Nawaz Sharif.

The court verdict has not only denied the fundamental rights of Sharif and other politicians, but has also taken us back to the era of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Articles 62 and 63 were introduced by Zia to victimize political opponents. The tried and tested methods of the invisible forces are proving effective again, and it appears the court will soon also impose a ban on Sharif making live speeches and appearing at public gatherings.

The way things are going it can be predicted that Sharif will be indicted in the cases running in the accountability courts. It seems that a time will come when even those who vote for the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) will also be disqualified through the courts for their participation in the electoral process.

Sadly, the judiciary is again lending support to the invisible forces and validating the fact that the whole system in Pakistan is tailored to undermine democracy.

The judiciary has certainly entered the domain of Parliament, and it seems that the political forces who are backed by the establishment have done damage to their own institutions. It can be termed a black day for democracy when a political leader was denied even the fundamental right of contesting elections.

It can be termed a black day for democracy when a political leader was denied even the fundamental right of contesting elections

The way Sharif is being victimized through the judiciary by the invisible forces is another dark chapter in the political history of Pakistan. In the process of ousting Sharif, the invisible forces have actually made a mockery of the constitution and judicial system. A judiciary with a history of giving constitutional support to dictators and usurpers and condemning elected representatives to death or to life imprisonment at the behest of invisible forces certainly could have avoided becoming a party on the power chessboard.

It seems that lessons from history are not being learned and the process of hijacking the mandate of electorates will not be stopped.

But will this end Sharif’s political career, or will it prove helpful in orchestrating an electoral win for Imran Khan or Asif Zardari, the perceived pawns of the invisible forces? The answer seems to be in the negative.

The recent judgment has in fact strengthened Sharif’s narrative and created a wave of sympathy for him. On the other hand it is almost impossible for the invisible forces to manage elections to the extent that Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party or Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf can win even a simple majority in the coming elections.

From the Agartala conspiracy case to the Zulfikar Bhutto hanging and the imprisonment and disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the courts in Musharraf‘s regime, all these decisions are remembered as bad ones, and these politicians emerged even more powerful and popular after the controversial judicial decisions.

Unfortunately the recent decision on Sharif’s disqualification is also proving to be controversial and it seems history will again not treat it well. On the other hand, the hyperactive judiciary is also making it difficult for the government to function properly.

It is not the domain or duty of the honorable chief justice to visit hospitals, check sewer pipelines and address lawyer gatherings every day. One wonders why judicial activism is only restricted to a weak civilian democracy and institutions and why it is not exercised in missing-persons cases and alleged scams.

There are thousands of cases pending in the honorable Supreme Court, and in lower courts the number of unheard cases is in the hundreds of thousands. It would have been better to take up those cases instead of taking up political cases.

Now in the current situation the honorable court has to bear the criticism, as it is an election year and Sharif will not sit silently; in fact, he will strengthen his narrative by becoming more vocal about the flaws in the judicial system and on the merits of his case.

The battle will become uglier and analysts and invisible forces who are expecting a ban on Sharif’s politics are totally wrong in their assumptions.

Unlike many of his opponents, Sharif has earned respect across the country, and his contribution to democracy, be it a struggle against dictatorship or a movement to restore judiciary, are widely acknowledged. His development work, infrastructure mega-projects, and educational and health reforms are acknowledged by the masses. Sharif’s anti-establishment narrative and stance on civilian supremacy and his liberal and progressive stance in a conservative society not only win him support in Pakistan itself but also in the global community.

Sharif is in fact capable of launching a massive campaign of agitation against his visible and invisible opponents, which could lead us to a situation where the state and the federation will be the ultimate loser.

This means that we will see more dirty moves as state institutions are used to eliminate Sharif politically. The big question that remains is whether Pakistan will ever see a real democracy instead of a controlled one.

The decision to disqualify Sharif for life has undermined Parliament, and if the lawmaking body of the country is dependent on the judiciary’s interpretation of law, then why is there a need to have only a symbolic parliament and symbolic democracy?

The process of undermining political leadership and democracy is actually undermining the state itself. It is a silent judicial coup in Pakistan against the elected government. However, this time Sharif’s fate remains in the hands of the masses, not the judiciary and the invisible forces, as he is riding a wave of sympathy.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.