At the opening ceremony of the new judicial year, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the bar has repeatedly voiced its concerns “over receding political space in the governance of the state and such concerns must not be ignored.” He stated that we feel “the growing perception that the process of accountability being pursued in the country at present is lopsided.” He pointed out that “voices being raised about the muzzling of the print and electronic media and suppression of dissent are also disturbing.”
While expressing little disappointment, Justice Khosa emphasised on three issues: first, restructuring of the judicial system by introducing a three-tier system, doing away with special courts and repealing or amending some unnecessary and problematic laws; second, holding of an inter-institutional dialogue for sorting out irritants within the organs and institutions of the state; third, the issue of missing persons. He hoped that these issues would receive proper attention from the executive and the legislature.
Justice Faez Isa has highlighted the duty of the judiciary within a democratic system. He said the judiciary has the authority “to stop an individual or institution in the event they transgress fundamental rights.” He explained that the parliament is responsible for legislation; the executive enacts the legislation and the judiciary interprets the constitution and law and ensures that every individual and institution operates within its constitutional domain. He cautioned that history stands witness to the fact that “whenever institutions have crossed the bounds of their authority, not only are the fundamental rights of people violated, the country is weakened and can break apart as well.”
National success depends on collective performance of state institutions
Faez Isa stressed that “institutions and countries are strengthened only when they learn from their mistakes.” While hearing a case about the cutting down of forests in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he regretted that “things had come to a pretty pass in the country and the atmosphere was such that one could not freely talk about anything.”
Justice Gulzar, a senior Supreme Court judge, while hearing a case regarding the regularization of sanitation workers, has remarked, “All the institutions in the country have become spoiled. The system of the entire country is running on ad-hocism.”
Thus, there should be no surprise if Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed disappointment with the international community for failing to pressure India in the matter of Jammu and Kashmir. It may not be taken as unexpected if Islamic countries have not shown desired support and enthusiasm for Kashmir. It appears to be the right time for national introspection.
We must appreciate the fast-changing global context and revisit our national and international policies. We should listen to Faez Isa when he brings our attention to a lesson of history that institutions and countries are strengthened only when they learn from their mistakes. We should adhere to the proposal of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa regarding inter-institutional dialogue for sorting out issues within the state institutions. We should appreciate observations of Justice Gulzar to avoid expediency and ad-hocism in the country. We must learn from the experience of our prime minister with the international community first for seeking financial support and now for a principled stand on Kashmir.
The question remains: Where to start? The sages have spoken loudly. Let us begin with inter-institutional dialogue culminating into the formation of a national commission for introspection and reforms. The commission should probe into our past mistakes and be able to speak truth to all concerned. It should help for chalking out a future national plan for institutional corrections. In the first phase, the commission must focus on economic, national security, and foreign policy. Then, it should concentrate on our education, justice, and political systems.
Without putting our national house in order, we should neither expect any miracles from any individual or institution nor any support from the international community. National success depends on collective performance of state institutions. The institutional output is determined by merit, transparency, and accountability within the state institutions. Moreover, all the institutions work in a larger inter-connected policy framework and socio-economic context of the country. Reforms in one sector help in improving the performance of other sectors as well. For example, improving the national economy helps in our securing national security. Likewise, reforming our education system would strengthen our economy. Nothing may work effectively if we fail to address the flaws of our political institutions. Finally, without making our judiciary independent and efficient, we cannot reap the fruits of justice, economic prosperity and democracy. We cannot establish an egalitarian society without protecting fundamental rights and upholding the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution.
Let us realise our huge national potential building a knowledge-based economy. Let us invest in our youth producing a capable human resource without which no nation can compete and progress in international market. We must capitalise the hundred per cent potential of our population to make our institutions stronger. All stakeholders now appreciate that without consistently following an independent, clear, and informed foreign policy, we cannot convince others as to the moral and legal strength of our national stance. We must realise that no state can sustain in the long run without protecting citizens’ basic rights such as right to a dignified life and freedom of expression. Finally, all the institutions must support constitutionalism, rule of law, and democracy to make the country stronger.
The writer is a lawyer