Pakistani judge slams government.,
army for deal with protesters, fears for his life
[Judge: Who is the Army to play the role of mediator?] Where does the law assign this role to a Major General? “If someone in the Army loves politics, then he should resign and join politics"]
The change is coming. It’s not a big one but it’s a change. Though slight and not widely welcomed and popularly applauded, it’s a sign of some change in Pakistan when a judge showed courage to slam the military and freely expressed his opinion.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the military’s dominant role is weakening but does indicate that there is a change in the mood of the community, judiciary and general public.
Because of international pressure, and the awakening of the people coupled by the realization that enough is enough, the military has to shed some of its weight sooner than later.
The recent outburst of a judge is a slight indication of the change; and it is just the beginning.
A top Pakistani court, last month, lashed out at the government and the country's powerful military for the role assigned to the Army as the "mediator" in striking a deal with the hardline religious groups to end their prolonged sit-in in Islamabad and several other cities.
According to official sources in Islamabad, Pakistan's Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigned as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters overnight. The protesters then called off the three weeks long protests.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court (IH) heard the case about the protests that claimed the lives of six people and injured over 100 others.
Earlier, he had issued contempt notice against Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal for failing to end protests.
Justice Siddiqui expressed strong displeasure at the Minister for failing to appear for the hearing and issued orders that he should present himself within 15 minutes.
When the Minister arrived after sometime, the judge pulled him up for failing to clear the roads by using state authority and instead making a deal with the protesters.
"The court had asked the government to clear the roads and not for an agreement with protesters. What you have done is surrender," he said.
He also used strong words against Army's role to mediate the agreement, when the Minister said the agreement with the protesters was reached with the help of the Army.
"Who is the Army to play the role of mediator? Where does the law assign this role to a Major General?" he asked.
Justice Siddiqui told Iqbal that the government had constitutional right to call in Army to help civil administration in any emergency situation.
Referring to ongoing Radd-ul-Fassad operation against militants and their supporters, the judge said: "Where is their Radd-ul-Fasaad now? Did they not see any Fasaad (anarchy) in this protest?"
In more scathing words, the judge said the protesters could not sit at Faizabad if it were located closer to the Army's headquarters.
He said that if someone in the Army loved politics, then he should resign and join politics.
"Soldiers who are inclined towards politics should turn in their weapons," the judge said in his hard-hitting remarks.
He also said that the "Army chief is an officer in an institution that comes under the state" and rhetorically asked "Is he above the law?"
Talking about the agreement, the judge told the Minister that "you have embarrassed the police and the administration."
He further said, "You are supporting the impression that the Army is the cure for all illnesses."
The judge also expressed fear for his life.
"I know that after these remarks, I will also become a 'missing person' or get killed," he said.
The powerful Army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan, has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.
The court also picked several faults in the agreement and said how the government can set free those protesters who have been booked under anti-terrorism laws.
He also said that why an apology by the protesters was not included in the agreement for criticizing judiciary.
He adjourned the hearing until next week, Dec. 4, and ordered a probe report about who made changes in the law which resulted in the unrest should be presented in the court.
Inspector General Khalid Khattak, Chief Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Deputy Commissioner Captain (retired) Mushtaq, Director General Intelligence Bureau Aftab Sultan and Secretary-Commander of the Inter-Services Intelligence were also present in the court.
[PTI agency contributed to this report.]