Hounding the Dissenters


In the wake of the Lahore Institute of Management Sciences' (LUMS) decision to not renew Pervez Hoodbhoy's contract, Mohammad Taqi in Daily Times:

Pakistan has an unfortunate track record of hounding dissenters from Dr Fatima Ali Jinnahbhoy to Dr Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy. And the bullying has gone on with impunity and without shame. The recent slap-on-the-wrist verdict by the Supreme Court (SC) in the 16-year-old Asghar Khan case barely scratches the surface of how institutionalised and deep the rot is.

A hyperactive judiciary that has been adjudicating anything from samosa prices to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) 2007 and had no hesitation in sending an elected prime minister packing for non-implementation of its orders in the NRO case, danced around the substance of the Asghar Khan case. The SC has recommended action ‘under the law’ against the former army chief, General (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg and the ISI boss at the time, General (retired) Asad Durrani, for their illegal actions. The court effectively turfed the matter to the government by ordering it to set off this process through the Federal Investigation Agency.

The lawyer for the petitioner, the outstanding Salman Akram Raja, is spot on when he says that proceedings against the culprits should be initiated under Article six of the constitution. What could serve as the touchstone here is the SC’s own judgment in the Asma Jilani vs Government of Punjab case 1972 that, “As soon as the first opportunity arises, when the coercive apparatus falls from the hands of the usurper, he should be tried for high treason and suitably punished. This alone will serve as a deterrent to the would-be adventurers.” It would have certainly helped the civilian leadership if the SC had provided at least some clarity as to what exactly it had in mind when it directed the government to punish the offenders. The verdict left the door open to proceed potentially against the political activity of the president, but it would neither touch the political beneficiaries of the Mehran Bank-army collusion or the army itself with a 10-foot pole. Nonetheless, the ruling provides the civilian leadership an opportunity to proceed against those who have directly or indirectly, as in the 1990 stolen elections, usurped the people’s mandate or refused to honour it when the Pakistani people have spoken despite their machinations.