By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
With these famous words Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 B.C, crossed the Rubicon river in Northern Italy in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war.
Today both phrases, “the die is cast” and “crossing the Rubicon” symbolically represent “a point of no return”.
Has the Supreme Court cast the die and crossed the Rubicon in convicting Nehal Hashmi? To many they have. To others, more skeptical, this may be just a more serious and threatening warning shot across Nawaz’s bows to desist him and his daughter and other courtiers like Talal etc from further criticism and just stop short of awarding a similar judgement as Nehal’s!
Just for context.
Our Superior Judiciary doesn’t boast a very glorious and honourable past of courageous acts or stands against tyrants and crooks. Time and again it has bowed, bended, swayed, sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly, at times being bought, at times threatened and cowed into submission. And always given the OK to our Men on Horseback!
It has the dishonorable honour of turning against its own in the infamous case of the Supreme Court coup lead by a Nawaz minion Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, who turned against his own sitting Chief Justice, that most honourable and dignified personage Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. History records their legacies very differently.
Then we have had the PCO and non PCO judges, the Iftikhar Chaudhry episode, the Dogar Supreme Court etc etc.
Sufficeth to say that this institution has had its days of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, meekly acquiesing to the powerful and the mighty.
Justice Khosa quoted from The Godfather in his earlier minority judgement in the Panama case. But we must also remember that there existed and still exists a very tight close and evil mafia like nexus between the bench and the bar in Pakistan. It’s like a club where both scratch each other’s backs, suck the money and blood from the poor and the hapless, unfortunate enough to fall prey to the judicial system. Judges who were partners with lawyers from the same chambers stage a macabre hypocrtical drama in the courtrooms everyday. For a drama it is, while the hapless public looks on trying to make a sense of the never ending stay orders, the endless dates, the 15 minute rushed hearings, the hearings that never take place, and the lawyers and the court staff milking the litigants. Ask me. I know. Having run from pillar to post, as have many others reading this, completely helpless, held hostage by the Judicial Mafia!
But in recent times the Supreme Court has redeemed it’s honour in ways that one couldn’t even contemplate, let alone expect. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, to his everlasting credit, and perhaps his only real credit, was able to snatch away the administrative power of the EXECUTIVE to appoint judges to the Superior Judiciary, and in that one act he has changed the destiny of this Institution. And for this the legal fraternity owes him an everlasting debt for conjuring this miracle!
Thank God for this miracle, that we have witnessed, perhaps for the first time in our history, the crooked and the corrupt occupying our highest office being caught by the scruff of their necks, while in office, and meted justice for their crimes.
The Supreme Court judges clearly have a spine that I for one didnt think existed. But the events of the past year or so has changed all that. This dramatic change has shocked everbody. Some with joy others devastated! Especially their fraternity in the bar and many others used to the spineless lot of the past.
In a strange way the Supreme Court has rebelled against their own community in asserting their independence and the bar is incensed at what they consider a “betrayal”.
The shocked silence and failure of all the bar councils across the length and breadth of Pakistan in standing up for the bench against the daily slander by Nawaz and co is testimony to this deduction.
This silence of the Bar councils who should be celebrating this “born again Supreme Court” speaks volumes of their professional integrity and values and where their loyalties lie.
And the one council that spoke up, the Karachi Bar Council, is actually planning to go on strike to protest Nehal Hashmi’s conviction and sentencing. Subhan Allah!
And this is where the Supreme Court must display its spine again, without fear or favour, without being blackmailed or being threatened. We cannot afford to give in now and compromise or be again browbeaten into submission.
Your Lordships! Now that the die has been cast and the Rubicon crossed with Nehal’s conviction and sentencing, the Nation and Justice expects you to complete the job you started with him.
Not convicting Nawaz, Maryam, Talal and Saad Rafiq and others guilty of the same crime of defaming the Court, would be a travesty of justice. There are already voices, not mine, saying that Nehal got this harsh punishment because he is a Muhajir and Urdu speaking! And the others being Punjabis will be spared and let off with a gentle wrap on the knuckles “in the interest of the State and public order” etc etc.
Well, Your Lordships, in all humility, since I have no intentions to join Nehal, either the Honourable Court shouldn’t have convicted him, which I and the vast majority think you should have, and thereby set the precedent which then leaves the Honourable Court very little room to forgive the others.
Howrver, if for some unearthly reason and in your wisdom your Honourable Lordships were to let Nawaz and company off the hook, it’ll be a resounding slap on your own faces, on the Court, on Pakistan and on Justice.
Nawaz, Maryam, Talal, Danyal, Saad Rafiq and others must also be punished as has Nehal.
If you do not, Pakistan will face the serious consequences of this abject surrender by the Honourable Court, however beautifully or artfully your Lordships may pen your poetic travesty.
The Nation is watching, Your Lordships!
You have done much to redeem the honour of this your institution and of this nation. Much more remains to be done!