The most breathlessly awaited judgment of the Supreme Court is in, and it has given as much of a shock to the country as the shenanigans of Imran Khan on Sunday. But the difference is that this was a pleasant shock. Imran Khan’s unconstitutional attempt to hold on to power has been thoroughly frustrated by the court.
There was near-unanimous fear that the court would deploy some form of “doctrine of necessity” even if it reversed the Deputy Speaker’s ruling. It was being debated and feared that because the hearing was continuing for so long, the court was likely to tread a “middle path” and ask the Opposition to just go with elections and not restore its right to boot out Imran Khan.
The 'Doctrine of Necessity' Is Buried Forever
But the unanimous judgment is being hailed as historic and it has seemingly buried the doctrine of necessity forever. Indeed, this is one of the best judgments of the Supreme Court because it has not just upheld the Constitution and the rule of law, but because it will also serve as an excellent precedent in the aid of parliamentary democracy and the democratic process in the country. The court has very clearly declared unconstitutional the acts of the three persons involved in the attempted heist.
As the President of Sindh High Court bar, Salahuddin Ahmad said, “The court delivered the verdict strictly in accordance with the law and constitution, and that not only did the judges unanimously set aside the Sunday’s unconstitutional ruling, but also ordered to reverse the subsequent actions by the premier and the president.”
This action of reversing all actions of the Prime Minister and the President is what has put paid to the “doctrine of necessity” and created a precedent for reversing illegality instead of accepting it as a past and closed transaction.
But the most interesting thing the ruling has done is that it has gone beyond just declaring Sunday’s developments as unconstitutional and void ab initio and restoring the House to the position of Sunday morning. The court has, in fact, put the restored Prime Minister and President in a straitjacket to prevent them from attempting another adventure before the no-confidence vote is actually carried out by Saturday morning. The judgment states that its interim order of 3 April stating that “any order by the Prime Minister and the President shall be subject to the order of this court” will continue to be operative, and will now also apply to the Speaker till the vote of no-confidence is carried out.
The Court Didn't Entertain the 'Foreign Conspiracy' Idea
Another interesting aspect is that the Supreme Court’s ruling is completely silent on the allegations made by the government with regard to Article 5 and the international conspiracy that the opposition and no-confidence were supposedly part of. This can be understood in two different ways.
The first is that the “traitor sword” has been deliberately left hanging over the Opposition’s head. But I am of the firm view that the court has done no such thing, nor was this question put to the court.
The way this allegation has been ignored is as if it is beneath the court’s dignity to even entertain such a stupid idea. And by not looking into this allegation, the court has very correctly indicated that no matter what, the Deputy Speaker’s ruling to disallow a vote and reject the motion was unconstitutional.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is now arguing, in vain, that the Supreme Court could not rule without looking into the allegations of a US conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the government. However, every constitutional lawyer – indeed every normal person with an iota of sense (basically everyone who is not a PTI supporter) – has hailed the ruling as historic.
The Story of Oliver Cromwell
Former Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf has very aptly described what is happening to Imran Khan. He said, “It reminds me of Oliver Cromwell, who, after his death, was taken out of his grave, tried for treason and hanged to be buried back in the same grave.”
By rights, Imran should have been history last Sunday, but he has managed to prolong his rule for seven days by violating the Constitution. I believe if there were any chance of getting an “NRO” – Pakistani terminology for a get-out-of-jail-free card – Imran has evaporated it quite completely.
The crime he committed on Sunday is by far the most serious of all while in office, and there will be consequences – not just for him, but for all those involved in hatching the conspiracy to subvert democracy and usurp power.
(Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani journalist and rights activist. She tweets @GulBukhari. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)