Uncertain future awaits Pakistanis as no end to constitutional, energy crises

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Islamabad, May 28 (ANI): The ongoing tussle between the Pakistan Supreme Court and the federal government is likely to add to the feeling of uncertainty prevailing in the country in coming months as both key institutions are on the collision course over constitutional affairs.

"I see June and July as the most crucial months for our country's future. June may pass off peacefully amid court hearings, but July can even bring change in the government. It all depends on the government, whether they implement the Supreme Court's decisions or not, if they don't, the uncertainty will increase, and, they may have to leave offices," said Akram Sheikh, one of country's top lawyers, who is himself appearing in many Supreme Court-related cases.

Pakistan's Supreme Court is hearing cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and his comrades. The main bone of contention is a Supreme Court's decision about declaring illegal an ordinance that benefitted Zardari. The government is reluctant to implement it.

Zardari was able to become the country's president because of a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007, which cleared him (Zardari) of corruption charges.

The then government wrote to the Government of Switzerland,where courts were probing Zardari's assets in Swiss banks, to close all cases against him following the NRO, which shielded more than 8,000 other accused from corruption-related cases.

But Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, who was reinstated in March last year after a country wide public movement, declared this ordinance illegal last December and ordered the government to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases.

But the government is yet to implement this order and continues to make excuses.

This has forced the Supreme Court to issue a fortnight-long deadline to the government to submit a detailed report on implementation of court directives.

"If the government does not implement the Supreme Court's orders, it will create 'havoc'. The supreme Court is in no mood to leave the government to go with it. It is a matter of the Supreme Court's honourable existence, they will declare the government disqualified in case of non-cooperation," said Sheikh, who is widely regarded as an expert on legal conflicts.

Law Minister Babar Awan told the court at the last hearing that there were 'legal complications in implementing the Supreme Court orders.

There are other cases over which these two institutions are at loggerheads.

The Supreme Court has entertained many petitions against the recent introduction of the 18th Amendment in the Constitution, passed unanimously by Parliament and signed into law by President Zardari.This amendment includes a new formula for the appointment of judges through a judicial commission comprising of government representatives.

The apex court has admitted applications against this formula and will hear arguments in the following weeks.

The Lahore High Court, headed by Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, a judge considered very close to Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, has also started hearing a petition against the President's act to pardon his close friend and interior minister Rehman Malik.

Malik was convicted in a case of misusing his official authority and the court sentenced him to three years in jail. Zardari, however,pardoned him, using his discretionary powers.

Malik is facing a number of other cases in the accountability and other courts and is being summoned by judges in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to explain his position.

"The government is not bothered about this, they are going to face whatever circumstances are for them in future," said Ayaz Amir, Pakistan's top columnist and a member of the National Assembly.

"The government's strategy is 'we will see what happens' and they are not going to implement this NRO decision, they are likely to defy Supreme Court's authority. I see the court into a difficult corner because the government will continue ignoring orders for many months," he said.

Chief Justice Chaudhry on Thursday confirmed the experts views that the war between the judiciary and the government would go on when he said the 'battle has just started'.

"This battle can only be won by selfless, independent and law-based cooperation between the bench and the bar on the one hand and the rest of the institutions on the other," Chaudhry told a lawyers delegation.

The Supreme Court is not the only institution giving a tough time to the government. Issues such as rising prices, new taxes in the next budget and a severe shortage of electricity and water have public anger swelling.

Former Finance Minister Dr.Salman Shah believes the government's economic policies will push more people to street protests.

"The government collected 1,200 billion rupees from the public as taxes last year and intends to receive 1,700 billion rupees tax in next financial year, which will further lower their credibility and force people to come out in the streets," he warned.

"People are already worried and in streets, there are electricity crisis, unemployment and inflation, if their would be no relief in next week's new budget, they will throw this government out," Shah said.

The inflation rate in Pakistan remained this year around 13 percent while it faces the electricity short fall of around 3,000 megawatts with demand crossing the figure of over 15000 megawatts and the production remaining 12000 megawatts.(ANI)

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