Judiciary must avoid interfering in domain of other institutions: HRCP

Our Correspondent
Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

LAHORE: On concluding an extraordinary meeting to deliberate on the current political crisis and constitutional impasse, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)’s governing council has urged to uphold and strengthen the democratic process.

HRCP stated it is deeply concerned that this crisis has resulted in polarisation across the political spectrum. The state of affairs was triggered by events designed to stall the democratic process and undermine the efficacy and legitimacy of the parliament.

One political party first abandoned the National Assembly and then dissolved two provincial assemblies. Others in government blocked the subsequent reversal of this move by thwarting the opposition’s attempt to return to the National Assembly.

Despite its considered view that the dissolution of the Punjab and KP assemblies was politically expedient, HRCP was concerned that these assembly elections have been postponed till October by the Election Commission of Pakistan. “We are also aware of legitimate apprehensions that such decisions could become a precedent to be used to derail the democratic process in the future,” stated the HRCP.

While HRCP believes that the Constitution does provide solutions that may legitimise delayed elections, any such delay should be as short as possible and necessary and proportionate to the aims of the delay.

Accordingly, there must be consensus among all political parties and stakeholders on the rationale for such a delay. They should also recognise that this is an unwelcome precedent and must not recur. The election process must also remain free, fair, credible and transparent, and the results acceptable to all political stakeholders, it added.

HRCP noted with dismay the judicial overreach in conflict with the constitutional principle of the trichotomy of powers. There is a need to dispel the impression that, in interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court enhances its own powers at the expense of other democratic institutions.

The judiciary must safeguard its independence, integrity and credibility. It must resist any urge to interfere in the domain of other constitutional bodies and instead help strengthen all such institutions by giving them the room to resolve issues that fall within their constitutional remit, the HRCP said.

It added, “We also firmly believe that there is no room for threats of any undemocratic interventions.”

HRCP strongly condemned violent and unlawful behaviour by political elements aimed at creating disorder to further their political agendas. At the same time, HRCP denounced the strong-arm tactics and disproportionate use of force by the state as a means of political repression. “We are deeply concerned to observe that this has involved resorting to the use of colonial laws of sedition, unwarranted charges of terrorism against political opponents, enforced disappearances, and attempts to gag freedom of expression through ill-conceived proposals and actions through PEMRA,” remarked the HRCP.

Ultimately, the crux of the ongoing crisis is political and not legal. There is no other option for the political opposition and the government but to hold serious and meaningful dialogue in parliament to resolve it in the larger interests of people, concluded the HRCP.