Pakistan, 1997

By Craig Baxter; Charles H. Kennedy | Go to book overview

The Electorate's Verdict

After the challenges to the Dissolution Order were heard and the Order was upheld, elections took place on February, 3, 1997 as stipulated in the Order. The opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML), led by Mian Nawaz Sharif, won a resounding victory. It secured more than two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly and together with its allies also succeeded in securing more than two- thirds of the seats in the Senate. The PML was then in a position to amend the constitution.

The governments of both the leading political parties had been slaughtered by the sword of Article 58(2)(b) more than once and were longing for the opportunity to remove this lurking danger which in the past had been responsible for the early dismissal of governments. On March 31, the Thirteenth Amendment was introduced in the Senate by the majority party. This amendment would overturn Article 58(2)(b) of the Constitution.

It was joyfully supported by the minority Pakistan Peoples Party which ensured its passage in less than two hours. In the same afternoon the bill came up before the National Assembly. The National Assembly unanimously, and with much back slapping and acclaim, also adopted the amendment before the evening sun had set. The President thereupon, with what heart it is difficult to say, accorded his assent on April 3, 1997. Article 5 8(2)(b), which had been used to pack off four prime ministers and four different National Assemblies in eight years, was unceremoniously buried in less than a day. Hopefully, its end will ensure greater stability and be conducive to the development of stronger democratic institutions. 33


Conclusions

Momentous events have unfolded in the little more than a year since the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the Judges Case. Many of these have flowed directly from the judgment and the contumacious responses with which it was received by the government. Three theories exist with regard to why this case was heard and the way it was decided. The first view is that so many controversial appointments had been made by the government in the superior courts that a stage had been reached where the survival of the institution itself was at stake. The second view, mainly held by PPP loyalists, is that the case and the subsequent events culminating in the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto's government was not a sudden outburst of indignation against the making of particular appointments by the then government, but rather targeted the PPP. The third view is that the judgment must be seen not as a reaction by the judiciary, nor as an instance of unfair treatment of any party, but of a new phase of judicial activism being experienced by many contemporary developing democracies. The developments in India, where the Indian Supreme Court delivered a judgment in their Judges Case34 whereby a much greater role was claimed for itself in judicial appointments, illustrates this

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