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A Judicial Coup: India and Afghanistan caught in the cross fire

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A Judicial Coup: India and Afghanistan caught in the cross fire

The Prime Minister is the boss, not the army chief. This is what the constitution says. We all have to live within the four walls of the Constitution.” In the hindsight, it seems that there will be no statement Mian Nawaz Sharif will regret making more than this one, said only hours after his 2013 election victory. The July 28, 2017 disqualification of Mian Sharif on the occasion of Pakistan’s 70th anniversary is no departure from the democratic trend seen in Pakistan, where no Prime Minister has completed his full term; with the first peaceful democratic transition from one civilian government to another having taken place as late as 2013.

A travesty of justice

Largely, this culture of democratic murder has been ensconced in Pakistan’s polity on account of the constitutional amendments carried out during General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime in the 1980’s. The disqualification of Mr. Sharif by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on grounds of “violating Islamic injunctions’ under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution – also introduced under a military dictatorship in 1985 – which requires a member of Parliament to be possessing sagacious virtues (often equated with Prophet Mohammed) of being ‘Ameen’ (honest) and ‘Sadik’ (morally upright) is no exception. The Supreme Court’s judgment is an antithesis of the spirit of rule of law on many counts.  While Sharif’s involvement in the Panama Papers case is still not proven, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, it seemed, was on an all out fishing expedition against Sharif. The shocking grounds for the dismissal lie in his failure to declare a sum of ten thousand dirham’s; he was entitled to receive but indeed never received, as the chairman of a Dubai based company. More shocking, however was the blind acceptance of the findings of the Joint Investigative panel’s report by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It is pertinent to note that two of the six members of this panel were members of the armed forces and were also involved in previously investigating Sharif’s government over the Dawn media group leaks, thus clearly having reasons to be biased against him. The blanket denial of the right to free and fair trial, a pre-requisite to the concept of rule of law was indeed unprecedented and points towards a larger trend of tacit support of the Judiciary for the military. Can the ingenious “doctrine of necessity” evolved by the Supreme Court in the 1980’s, designed to validate military coup’s ever be forgotten?  

 Security implications for India and Afghanistan

In all fairness, it would not be incorrect to assume that Nawaz Sharif, at least in recent memory, was the most pro-development and pro-peace PM of Pakistan. A large contributor to his strained relations with the Pakistan army was his desire to have peaceful relations with India and Afghanistan. An apt illustration of this would be from the Dawn media group leaks last year highlighting the rift between the civilian government and army, over the latter’s use of terrorist groups against India in Kashmir. With a lame duck PM in the form of Mr. Abbasi, focused more on renewing the mandate for the beleaguered PML (N); the army’s increased say in foreign policy is but, a natural corollary. Foreign policy is synonymous with security issues handled by the army and has been a tool employed in legitimizing the army’s control over the country. Projecting India as a perennial existential threat while looking at Afghanistan as a strategic deep asset, serves the interests of the army well by drawing attention away from its own domestic failings. With Taliban’s control over 95 out of the 407 districts of Afghanistan and the death toll being 11,418 during 2015 & 2016 (according to the UN); it’d be ludicrous to shrug off the fragile security situation in Afghanistan. Afghan National Security Advisor, Mr. Hanif Atmar has rightly described Pakistan’s Afghan ambitions as her desire to have Afghanistan as her ‘client state’. Pakistan’s support to the so called ‘Good Taliban’, LeT, Haqqani network and Mullah Nazir network is well documented; this support is likely to only increase further.

 

With the new geo-political equations, India and Afghanistan are surely going to get caught in the cross fire between the Pakistan Army and the government’s power struggle. While Afghanistan is still mourning the tragic death of her daughter, Fatemah Quaderyan; her friends from India, apart from standing shoulder to shoulder with their beloved ‘Kabuliwala’s’ also hope to not see even one more bright Afghan life go waste in this senseless cycle of violence. It’s about time that India and Afghanistan strengthen their security co-operation further while building upon the gains of a developmental agenda.

Biographical note of the author.

 

" Aditya Manubarwala is a Trainee Solicitor in Mumbai. Apart from being a former Attache to the Office of the Speaker of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, he is also the youngest Indian to have deposed before a committee of Parliament in Indian Legislative History. He has been a law Trainee to Justice F.M.I Kalifullah of the Supreme Court of India and regularly contributes opinion- editorial articles to prominent Indian news paper and International blogs like the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, New York, Oxford Human Rights Hub and the London School of Economics Blog'