News / Asia

Legal Controversies Continue to Hamper Pakistan

Paramilitary soldiers walk past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, August 8, 2012.
Paramilitary soldiers walk past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, August 8, 2012.
Ayaz Gul
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s coalition government has held together for more than four years, marking a democratic milestone for a country challenged by coups and military rule. But critics say an ongoing legal standoff with the Supreme Court is becoming a crippling distraction, preventing the government from addressing critical problems such as the ailing economy, a worsening energy crisis and anti-militancy efforts.

The unrelenting legal troubles of the government stem from a judgment the Supreme Court delivered in late 2009. That ruling struck down a controversial amnesty that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her family had received in late 2007 and would allow a $60-million Swiss graft case against Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Ali Zardari to be reopened.

However, the Pakistan government has refused to ask Switzerland to reopen the case, arguing that the president enjoys immunity from prosecution in and outside Pakistan while in office.

The dispute has already led to the dismissal of one prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

His successor, Raja Pervez Ashraf, is likely to face the same fate when the Supreme Court meets again on August 27.

Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel, who represent’s the Awami National Party in the governing coalition, blames the judiciary’s “highhandedness” for the country's lingering economic troubles.

"When there is no stable government, there is no permanent prime minister in this country and there is always fear of removal of one Prime Minister, another and then third, so who will invest in this country," he said.

Analysts, too, attribute insufficient government focus on issues such as economy, education, healthcare and counter-terrorism to the relentless pressure from the Supreme Court.

"I think there is a situation of crisis and feeling of uncertainty, and in this kind of situation the government officials do not really take very bold steps because they don’t know who would be there ruling the country next week," said Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst and former professor at Columbia University. "And the whole thing goes in favor of those who challenge the state authority, who are criminals, who are creating problems because they get relatively free hand."

There are others who say the legal battles should not have prevented the government from stabilizing the national economy, reforming the social sector and above all fixing the worsening energy crisis, which is having crippling effect on daily life.

“Absolutely, that is certainly a failure," said Zohra Yousuf, chairperson of independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "And if you see the budgets, the allocation for the social sector declined year by year. So certainly that has absolutely nothing to do with the judicial crisis and that has been a failing of this government and earlier ones years after years. But when the government’s priority is really to carry on and retain power then other sectors do get affected.”

The deadlock comes at a time when suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks have ebbed, indicating for some that the country is containing the violent Taliban-led insurgency deep inside its territory.

Despite the falling violence, authorities are confronting snags in prosecuting suspected militants because of an antiquated 1997 anti-terrorism law that parliament has failed to update to meet the new security challenges.

Zohra Yousuf criticizes inaction on part of both the Pakistani judiciary and the government.

"When the judiciary gives more priority to these issues rather than cases dealing with militancy then certainly it does encourage violence, it does promote militancy. I think it does send a signal to them that you can terrorize people you can kill people and for lack of evidence or other reasons you will be let off," said Yousuf.

Some observers say the government's inability to effectively prosecute terrorism cases is yet another stain on the credibility of a ruling party already under fire for inaction against widespread corruption.

Analysts say the failure to introduce a long awaited anti-corruption legislation in the parliament is encouraging some to turn to the country's fiercely independent Supreme Court and seek its intervention.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs