Originally Published 2011-08-03 00:00:00 Published on Aug 03, 2011
Although the present confrontation between the judiciary and executive is not of the magnitude witnessed in 2007, the episode underlines the vulnerability of the political process in Pakistan.
Another Judiciary-Executive confrontation brewing in Pakistan?
The Gillani government's decision to transfer a senior bureaucrat has sparked off a contentious row between the executive and judiciary which seriously undermines attempts at stabilising Pakistan.

Although the present round of judiciary vs executive was not of the magnitude witnessed in 2007 after the Supreme Court Chief Justice was sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, the episode underlined the vulnerability of the political process in Pakistan.

The central character in this act was the Inspector General of Police in Gilgit Baltistan who was previously investigating the Hajj scam of 2010 where the involvement of some high and mighty in Pakistan was suspected. The row kicked off when the government removed Hussain Asghar as the investigator and appointed him as the IGP in Gilgit Baltistan. The Supreme Court, hearing the petition challenging the transfer, ordered Asghar to be reappointed as the investigator. The government has, so far, refused to relent, creating a standoff. 

The core of the problem is not really the clash between the Judiciary and Executive, but the Hajj  scam. The scam centred on the misappropriation of funds meant to provide suitable accommodation for Hajis. Under the Hajj policy of the Pakistani Government, the pilgrims were to be given accommodation within 2 kms of Kaaba. But final arrangements for stay could only be made at a place which was 3 to 8 kms away from  Kaaba. The allegation was that this was done deliberately to benefit certain bureaucrats, politicians and contractors. These allegations gained strength after Saudi Arabia initiated an enquiry into the lack of  tents for 20000 Pakistani pilgrims .

Investigations into the scam, headed by Hussain Asghar, till now have resulted in the arrest of top government officials like the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Raja Aftab and the Hajj Director General Rao Shakee by the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA). But then, the needle of suspension points towards Secretary Agha Sarwar Qazilbash; Minister of State for Religious Affairs Shagufta Jumani and the concerned Minister, Hamid Saeed Kazmi. On the other hand, Rao Shakee has reportedly informed a Special Judiciary Magistrate that Qazilbash is the real culprit.

But, all of a sudden,  Asghar was promoted and transferred to Gilgit Baltistan. The allegation is that Asghar's transfer was ordered after he summoned Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, son of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. 

Although the Prime Minister Gilani denied the allegations and assured the Supreme Court that its orders would be followed, the episode has discredited the government.

(Sripathi Narayanan is a Research Intern with Observer Research Foundation)

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