Centre-Punjab Relations, 2008-2013: A Critical Reappraisal.

Byline: Farzana Arshad, Sania Muneer, Muhammad Saleem and Zahid Mahmood


It is generally believed that due to the result of Charter of Democracy (here on referred as COD), both parties cohesively worked for the improvement of the constitution, democracy and the federal structure of Pakistan. However, there were many issues between the centre and the Punjab which arose during the period under discussion; the followings were the most important irritants: there were disagreement about the mode, method and timing of restoration of Judiciary, how to eliminate corruption in the country, how to cope with the energy crisis and to address extremism, Memogate, Raymond Davis, Abbotabad Operation, Swiss Account cases and dismissal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. These were main irritants, along with other minor issues, that caused estrangement between the centre and the province. Much has been written on the federal structure and federal history of Pakistan yet the historians have not academically penned upon the period under discussion.

Therefore, this study has been made to explore, investigate and analyze the system of federalism in Pakistan with a focus on centre-Punjab relations from 2008-2013. After the restoration of the judiciary, the role of judiciary became hyper active and there is a strong narrative that judiciary under Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary came under a phase of strong judicial activism. The general understanding about the period under discussion that federalism turned weak due to the continuous tension between the ruling parties of the center and the province of the Punjab and Punjab was assertive as traditionally we see its role during the period under discussion too. As soon as the judiciary was restored, it took many a cases and decisions those were facilitating the party in power in the Punjab.

The details of the cases show that many of the cases were on merit particularly after its restoration by the end of March 2009, the judiciary took action against the Governor Rule in the Punjab and the government of the under Shahbaz Sharif was restored. Similarly the review petition was taken about the cases and the punishment to Mian Nawaz Sharif made during the days of Musharraf and the cases were not only declared bogus but punishment was also annulled. It is a point here that though all this development was going on at one side but at the broad canvas of the country, Punjab and centre not only coordinated but federalism also was strengthened. The judicial activism at one side facilitated PMLN, (due to some court decisions) however this active role could not affected the smooth working of the federation of the country.

One can quote examples to prove the point that the judicial activism in the said period though hardened the centre province relationship but at the larger framework federalism was strengthened.

Judicial Activism

Judicial activism, a term became popular during this period, because apparently the Chief Justice of Pakistan, judges and lawyers became too active in the constitutional and political process of country. The Judicial activism can be described as a judicial review, which can further be explained as a description and explanations of judicial decision done by the courts. It is observed that in judicial activism the judge consider himself more important to explain the constitutional matters and order the executive for further necessarily action. In judicial activism the highest apex Court (Supreme Court) make standards keeping in view the constitutional modalities. In Pakistan lawyer's movement turned into judicial activism first in the period of Iftikhar MohmmadCh and then it attained higher degree of judicial activism in the period of SaqibNisar. In fact, executive of PM Nawaz Sharif and later on Abbasi became helpless.

As a result Iftikhar M. CH. decisions became matters of intellectual debate especially this point is still in debate whether the Supreme Court has abused its authority or has gone with the constitution.1 A strong movement had been launched by the lawyers and civil society along with the important political parties for the restoration of the judges which were deposed by General Musharraf in November 2007. Though Musharraf was replaced by Asif Ali Zardari but PPP did not restore the judges, for the unknown reasons,therefore, this created conflict between PPP and PMLN. The fluid situation turned into an irritant between the federal government and the province of the Punjab.

Restoration of Judges

The crisis of judiciary was one of the corollaries of the political fight between the president General PervaizMusharrif and the CJ of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which resulted in the dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhary from his constitutional responsibilities in Pakistan. The changing of the government after the election 2018 new government of President Zardari came to power who reinstated the sacked chief justice after a great hue and cry and pressure from inside and outside of the country. The long march and the political pressure from various quarters compelled the government to restore all the judges of Supreme Court to the original place. Consequently, on 16th March 2009 at last, the demand of public materialized in the form of restoration of judges of Supreme Court. It is tantamount to saying that media role was conspicuous in this struggle which cannot be underestimated. It received high outrage in local and international media.

For them it was struggle to protect democracy in Pakistan and to avert the anti-democratic moves of dictatorial regime. Eventually, the media, the public and the democratic parties successfully won this battle. The bone of contention of this issue was the tussle between the Chief Executive General PervaizMusharif and the chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudary which resulted into the dismissal of the later. The judicial crises started on March 9thNovember 2007 which caused certain constitutional challenges in Pakistan. The case of chief judge was sent to the judicial council which is the supreme body to adjudicate such cases regarding judges. The cases often sent are pertaining to malpractices and illegalities while conducting...

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