Equality before the law in the NRO detailed verdict

The NRO detailed verdict should convince you, as a god-fearing Muslim, to think twice about defending the NRO or criticizing the manner of its overturning. On page 181, the argument is made that the principle of equality before the law, as defined in article 25(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan (“All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”) has its origins in Islamic teachings. The excerpt quoted from the book _ Muhammad (PBUH) Encyclopedia of Seerah_ goes on to argue that but any sort of discrimination made between citizens (like the distinctions made by the NRO) goes against the basic doctrine of Tawhid. So anyone who denies the equal rights to all citizens guaranteed by article 25 is not only violating the constitution but, even worse:

Denial of any of these rights to any member would, in fact, be a denial of the Doctrine of Tawhid.

The excerpt goes on to expand the definition of equality before the law as logically being extended to equality of opportunity, the right to a livelihood, a guaranteed decent living, and a decent wage from the state and ultimately ends with a call for a equal redistribution of wealth. Presumably denying any of these principles is equivalent to denial of the Doctrine of Tawhid.

Justice Ijaz Ahmed, in his supporting note to the verdict adds a section entitled “History of concept of equality before law” in which he expands on the Islamic concept of equality before the law. He quotes an excerpt from the verdict in the Pakistan Petroleum Worker’s Union case of 1991 according to whose author the concept was introduced by Islam and predates the Magna Carta, the 14th Amendment to the US constitution or the 1950 declaration of human rights. Instead, it dates back to the farewell sermon of the Holy Prophet which he quotes from at great length.

It must be mentioned that Justice Ijaz Ahmed’s note is particularly unprofessional and alarming. How do ramblings about the glory of the Mughal empire, speculations on the moral greatness of China due to their selection of “Ameen” leadership, and random quotations of Urdu and Persian poetry have any place in a Supreme Court verdict? Justice Ijaz Ahmed’s note is just another depressing reminder of how the future of Pakistan is once again in the hands of unelected officials with Islamist fantasies of glory and greatness for which the people of Pakistan have always had to pay the price.

Additionally, what really stands out about Justice Ijaz Ahmed’s note is his discussion of the “constitution as an organic whole” on page 269 and his explicit defense of the Objectives Resolution, inserted as preamble of the constitution by Zia-ul Haq in 1985:

The preamble of the Constitution has its own significance which shows the will of the people to frame the constitution and passed their lives within the four corners and that is why it is settled principle of law that preamble is the key to understand the constitution.

and

it is very important that while framing the law or taking the action every organ/authority must keep in its mind the preamble of the constitution which is the command of the forefathers and the nation emerged from the document of Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949.

It’s interesting that the main criticism of the short order by IA Rehman and Asma Jahangir was the expansion of the scope of the Islamic article 227(1) beyond the limits defined in Section IX of the constitution as well as the use of the Ziaist article 62(f). In response many critics of Asma Jahangir’s argument argued that the mention of these Islamic clauses was made “in passing” and that Asma Jahangir and even Ali Ahmad Kurd were using these clauses mentioned only in passing in the short order as a pretext to hide their true motivations for criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision which were based on political expediency and an interest in the stability of the PPP government. Now we have this NRO detailed verdict which not only discusses the Islamic provisions but additionally spends many pages discussions article 25, which is not overtly Islamic, in heavily Islamic terms. This detailed verdict not only confirms the fears of IA Rehman and Asma Jahangir but with its overtly Islamic tone, creates far more urgent fears of Islamization of the Supreme Court and judiciary. I won’t be holding my breath for anyone who criticized Asma Jahangir as a PPP sellout to retract their criticism and to admit that her fears were correct.

I’ve said it before, I think it’s really unfortunate that public opinion on the NRO verdict has become a popular referendum on the future of this particular PPP government. The contents of this detailed verdict are far more important and harmful to the future of Pakistan than whether or not Zardari is allowed to complete his term as a president. I salute people like IA Rehman, Asma Jahangir and Ali Ahmed Kurd who are the lone voices of alarm over the Zia-isation of Pakistan that this verdict represents.

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5 responses to “Equality before the law in the NRO detailed verdict

  1. Excellent commentary, Rabia. Islamofacism has very obviously crept into the apex court, which is a shame.

  2. Clearly, the Supreme Court is using the yardstick of religion to quite down dissential critics of it’s NRO verdict. Politics plus religion – and there go our hopes of an independent, unbiased judiciary 😉

  3. Omar Khattab

    Rabia
    Your excellent analysis has left me very depressed. There is no hope for this country anymore.

  4. Pingback: Grand Trunk Road : The judiciary’s Lal Masjid

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