Earlier, the governments were sent home; now, only the elected prime ministers are. ‘My lords’ of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have played a paramount role in making the fate and history of this nation. And that role continues till day. In the 20th century, they acted via Salus populi suprema lex esto; while the 21st century is the era of contempt of court and suo moto actions for Pakistan. Democracy in Pakistan has faced ineffable ups and downs. It still is striving, which is not a hidden secret. Particularly during last five years, an entirely new trend has been introduced. Some made goons enter its premises with batons, some cursed by sending Lanat and some said it has kahra moo. The parliament, the supreme institution and sacrosanct building of the land, has continuously been disrespected. Under the Article 14(1) of the constitution, the right to dignity is given to every entity. Unfortunately, the ones who codified this supreme law have badly failed to enforce this right in its own favour. Today, the dignity of the parliament is a very easy target. Mostly, its contempt is ‘prima facie’ and done by ones who by the reasons of their oaths are obliged to remain loyal towards this institution and own identities owing to it. Such persons are still in and will remain in the parliament till this government completes its tenure. Their such words and curses can be called ‘wrong’, but they are not ‘offences’. Maybe this is so because the MPs’ oath provides: ‘I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, and the constitution itself is silent with regard to the contempt of parliament. The contempt of parliament isn’t an unfamiliar or anonymous legal scenario. Around the world, this power has been vested in the houses of the parliament since ancient time and very frequently used. It is a fact that we have not done much. A large number of procedural as well as substantive laws of ours exist unaltered in the form as the British brought them. In this case, too, it is all about incorporation, but we refused to do even that. Why? Somebody has to answer. Unlike us, India’s constitution has inhered in India’s parliament and state legislatures, under Article 105(3) and Article 194(3), all authority to protect its own dignity, charge and handle itself contempt and offences against the House and breaches of privileges. On 18 November 1977, the Lok Sabha expelled Indira Gandhi from the membership of the House. However, the House rescinded the motion of expulsion of her by a resolution on 19 December 1978. On 15 November 1976, Subramanian Swamy was expelled from the Rajya Sabha. On 13 June 1964, the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly expelled a member. In 2015, the UK’s House of Commons went ahead and took historic step by acting against a non-member, Ben Emmerson QC, setting an original precedent for protecting the parliament’s dignity. The UK government’s green paper on parliamentary privilege, published in 2012, (allowed and) stated: ‘both houses can summon a(any) person to the bar of the house to reprimand them or order a person’s imprisonment. Also, the House of Lords is regarded as possessing the power to fine non-members (with regard to the contempt).’ In ‘Gouranga Chatterjee vs The State Of West Bengal & Ors (8 July 2013)’, the whole decision absolutely relied upon ‘Keshav Singh vs Speaker, Legislative Assembly (10 March 1965) AIR 1965 All 349’, which adjudicated: ‘we (the judges) ought to preface our answer with the observation that the answer (about the contempt) is confirmed to cases in relation to contempt alleged to have been committed by a citizen who is not a member of the House outside the four-walls of the legislative chamber.’ Where the houses of parliament can charge a non-member, and India’s Lok Sabha has even summoned judges and charged them for the contempt of Parliament 1965 CriLJ 170, the writ of the apex court for maintaining own dignity via notices or suo motos begins where the boundaries of the parliament end. That’s the practice outside Pakistan. Democracy in Pakistan has faced ineffable ups and downs The contempt of parliament is an authority that every parliament must have. Every house of it must have the penal jurisdiction. However, the power to ‘punish any person who abuses, interferes … obstructs … disobeys … scandalises or brings (the institution or its Judge) into hatred, ridicule or contempt …’ is given solely to the apex courts. Under Article 204, the constitution has given such power to the apex courts which even its own maker doesn’t have. Strange! Looks like first elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was well aware of ‘supremacy’ crashes in the near future; hence, he changed Article 204 via the fifth amendment, which was later restored by General Zia, who was actually a malefactor — time has proved. Why the same fate for a people’s representative exercising immunity as per article 248 for not being ‘answerable to any Court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions’ and the person guilty for the history’s biggest financial scam? Dressed like an advocate, Nawaz Sharif himself went to the Supreme Court. More than thrice. No, not for the Panama Leaks but against Yousaf Raza Gillani. An elected Prime Minister was sent home, deprived of the right which every citizen has not only under article 188, but SC (own) rules 1980 order XXVI as well, and Nawaz Sharif and his favourites (the petitioner’s against Gillani) were the reason. They made the sanctity of votes of 18 crores meet this fate under an article for ‘contempt’. Not ‘contempt’? Somebody has to answer. They now repent for going to the court against PM Gillani and apologise for Memogate hype. All in vain. They are facing their own music for attempting to destabilise and not letting previous government work peacefully and adequately for even a day. Nawaz Sharif’s attendance as prime minister is not different than his appearances before the Supreme Court for the Panama Leaks case. Almost ZERO. During four years of his tenure, he went to the national assembly hardly 42 times. In his whole tenure, he gave only two hours to the upper house. Today, he is disqualified from the parliament for life but his legacy of the ‘contempt of parliament’ continues. Unfortunately, PMLN’s ministers have decided to follow in their ‘Quaid’ footsteps. They are proving they are more loyal towards the House of Sharifs than the parliament; hence, they are not hesitating a bit to violate privileges given to them under Article 66. Not very long ago, they made the then Chairman Senate to boycott the house proceedings to register his protest against the absence of government functionaries. Recently, they made the Speaker National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq walkout ‘till the assurance of the prime minister’. It doesn’t matter for them that the Speaker NA is from their Nawaz Sharif’s very own PMLN. Through the 18th amendment, the provinces have been made independent and entitled to get an equal share in all resources. However, only Punjab is Pakistan for PMLN. That’s why the PMLN’s recent desire to reverse the 18th amendment is not shocking at all. In our history, the opposition has never been on one page; but Balochistan made this ‘miracle’ possible. Where Balochistan has been allowed to lead for the very first time, Sadiq Sijrani’s appointment is indigestible for Nawaz Sharif, who has always neglected smaller provinces. He is continuously linking the appointment of the recent Chairman Senate to some ‘conspiracy’ and PM Khaqan Abbasi has refused to meet him. Isn’t this also disrespect of sanctity of votes? Someone must ask this from the House of Sharifs. As a state, Pakistan has already suffered a lot due to no foreign minister for four and a half years. While our opponents are all set to place us on the grey list, PMLN has come up with another huge failure of its foreign policy. In present circumstances, the person having the maturity, experience, grip on diplomacy are badly required for the ambassadorship to the United States (US), but business and personal relations have again been preferred, without consulting the parliamentarians (thus again disrespecting the houses and sanctity of people’s vote). Instead of packing luggage for New York, Ali Jahangir Saddiqui is appearing before NAB, which desires to place him on ECL, facing financial scams allegations and trying to prove himself ‘Sadiq and Ameen’. There is a long and never-ending list of the contempt of parliament by Nawaz Sharif. However, his very favourite is the contempt of court these days. Rather than ‘any other law’, an amendment is needed for the parliament’s dignity. But one doesn’t see that coming for the next five years or even decade. On the other hand, the institution having the authority to get itself respected has recently succeeded in maintaining and enforcing in its writ. Is it the institution’s or its recent head’s success? Well, we all know the answer. Whilst Nehal Hashmi has again been summoned (and also forgiven) for another contempt, the day charges got framed against Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry, the contempt petition against Nawaz Sharif got dismissed, stating: ‘While Nawaz Sharif’s some other comments may have crossed the boundaries, the statements highlighted in the instant petition did not disrespect judiciary’. Wonder why no suo motto now, when the language used is much more severe and not ‘respectful comment on judicial verdicts’ thus cannot be ‘allowed under the law’. About these ‘mini warnings’, no immediate action and ‘selective contempt’, somebody has to answer. The public. The writer is a law undergraduate, columnist and blogger. She tweets @HinaMaharN Published in Daily Times, April 19th 2018.