The country is being destroyed in a systematic manner, Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked during a Supreme Court hearing on local government elections on Thursday. The apex court judge said local body elections are a constitutional requirement. Yet, when it comes to holding local body polls, the provinces start counting off their problems instead of fulfilling their constitutional duty, the senior judge remarked. He went so far as to say that Punjab had “killed” democracy by dissolving the local government before the expiry of its term. Justice Isa inquired why that was done. “Local governments were dissolved in the martial law era, but it is unheard of in a democracy,” the judge said. He asked if Punjab was in the mood to abolish the LG system altogether. To this, the Punjab additional advocate-general said a new law had been made for local governments in the province. By dissolving the local government, the Punjab government has clearly violated the Constitution, Justice Isad said, adding that, like this, Punjab can continue dissolving local governments till a government of its choice comes along. If democracy is lost, half the country will be gone, he warned. “ECP says there will be huge cost of Rs18 billion on local bodies elections,” Justice Isa remarked. “Yet huge development funds are being released for politicians.” The senior judge also made strong statements over the state of media freedom in Pakistan. He said he won’t shy away from saying that the media is not free and that it is being controlled, with real journalists being thrown out of the country. Pakistan, he said, is being destroyed in a systematic manner. He said when media is destroyed, a country is destroyed. “Tell me. Is media free in Pakistan?” Justice Isa asked Attorney-General Khalid Javed Khan. The attorney-general requested the judge to give an option of answering other than a yes or no, to which Justice Isa offered that a referendum should be held with the media persons present in the court room. He said the media in the court should raise their hands if they think the media is free. When no journalist raised their hand, the judge asked the journalists to raise their hand if they think there was freedom of press in the country. Yet again, no journalist raised their hand. The senior judge gave the analogy of a plant, asking if a seed planted in the morning ought to be uprooted in the evening just to see how strong its roots have become. Justice Maqbool Baqir, another member of the SC bench hearing the case, said judges should ideally avoid such comments, but what can be done when the country itself is not in an ideal situation. “How long can judges remain silent?” Justice Baqir asked. Justice Isa said every opposition leader is being described as a traitor and every supporter of the government is being described as a patriot. The top court judge said those who have deprived the media of its freedoms must go to jail. On a separate matter, the AGP informed the court that a nationwide census was conducted in 2017, but a final notification has yet to be issued on it. To this, Justice Isa questioned if everyone had gone to sleep after 2017. The attorney-general told the court that the Sindh government and others had objections to the census, so the federal government had formed a committee to review the matter. He said the census will be conducted again on 5% of the population blocks in Sindh. There were also objections by the MQM, he said. Justice Isa told the AGP not to name any political party, reminding him that this was a constitutional matter. The senior judge questioned why no decision could be taken on the census from 2017 till 2021. “Is Pakistan generally being run like this? These are routine matters,” he said. Justice Baqir said that when an ordinance on matters of interest can be issued within two to six days, the lack of a decision on the census so far signals that this not an issue of state priorities but a deliberate delaying tactic. Who is the chairman of the Council of Common Interests, Justice Isa asked, to which the attorney-general responded that the prime minister is the CCI chairman. He then asked if the premier had convened a meeting of the CCI, on which the attorney-general informed the judge that a CCI meeting had been called but could not take place for some reason.