Don’t quote the laws to us, we carry swords

Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

When the Roman army commander Pompey the Great went to Sicily the people of Sicily objected to his jurisdiction on the ground that it was against an ancient law of Rome.

To which Pompey replied, “Don’t quote the laws to us, we carry swords”.

The Pakistani army generals say the same to those who show them the Constitution of Pakistan (which has no provision for military rule ) whenever it stages a coup d’etat. And when the matter is taken to the Supreme Court, the Court loyally validates military rule by using the devious ‘doctrine of necessity’. After all, power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

In India (as in USA, UK, Germany, France, etc ) the army is under civilian rule. But it is otherwise in Pakistan. Even when overtly there is no army rule, everyone knows the real power in Pakistan is not with the President, Prime Minister or Parliament, but with the generals, who exercise it in their Corps Commanders Conferences ( consisting of the army chief, the corps commanders, and the principal staff officers). Civilian rule is really a fig leaf. The army in Pakistan will never give up power because it has huge financial interests in retaining it.

In 1958 Gen Ayub Khan staged a coup, and ruled till 1969. Gen Zia ul Haq staged a coup in 1977, hanged Prime Minister Bhutto two years later in what is regarded as a ‘judicial murder’, and ruled till 1989 when he was killed in a plane explosion. Gen Musharraf ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, and issued the Pakistan Constitutional Order in January 2000 which required judges to take an oath of allegiance to the military. Those who did not take the oath were promptly sacked.

All this is inconceivable in India.

In Pakistan questioning the actions of the army is strictly taboo. Journalists and others who did so often paid for it with their lives.

In India, on the other hand, the Supreme Court has directed prosecution of those armed forces personnel who committed extrajudicial killings or other atrocities :

Prime Minister Imran Khan is widely perceived as being ‘selected’ by the army. The very recent unfortunate episode relating to Justice Qazi Faez Isa, whom I regard one of the most upright judges not just in Pakistan but throughout the world, bears this out ( see my articles ‘ Two and a half cheers for the Pakistan Supreme Court ‘, and ‘ Justice Qazi Faez Isa ‘ published in ).

Pompey the Great has been reborn in Pakistan.