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Judges in Jeopardy

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. T. J. Kirkpatrick—AFP

Who is responsible for the bullets found at the house of a Supreme Court judge in Lahore?

Shockingly, someone earlier this week fired two bullets at the house of Justice Ijazul Ahsan of the Supreme Court in Model Town, Lahore. It is not yet certain whether the bullets were intended as a warning or were merely misfires. The most popular conclusion drawn was based on the judge’s participation in the recent verdicts delivered by the Supreme Court against the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Did the PMLN, which rules Punjab, get someone to fire the bullets as a kind of “lay-off” warning?

Justice Ahsan was part of the five-member bench that decided the famous Panama Papers case, which led to the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last year. He is the “monitoring judge” supervising the ongoing hearings by the National Accountability Bureau against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. He was also part of the three-member bench hearing 17 petitions against the controversial Elections Act 2017. The bench had ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution could not head a political party, which meant Sharif was no longer the chief of PMLN.

Before even the forensic report on the two bullets could be announced, the whodunit has been resolved by the PMLN’s two rivals, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. They think the Sharifs did it as a shot-across-the-bow to scare the judges about to send them to jail. Even the fact that Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif lives close to the targeted judge’s house was enlisted to strengthen the argument. But an angle that no one explored was that a “third force” orchestrating the campaign against the PMLN could have “arranged” the shots to quicken the flight of scared PMLN leaders from the party. No matter which way you look at the incident the PMLN will get most of the negative fallout from it as Pakistan prepares for general elections in a few months.

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