Pakistan’s Supreme Court Asserting Itself Against Military, Civilian Government

Court Affirms Prime Minister's Indictment

Two high profile cases in as many days saw Pakistan’s Supreme Court confronting the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency over its kidnapping of civilians, and following that up by indicting Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani.

The ISI case centers around eleven captives that the military spy agency admits to holding for years, and whom they never charged with any crime. The ISI has refused to produce the detainees, saying their health is too poor for them to be brought to court.

This is a rare case because while the ISI has been accused of disappearing people for years, this is the first time they’ve ever admitted to it, and they’re still refusing to produce them.

Meanwhile, the court has rejected Prime Minister Gilani’s appeal and has indicted him on charges of contempt of court. The charges against Gilani stem from his refusal to implement past court rulings related to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Since the court ruled in late 2010 that the NRO was unconstitutional, government officials should no longer be immune to prosecution. President Asif Ali Zardari, in particular, is facing massive corruption charges and even international indictment in a Swiss court. Gilani has repeatedly ignored the ruling, insisting that Zardari in particular and other members of the cabinet are immune from all such charges.

The Supreme Court was largely neutered under the Musharraf junta, and President Zardari brought the country to a state of near civil war during the Long March of 2009 trying to keep the chief justice from being restored to power. Since the restoration, the court has become increasingly active in its rulings, pushing to re-establish itself as a significant power center in Pakistan.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.