IT seems that retired chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is filling a deeply felt need in Pakistan by launching a new political party. While wishing him well, I must point out that as a slogan, ‘Pakistan Justice Democratic Critic Party zindabad!’ does not exactly roll off the tongue. On the other hand, there is little danger that the new party will be inundated with applications for membership as Chaudhry Sahib has stipulated that only honest people will be accepted.

For one, his own son, Arsalan, might find it difficult to meet the PJDCP’s entry criteria. To recap his credentials from publicly available sources, young Arsalan reportedly had the misfortune of getting a C grade in his school-leaving exam, but bounced back by securing admission to medical college in Balochistan where his father was then a high court judge.

On graduation, he was inducted into the provincial medical department, but this did not satisfy his burning desire to serve the country. Miraculously, he was then inducted into the Federal Investigation Agency. From here, he soon found himself in the elite Police Service Academy, but without having to undergo the inconvenience of passing the tedious Central Superior Services exam.

His last official assignment was Vice Chair*man of Balochistan’s Board of Invest*ment which he quit in 2014. Before this was the unpleasant business of facing allegations from the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz who claimed to have documents to show that he had sponsored Arsalan’s lavish lifestyle. According to Malik Riaz, the millions he spent were a quid pro quo for access to the then chief justice. In short, this is not the kind of back-story that gets even an ambitious young man into the PJDCP. So no danger of a dynastic succession here. But perhaps, like Imran Khan, Iftikhar Chaudhry will make exceptions for ‘notable electables’.

So why has the controversial ex-chief justice decided to launch yet another party into Pakistan’s crowded political landscape? In fact, he joins a number of Pakistanis who had reached the pinnacle of their careers before retiring (or being fired). These ambitious men had one thing in common: huge egos that would not allow them to join established parties where they could not be head honchos.

Why has the former CJ decided to launch a party?
In this august company, I include Pervez Musharraf, Imran Khan, Iftikhar Chaudhry and A.Q. Khan. The latter’s Tehreek-i-Tahafuzz-i-Pakistan (Movement for the Protection of Pakistan) was a short-lived affair: perhaps our establishment realised that it wasn’t a great idea for the world’s best-known nuclear proliferator to be seeking political power.

Imran Khan spent years in the political wilderness before his charisma — if not his political acumen — became recognised by both the public and our political puppet-masters. The less said about Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League the better: his return to Pakistan proved, even to him, that a large number of friends on Facebook do not necessarily translate into a wide political constituency.

Charisma and a populist style are not attributes anybody has accused Iftikhar Chaudhry of possessing. A few years ago, an American friend who was a judge on the New York Supreme Court told me about going to listen to our ex-CJ when he had been ousted from his post by Musharraf, and was invited by the New York Bar Association to give a talk. Apparently, he could barely say anything comprehensible in English during the question and answer session when he didn’t have the crutch of his prepared speech.

During his long term as chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry acquired a well-deserved reputation for rudeness and arrogance. He seemed to take special delight in humiliating senior civil servants and politicians. And while he did some good work with his numerous suo motu notices, to many he appeared to be deliberately destabilising a fragile return to democracy.

By blocking the privatisation of the Steel Mills, he has saddled Pakistani taxpayers with billions in unending subsidies. The decision has also set back privatisation as few foreigners are now interested in entering a country where the dice seem loaded against them.

Given the many politicians he antagonised over the years, it is hard to see how Chaudhry Sahib’s PJDCP will find any allies, except the PML-N that was the beneficiary of much of his judicial activism.

People like Musharraf, Iftikhar Chaudhry and Imran Khan probably assume that the power they wielded when they were at the top of their respective careers will automatically follow them when they retire and move on. But the reality is that the authority they enjoyed derived from the institutions they headed.

This is a truth Chaudhry Sahib will soon face if he is serious about his entry into politics. Indeed, the rough and tumble of politics is very different from the structured, rule-bound world of the higher judiciary. Here, people do not kowtow the way they did before His Lordship.

Not long ago, insignificant parties were known as ‘tonga parties’; now, perhaps ‘Pajero parties’ would be more apt.

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