The advent of parliamentary democracy in 1985 marks a watershed in Pakistan’s political development. The renewal and strengthening of the political process has also brought to the fore the concomitant advantages associated with such a process. Pakistan’s print media is growing in the exuberance of total freedom, a luxury it has never enjoyed in Pakistan’s history. A participatory and democratic polity has integrated all foci of separatism in Pakistan. For the first time, there is no active secessionist movement in any of Pakistan’s provinces. Pakistani federalism is at its strongest; regional leaders hitherto hankering for separation are now very much a part of the political process, holding important offices in the center as well as the units.
The most significant blessing of the strengthening of the democratic process has been the assertive stance being exhibited by Pakistan’s superior judiciary. Judicial activism has never been a feature of Pakistan’s polity. Instead, our judicial history is replete with landmark decisions, which legitimized executive arbitrariness and extra-constitutional adventures.
Our higher judiciary has condoned, at various times, the dissolution of the first Constituent Assembly and the proclamation of martial laws in 1958, 1969 and 1977. It would be shortsighted to put all the blame for the above on the judiciary alone. A free and assertive judiciary does not grow in vacuum. It needs a free and democratic dispensation to nurture it. Thus, the much talked about judicial activism is a result of Pakistan’s return to constitutional government.
What is judicial Activism?
Before we dwell on the causes and features of judicial activism, let us first understand what it is. A modern democratic state is built on the principle of tracheotomy of powers, i.e. the judiciary, executive and legislature have to perform their won designed functions.