The Caliph Syndrome

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Source: Pakistan Today

Cheif Justice Saqib Nisar is determined to make an important contribution to world history. He knows he will not get this chance ever again.

When he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, by none other than the very Prime Minister whose demise has been caused by the infamous Panama Papers verdict, he knew that he had to leave a mark on the world. But more than that, he was motivated by a philosophy of governance deeply ingrained by the traditional Islamic upbringing. I call it the Caliph Syndrome in the case of Pakistan but actually it is nothing more than Messiah Complex. This mindset, if not megalomania and delusional narcissism, has led to judicial activism the likes of which were not even reached during the term of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, the first one to go into this territory, euphoric after his restoration after a dismissal by dictator President Pervez Musharraf.

This Messiah Complex is further fed by the notion of expecting a savior, which has been In Islamic tradition, there is a ridiculously puritanical and idealistically exaggerated concept of governance in the pattern of Caliph Umer II. Some people attribute that style of governance to Umer I which holds that the Caliph or the emperor is supposed to be answerable for the death of even a lamb in a remote corner of the domain. While this sounds all good, the person who is supposed to be infatuated with this idea is the governor of the land, not the ombudsman who is supposed to ensure that law and order are kept. However, what if this zealotry actually leads to the ombudsman violating the lines set by the law and general ethics?

The Chief Justice has not only been consistently interfering in the operations of the administrative branch but has been on a rampage in terms of making ridiculous statements. This does not mean that his intentions are not good even though politically speaking he is being dubbed as the stooge of the military and bureaucratic establishment. To push this theory even further, you would find the media taking all opportunities to highlight his heroics on national TV and encouraging him to indulge further in judicial activism, with the exception of a few responsible journalists. This Chief Justice, like Iftikhar Chaudhary, has particularly been concerned with the way he is portrayed in the media.

It is perhaps the Caliph Syndrome, which so easily persuades otherwise responsible civil servants to take up the role of the Messiah, and it is perhaps the same factor that makes people so attracted to such figures. There is no surprise that the Messiah Chief Justice is the hero of many who cannot help but admire his visits to the local hospitals to inspect their operation. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif doing that was so 2010s.

He talks about a lot of things that the people want to hear, such as the delivery of speedy trials, public servants making the most of their time for official duties, and respecting the law and the constitution. However, his good words are undermined by the fact that he is a loudmouth with a broken filter and even that is understating the chaos that his words are causing. A person who loves to hear his own voice and who loves flaunting his old school literary chauvinism, he attracted flak with the use of his sexist analogies.

Sometimes, the lack of filter on his speech can even take darker turns, which show a glimpse of bigotry in this custodian of the Constitution and the Rights of the People. His hate for the Hindu community is evident from his Urdu language comment cited in the following clip from a Pakistani talk show.

However, there is a reason you see no other judge around the world inspecting school and hospitals.

The very fact that he lectures and his role of fatherly advice that is a problem in terms of law and order. His use of the bully pulpit is precisely what is wrong with his understanding of his role. And going out of his way for skirmishes with the leaders of a certain political party make his apolitical role controversial and partisan.

What makes the entire “Baba Rehmatey” phenomenon so ironical and hilarious is that fact that the preacher himself is violating the principles he is preaching others to follow. The most responsible person in the society is performing his job, as hardworking and sincere he may be, with utter irresponsibility.

But if Saqib Nisar thinks he is unique in this contribution, he is not the first person who considers himself Caliph Umer I in Pakistani society and he most certainly will not be the last.