Lahore: PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has cautioned his party`s leaders not to make any statements that give the impression that the party is supporting Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in an apparent face-off with powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
As a major contender for forming the next government at the centre, the PML-N does not want any escalation of tensions between the judiciary and the army.
"Of course, the PML-N will be a major loser in case the army takes over and some unconstitutional set-up is installed in the event of a tussle between the army and the judiciary," a senior PML-N leader told a news agency.
The leader said former premier Sharif had directed PML-N members not to issue any statements that made it seem that the party was backing the top judge.
The leader, who did not want to be named, said the Pakistan People`s Party had almost completed its five-year term and it would be the PML-N which would form the next government.
He contended this was evident from different independent surveys.
"So, the political players who have no chance to come to power would like a collision between the army and the judiciary so that they can benefit," he said.
In an apparent reference to an order issued by the Supreme Court for action against two retired generals for rigging the 1990 general election, Kayani recently questioned whether such steps were beneficial for smooth relations between state institutions.
"Are we strengthening the institutions or weakening them. ..No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest," Kayani said in a strongly worded statement.
In a speech made shortly before Kayani`s statement was issued, Chief Justice Chaudhry said that "gone are the days when stability and security of the country was defined in terms of number of missiles and tanks. The Supreme Court is the ultimate protector of the Constitution."
Shortly after the remarks by the army chief and the top judge, Sharif was quick to declare that there was no threat to the system in the statements by Kayani and Chaudhry.
"The central point in both the speeches by the Chief Justice and the army chief is to ensure predominance of Constitution and law, which is a matter of great satisfaction and symbolically reflects hope for a new emerging Pakistan," Sharif said.
"The Army, under the leadership of its present head, has desisted from any kind of adventurism and in his fresh statement he has also talked about following the rule of law and Constitution," he said.
At the same time, the judiciary had given some historic decisions without fear, he remarked.
Admitting that everyone, including politicians, judges and generals, had committed mistakes in the past, Sharif said it was a welcome sign that individuals and institutions were acknowledging their mistakes.
Apparently fearing that the way the media had projected both statements could lead to a clash between the institutions, Sharif has urged journalists to play a role in bringing the two institutions together for strengthening democracy and safeguarding national interests so that all decisions are taken by the people while institutions continue to discharge their duties by strictly remaining within their constitutional limits.
"For the purpose of progress and prosperity of the country, strengthening democracy, stabilising institutions and welfare of the masses, it is highly essential that there is a complete harmony between all institutions and pillars of the state," Sharif said.
Sharif, whose government was ousted in a military coup led by Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1999, cautioned that any action to create divisions within the Army would be against national interest.
He praised the judiciary as well, emphasising that the interpretation of the Constitution was the prerogative of the judges.
"Awarding punishment to any person regardless of his position, name or status is the constitutional responsibility of judiciary. Weakening of this institution is like turning the country into a lawless jungle, whereas weakening army is tantamount to weakening national defence," he said.
Meanwhile, former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, accused of doling out millions of rupees to politicians, including Sharif, to stop the PPP from coming to power in 1990, interpreted Kayani`s statement as "a message to parliament that it should act before the democratic set-up is wrapped up".
PPP leader and eminent lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan castigated both the chief justice and the Army chief, saying "Kayani and Chaudhry have transgressed constitutional limits by making political statements".