India’s disappointment with a Pakistani court decision freeing one of the Pakistan-based suspects behind the Mumbai attacks is understandable. But it’s also a case where the external demands on the Pakistani judiciary (i.e., to serve as a hanging judge) are flying in the face of Pakistan’s internal needs.
The independence of Pakistan’s judiciary played a central role in the crisis thatbrought democratic rule back to the country, and the stand off betweenthe executive and the judiciary has continued under the civilian ruleof President Asif Ali Zardari. In a WPR op-ed last March, Arif Rafiq argued that strengthening the judiciary and rule of law in the countryis one way to prevent the spread of Taliban influence, which has oftenresponded to popular demand for law and order that has gone unmet bythe state.
I suspect there will be a good deal of pressure eminating from NewDelhi and Washington to get “better” results on the Mumbai suspects. But part of strengthening the Pakistani judiciary means respecting its independence. That means not only in Islamabad, but also in New Delhi and Washington.