One watched and bore with anguish and consternation when throughout the day on 14th of August this year 2018, the entire media and news outlets marked the day as the 71st birthday of the nation whereas it actually was the 72nd; an error we all invariably make in celebrating personal and national birthdays, forgetting the very first of one’s birth; in this case when the nation was born on 14 August 1947. The count should obviously include that auspicious day of one’s creation, whereas it is in marking anniversaries that you count the years completed.
With the hope that the error is rectified henceforth, there are errors which even if inadvertent, have a great bearing on the polarized political situation prevailing in the country. My reference is to the remark made by no less a person than the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar who had to retract from his statement that members of Military Intelligence and the ISI were included in the Panama Case JIT by Ch. Nisar, to now say that he may have inadvertently said so whereas he had meant the Dawn Leaks JIT. Had the Chief Justice stuck to his initial statement his own credentials as the head of Pakistan’s judiciary would have come under scrutiny as to how anyone could have been allowed to dictate the superior judiciary.
As for the Dawn Leaks, my submission is that since the Armed Forces were a party to the Leaks episode, it was dart right for the Interior Minister of the country to include representatives from the Services in the JIT for the sake of transparency and in a bid to diffuse the stand-off. But even if the Chief Judge had not meant the Panama Leaks JIT, his remarks went beyond his jurisdiction since Dawn Leaks JIT was a parliamentary investigation which had not been referred to the Courts of Law; more so when the Armed Forces had decided to look the other way in the episode for the sake of intra-institutional goodwill.
The Chief Judge of the Apex Court has been urged besides to avoid making public statements and remarks during hearings which are reported and distorted by the media, since judges in their tenure wearing the robes must only speak through their judgments as they are not public figures.
This scribe is amongst those asking for a national debate and requesting SUO MOTO notice by the Chief Justice on building of the Kalabagh Dam and ordering referendum over an issue sadly politicized by vested interests in the face of dire scarcity of water for irrigation and power generation threatening to make the Pakistani land mass barren and the future generations groping for drops of drinking water. But the Chief Justice even though recognizing the impending catastrophe, has urged consensus among political parties much less the provinces over Kalabagh Dam, and has in the meantime called for construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam for which he has generated a fund-raising campaign.
Noble as it is with Pakistanis responding positively to the call, it would have been a lot better for the Chief Justice to order referendum over Kalabagh Dam since vested interests will never allow consensus as evidenced over the last four decades. As for Diamer Bhasha Dam, the Chief Justice coming to realize that construction of water reservoirs not being his domain, the raised sums and the fund-raising has to be turned over to the Government whose job it actually is. What he can still do is to order expediting construction of several small dams all over the country forthwith since they take time to materialize; more so as he is to call it a day himself the coming year.
Solemnized as the country’s new Prime Minister, Imran Khan will henceforth have to mark his words and not retract as patently known of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq; his title of the Chief Martial Law Administrator CMLA commonly described as ‘contrary to my last announcement’ when he went back on his commitment of elections within 90 days and continued to rule for 11 years. As Prime Minister of the country Imran Khan is required to put his rhetoric-filled U-turns of the past behind him and act responsibly.
Already the initial declaration made in his victory address of opening up any constituency desired for a recount has gone by default with his lawyers instead challenging the High Court verdict ordering complete recount in NA-131 where the Prime Minister narrowly won against Saad Rafiq of PML(N). Since Imran Khan was to retain his home constituency anyway, had he facilitated the recount which would not have materially affected his position, imagine the goodwill he would have generated even if he had eventually conceded the seat in NA-131 to Saad Rafiq and welcomed him in Parliament.
And while the PML(N), the main Party in the Opposition honoured its commitment and voted for PPP’s Khurshid Shah for the Speaker’s slot in the National Assembly, the PPP retracted from its agreed support for the PML(N) Prime Ministerial candidate against Imran Khan and left an indelible blot upon its credentials, and denying the opposition to signal tough going for Imran Khan who with 176 votes won by a slender margin of 4 for a simple majority, while Shehbaz Sharif polled 96 votes which could have been 157.
But it was a matter of great remorse that the PML(N) which agreed to be part of the House in order to strengthen Parliament, instead created an unruly rumpus on the very first day denying a graceful conclusion to the inaugural session inducting the new Prime Minister and allowing each Parliamentary Leader to take the floor in a dignified manner. The Parliamentarians only ended up further smearing their own national and international image but for the saving grace in the promising Bilawal Bhutto speech which exuded maturity beyond his years of age, and somewhat made up for his Party’s retraction from the PML(N) vote.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.