Jumping the gun



Zaheer Bhatti

The Supreme Court in giving Imran Khan a clean chit for his Assembly seat while referring his case of foreign funding to the Election Commission, disqualifying PTI’s Secretary General Jehangir Tareen and declining to re-open the {in-}famous Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif Family, has to a great extent put at rest the impression of bias it is accused of, though it is being said at the same time that the Supreme Court had carried out a balancing act. One only wishes the Apex Court had in the Nawaz Sharif case, not gone beyond the scope of its jurisdiction and the original plea taken by the prosecution and used similar yardstick as in the case of Imran Khan while deciding on disqualification.
But even in the present scenario it would do the opposition a lot of good if it stopped asking the sitting Government to pack up on one pretext or the other, and instead reverted to Parliament to topple it through a vote in Parliament rather than surrender its turf to the Judiciary and expecting it to deliver, but continuing to complain.
Pakistan is a unique country where every political entity believes in fashioning a brand of democracy which suits them by jumping the gun; their impatience becoming evident as soon as a new Government takes office after an electoral process which they yearn for so dearly, and so sets in an innocuous unconstitutional journey regardless of the legal and moral obligations of the Constitutional Instrument whose sanctity they ostensibly seem to protect.
In other countries, the losing opposition invariably accepts defeat at the polls in good grace and immediately assumes the role of a shadow Government or a Government in waiting keeping the Rulers on their toes by prying upon and pouncing on any slip or loop-hole in their Governance and public policy. But in Pakistan, they start from day-one by gunning for the sitting government, starting by refusing to accept the polling outcome and alleging engineering of results and pre-poll rigging.
Such are the rules of the game evolved for different Parliamentary disciplines and political parties that in practice, they end up making a mockery of Parliamentary Democracy as misinterpretation and tailoring of various provisions of the Constitution becomes the order of the day. At the very outset, the Prime Minister upon administration of oath of office is supposed to become the representative of the entire Nation and not just the political Party he belongs, and so are the Chief Ministers of their respective provinces. Likewise, Speakers of the National and Provincial Assemblies are required to resign from their parties and represent the whole House and make no distinction between the Treasury and the Opposition Benches. Governors in each Province being nominees of the sitting Government at the Center are required to oversee and ensure equitable Governance. Chairman of the Senate and the President of the country though elected by the Parliamentarian’s vote invariably come from the majority Party or its Coalition but seize to belong to their respective parties.
But sadly barring perhaps the current Chairman of the Senate, all others contrary their oath of office have been seen blatantly violating the trust of their oath and serving their parent Parties without any qualms of conscience; the President of the country though Constitutionally the Supreme Commander of the country’s Armed Forces seldom acts like one unless so desired by the Prime Minister. There have been instances in the past of a President of the country and a couple of Speakers who in trying to act according to the book were instead accused of being disloyal to their parties and conspiring against them in collusion with either the opposition, the judiciary or the Armed Forces. This sadistic attitude of the Parliamentarians has knocked any semblance of judicious conduct in these offices, where everyone now plays safe to the gallery.
Fakhar Imam was the first among the Speakers who locked horns with the treasury and was shown the door, while President Farooq Leghari sacked his own Party’s Prime Minister Benazir for miss-governance and was subsequently removed himself. Malik Meraj Khalid is perhaps the only example of a Speaker of the National Assembly who commanded the respect of the whole House in view of the manner in which he conducted the proceedings during his tenure. But the way Parliament has in due course been rendered dysfunctional by the conduct mainly of the Treasury Benches themselves perpetually distancing themselves from other key institutions of the country, which in turn are doing no less by each one alleging political engineering against the other, and the national media ascribe to themselves the right to act partisan and blow the syndrome out of proportion.
The Armed Forces which are called upon by political governments in aid of civil power besides their role and duty as defenders of the nation’s geographical frontiers, deliver admirably in adversity of all kinds during peacetime, are in the same breath accused of a clandestine role against the civilian set-up allegedly scheming to keep them weak and therefore dependent. One fails to understand why the Armed Forces which of late have discretely avoided stepping into Government shoes and shunned seizing power, would countenance a weak Government unable to defend itself which would in turn weaken the Forces themselves.
Both the civil and military power in the country must blunt all attempts to sow discord among them and stay firmly together against enemy designs against the State which eventually make Pakistani rulers do the bidding of external forces and Monetary Agencies and compromising State interests. Most Pakistani rulers have been guilty in one way or another in putting self above the State and jumping the gun in quest of power. This suicidal course must end, and so should corruption across the board if Pakistan indeed wishes to make genuine progress.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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