News & Views
Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani has said that the direction of the events taking place is reflective of the fact that democracy is in danger. He added that now test tube system and test tube government will not succeed, and the people of Pakistan will protect democracy and Constitution of Pakistan. Perhaps he hinted towards Panama Leaks and that former president Pervez Musharraf was allowed to leave the country. After his departure, Raza Rabbani had called upon the federal government and the legislature to undo the provision by amending the Constitution. For the last two years, Raza Rabbani has been suggesting that Article 6 of the Constitution should be removed, as it failed to protect the statute itself, parliament and democracy. The question is what should be done about other articles in the Constitution that are not implemented in letter and in spirit?
For example, Article 19 guarantees the fundamental rights of the people, protection of their lives. The Constitution has the provisions about the responsibility of the government to provide education, health facilities and job opportunities. Since the governments failed to protect the lives of the people and provide jobs, should those articles also be revoked? Anyhow, the question is why during its 5-year tenure the PPP government had allowed Pervez Musharraf to leave the country, when Benazir murder case was pending in the court? In fact, the PPP had promised that in the event Pervez Musharraf resigned from the office of president, it would be an open and shut case. As regards removal of Pervez Musharraf’s name from the ECL, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali had upheld the ruling of 2014 Sindh High Court.
However, the court said the federation of Pakistan or the special court can pass any legal order for regulating his custody or restricting his movement. The court had wanted the government to decide about allowing Pervez Musharraf to travel abroad. From the CJ’s remarks, one could conclude that the court had sent the ball to the government’s court stating that it may pass any order on the issue. During 5 years of the PPP government, no petition was moved against Pervez Musharraf because it wished to avoid confrontation or conflict with military establishment. It was during interim government’s brief tenure that the apex court had admitted petitions for hearing when Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was chief justice of Pakistan. In Pakistan, eminences and leading lights talk about democracy, justice, rule of law and constitutionalism, but such discussions had taken place in the past also.
One dialogue had taken place in 4th century B.C. The venue was the house of Cephalus, a wealthy aristocrat, and in the group were the brothers of Plato and Thrasymachus, a gruff and excitable Sophist who was provoked to commit himself to a definition. He thus came out: “I proclaim that might is right; and justice is the interest of the stronger. Different forms of government – democratic, aristocratic or autocratic – make laws with a view to protecting their interests; and these laws so made by them serve their interests; they deliver to their subjects as justice, and punish as ‘unjust’ anyone who transgresses them”. Even leftists in Pakistan and elsewhere subscribed to such views and thought that civil and military bureaucracy and judiciary were the institutions to serve the plutocrats, and they believed that only people’s democracy could deliver to the masses.
Even today, the members of the ruling elite control all the resources of the country, and they are considered above the law. An ordinary person with middle-class background cannot afford to field himself as a candidate for a provincial or national assembly seat. Anyhow, the people are losing faith in the system, which does not address their problems. Therefore, they seem to be fed up with the present electoral process that sends opulent classes to the assemblies. And this is the reason that over the years the turnout has dwindled down significantly. Unless this vast majority of disgruntled and disappointed citizens are inspired to take interest in national affairs and help reform the society, no change can be brought about in either state of society or in the contours of the national uplift. The question is whether we have visionary leaders to accomplish this task? We certainly do not have.
Economic disparity, socio-economic injustice, political instability, internecine conflicts between politicians, rampant corruption, rising crime rate, war against terrorism, target killings, energy crisis and ineffective criminal justice system especially in lower courts are the challenges facing the nation, which need to be met through unity and harmony between the pillars of the state. For six and a half decades, majority of the people are living in the gloom of stalking poverty, squalor, want and deprivation. They have weathered storms and suffered from human-made calamities like terrorism. But they are neither in focus of the ruling elite nor by the anchorpersons, analysts and intellectuals who more often than not highlight the elites’ grouses rather than highlighting the grievances of the downtrodden. One would hardly listen to the discussion on finding ways and means to improve the lives of teeming millions living in abject poverty.
The system of electoral democracy empowers the voters to take away the powers of elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations and or grossly violate fundamental ideology. While the system adequately provides procedure to impeach the public office holders, the elected representatives go scot free. Unfortunately Pakistani democracy depicts different ground reality, as voters after having elected their representatives virtually become subjects of powerful elite who ride a rough shod over them and shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as rituals, because political parties have become dynasties, and top leaderships of the parties have assumed unprecedented powers through 18th amendment.
— The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.