Dismantling of Institutions
Monday, October 04, 2010 – Chosen representatives in a democratic set-up and the Executive arm of the State the world over understandably remain under constant scrutiny and are made subject to criticism and ridicule for acts of commission and omission done intentionally or unintentionally. Media, the world over, is playing the role of a watchdog and its mind-boggling proliferation has made its role very crucial in making or breaking the Governments. In Pakistan too, the successive governments came under scathing attacks from all directions, perhaps more than anywhere in the region, with massive allegations of bad governance and stinking corruption. The incumbent Government is also particularly the target of the media.
While the practice of criticizing the Executive and the elected representatives is in line with the democratic principles because they are accountable and answerable to their electorate, a new startling phenomenon is emerging in Pakistan to make the Armed Forces and the Judiciary the target of direct or indirect injurious sarcasm from some quarters. In my view to criticize the defenders of the sacred borders of Pakistan and the strong-nerved guarantors of rule of law in the country is a surerecipe for national suicide.
The State of Pakistan is a combination of institutions which are rightly believed to be the pillars supporting the structure of the State and keeping the system going. Traditionally, since 1947, the Armed Forces of Pakistan and the Judiciary have always been held in high esteem and this is also reflected in Article 63 of the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which rightly disqualifies a person from seeking membership of Parliament if he defames or brings into disrepute the Armed Forces or the Judiciary. I salute the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution including Mr. Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, who is still in good condition and sometimes gives a tough time to the learned judges of the Apex Court.
There had been some instances particularly in the context of the Judiciary when some of its verdicts changed the course of political history and even now those judgments reverberate in higher courts of the country in one context or the other. During the present decade, some of the judgments of the Judiciary are believed to have been delivered due to expediencies of the time and therefore at times some critics refer to those decisions unfavourably. But, by and large, there is a national consensus over the independence of the Judiciary and, I am convinced, prudence demands that this pillar of the State should not be criticized in a way that results in lowering its esteem in one way or the other and the people of Pakistan start losing faith in it. It was for the independence of the Judiciary that the nation launched a vibrant and sustained movement, which culminated in reinstatement of the Chief Justice, Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges, who were removed in the wake of proclamation of emergency by the former President, General Pervez Musharraf. I have given a serious thought to the rebirth of the Judiciary and I am convinced it was a divine arrangement.
Though some circles are wrongly interpreting “judicial activism” and they are misinterpreting intentionally the ongoing “judicial activism” yet in the backdrop of the people’s expectations from the Judiciary, which were manifested clearly and loudly during the movement for restoration of the judges, the Judiciary is trying its best to ensure, as far as possible, the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. But the only difference is that some people in the Government want to be selective in ensuring the rule of law while the Judiciary wants an across the board application of this principle. In this background, it is unfortunate that for the last few months, some people, in the media too, are openly attacking the courts. This tendency, if goes unchecked, could lead to an unforgivable re-run of attack on the Supreme Court on 28th November 1997. Already there had been reports that black coats were distributed among the workers of the PPP to enable them to enter the Apex Court Complex when Law Minister Babar Awan appeared in the court in connection with an NRO case on May 25 this year. Distribution of funds to District Bars by the Law Minister, in what is being labelled as a brief case diplomacy, is also considered by the people as an attempt to create division among the legal fraternity which solidly stood behind the Bench during the movement for the restoration of the deposed judges. There have been numerous other instances but to quote another example, on August 23, 2009, NWFP Minister Bashir Bilour of the ANP the coalition partner of the PPP, kicked off a controversy by launching a tirade against senior judges, saying if judges liked politics they should resign and contest elections. He also threatened, “the Judiciary should not overstep its jurisdiction; otherwise we will not keep silent.”
Similarly, another institution which though is not considered a formal pillar of the State in the definition of the political science, yet has in reality more bigger role than simply of a pillar to keep the structure of the State intact i.e. the Armed Forces, is coming under unguarded criticism by those who consider it a privilege to speak on any issue and establish their credentials as a democrat. The most recent criticism of this nature was by the former Minister for Defence Production, Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, who made senseless comments in Quetta on 25th September 2010 against the Armed Forces and the Judiciary, and the Prime Minister was left with no choice but to demand his resignation. A PML-N MPA from the Punjab was also quoted by the media on September 27 seconding the outburst of Jatoi.
The Army gained the position of a major stakeholder in the affairs of the State because of our neighbour’s determined and systematic efforts to destabilize Pakistan to the extent that it ultimately falls back to pre-1947 position. The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 is a testimony to this nefarious propensity and thinking in India. I would like to draw the attention of my valued readers towards the non-acceptance of Pakistan in India by just one example. I was waiting for the outcome of prolonged talks between former President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee along with another senior Pakistani journalist at JP Palace in Agra in July 2001 where the crucial talks were going on, when Mr Mullayam Singh Yadav, a prominent Indian politician, came to us. While exchanging views on the contentious issue of Kashmir, Mullayam Singh Yadav remarked, “Maharaj! You may take the whole of Kashmir but for God’s sake let us undo the dividing line between the two brothers created by the British rulers”. I don’t need to go into further details. So, with this mindset in India which still persists, I dare say that no one in any position can reduce the larger than life role of the Pak Army and I will go to the extent of saying that the day the Armed Forces were softened, the country would also get too weak and correspondingly softened.
But unfortunately some voices, including some powerful ones, are being heard in the public and on the floor of Parliament criticizing the Army as an institution rather than certain acts of some individuals. Let me clarify here that no one approves the intervention of the Army and subversion of the democratic set-up and the Constitution. How some Army Chiefs interfered and dismissed the elected governments in the past requires a lot of space and my this column does not permit that. What I would emphasize is that the issue of the tragedies of interventions and the Generals who led the coups should be separated from the Army as an institution as those were acts of individuals. Therefore, the people who under the pretext of Musharraf-bashing are attacking the Army as such are rendering disservice as well as harm to the country and might be considered cognizable under the Treason Act. What is more lamentable is that even a Political Party that had ideological moorings and had been traditionally supportive of the Armed Forces i.e. PML-N, which was considered as a strong ally of the Army and security of Pakistan because of its singular role as creator of the country, has fallen into the trap of the Army-bashing clique as it does not differentiate between the individual acts and the institutions as a whole. I feel sorry that some PML-N leaders like Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for whom I have a certain liking, make undue critical remarks and that too quite often against the defenders of the motherland.
In the light of the above, to those who are keeping an eye on the evolving situation, I would say if this tendency of undermining the integrity of key institutions i.e. the Judiciary and the Army, continued, it would be like playing in the hands of the enemy and may further hasten the process of destabilization. International and regional conspiracies to cut to size the Pakistan Army and to keep it engaged against “people of Pakistan” were understandable, but knowingly or unknowingly becoming tools in the hands of others is indeed very enigmatic and shocking.