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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some Obvious Disconnects

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 28, 2012

Oh well, things have changed a bit, after all, but not a heck of a whole lot, after all. In the past, the khakis came in and took over, typically in the wee hours of the morning. Or thanks to our 'beloved' General Zia's 58 2(b), the mighty presidents dissolved parliaments on their whims, and sent prime ministers packing. The charges were typically 'corruption and nepotism'. Even back in those days, I used to wonder, why was it that the accused was not given the opportunity to defend himself in front of the executive or the sovereign parliament. But that would have meant democratic norms. I used to pinch myself to remind myself that reality and my dreams were truly poles apart.

So now the game is a bit different. The honourable apex court has decided to play the role of the chief executive. The prime minister (PM) was allowed to defend, but let us just leave it at that. The apex court has respectfully infringed on the territory of parliament and the Election Commission of Pakistan to make a point. Of course, the exercise of this unprecedented and again with utmost respect, unconstitutional measure has put this nation on a wrong footing. Much like the dictatorial 58 2(b), this will be remembered not so fondly.

Let us revisit the distant past for a moment. Four years or so ago, the honourable judiciary was trying to reinvent itself by defying a dictator and his dictates. The underlying premise was that a dictator wielded undue influence and exercised unlimited and unquestioned powers. The concept in theory was fairly novel and praiseworthy. Very respectfully, I saw it quite differently. The overly chastised dictator was found to be a 'dictator' after approximately seven years of his rule...why that was so is my question. Do you see as I see a 'disconnect' here? All was well until the dictator exercised his constitutional power to question one of the respected members of the judiciary. By the way, the same honourable judiciary awarded the so-called dictatorial power to him. So yes, the 'greatest movement' swayed many people, but a few were extremely sceptical. I count myself in the category of the latter.

I often wonder how our common people are so naïve or tend to live in a world of their own where pretty much anything goes. So long as someone can impress them, whichever way possible, they just give an 'affirmative' nod, without rationally analysing the situation or the motive. Using my previous comments, no one is a complete angel or devil; everyone is just trying to use events and situations to their advantage. It is plain and simple. Some use victimhood, some religion and, some let us say, the law, so long as they can influence the public perception in their favour.

Is it me or has someone else questioned this as well? The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was declared unconstitutional, yet the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) of 1999 was not. Again, the obvious disconnect there. Similarly, the PCO of 2007 was not kosher either: why was that accepted? The common denominating factor in all these situations was the same dictator and his overzealous measures. If it is still not abundantly clear, that all regardless of who they are use certain events to their advantage to mould public sentiment in their favour, then nothing will.

The recent verdict has many far-reaching implications. Some of the folks who are rejoicing this move are really missing the point here, viewing this from the narrow prism of their political differences. My humble request to all of them is to put themselves in the situation and picture what this may feel like to them. Mian Nawaz Sharif had a jolt of reality in 1999, when it came to bite him too. As much as I disagree with him, he was the elected leader of the people. Only people and not the military had the right to remove him from office. Oh, I guess it is time for another pinch for me.

The present situation is a bit perplexing but by the same historic token. A non-military executive and his party are trying to follow the constitution fully. Yet the usual forces are against the stability of this government. There is no denying that a healthy political environment requires a partnership of the majority and the opposition parties. Both may be at odds most of the times, yet it is necessary for the public to view both sides of the story. In our case, very sadly, we are still in an initial stage of political development. The incumbents, with all their faults, flaws and follies, will be going back to the public soon for a fresh vote. People have to make their decision and all players in the arena ought to wait for that day.

As far as the honourable judiciary is concerned, it has to play the role of the 'ultra neutral' umpire. Again, with utmost respect, it is not up to the honourable judiciary to decide who makes it to elected office. As someone very beautifully said, on an election day, all citizens regardless of who they are, what position they hold, have only one vote. One can sincerely hope that the honourable judiciary will exercise its vote like any other citizen on that particular day. As it is, it has a monumental task on its hands --the task to interpret the law. Let us hope that we head towards an era of clear and unbiased thinking, from all quarters.
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