Pak’s beleaguered democracy

By K.N. Pandita

In a tripartite pull for power and authority, democratically elected government in Pakistan is under pressure from the judiciary and the army, the latter having the final word with it. Thrice in the past has Pakistan army staged coup and removed civilian elected governments. Apprehensions are that conditions are shaping for another coup though Pak Army chief has expressed adherence to democratic arrangement in the country. He has not tagged any conditions to such a commitment though in the past military rulers in that country usually discredited politicians and the brand of democracy they floated in Pakistan essentially to legitimize their taking over.  

The Army, bitten by two humiliating episodes during last year, feels its traditional authority is faced with challenge by the elected government. Hence it is looking for opportunity to retrieve its image and that can be done only by undermining the elected government and stealing something from its constitutional authority. It has to be recalled that ISI Chief went of his own all the way to London and interviewed one Ijaz in connection with the “memo” episode. For three weeks he did not inform the Prime Minster about the matter that has become a big source of irritation between the government and the army. Additionally, the army managed to push an affidavit to the Supreme Court with the connivance of the Defence Secretary, a retired army officer and still close to GHQ. The government was not informed. Thus the army and ISI nexus planned other conspiracies to undermine the authority of the elected government.

The judiciary has not been comfortable with the elected government and Asif Ali Zardari in particular. The reason is that after Zardari became President, he took his own time to reinstate the Chief Justice of Pakistan who had been forced to resign during the era of former President Musharraf. The Supreme Court had declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) unconstitutional and illegal in December 2009. With that nearly 8000 case of persons including Zardari allegedly involved in corruption, had to be revived and taken up for prosecution. But the Supreme Court slept over the follow-up action on its verdict and now suddenly after a lapse of two years has raked up the isolated case of AA Zardari. Why take up an isolated case? Moreover, there is a subtle legal point involved. If the Supreme Court has found NRO an unconstitutional and illegal ordinance, what legal and moral sanction is there for the person who issued NRO to issue the same? Musharraf illegally and unconstitutionally removed the elected prime minister from power and installed himself as the military ruler of Pakistan. He amended the constitution and made himself the President of Pakistan. This entire process is totally unconstitutional and illegal. Why has not the Supreme Court registered a case against Musharraf and why has it not ordered all legislative and administrative reforms introduce by him during his tenure as illegal and unconstitutional. Why only the NRO?

The reason given by the Pakistan government for not writing to Switzerland to disclose the bank assets of AA Zardari and not opening the accountability case against him is that in its view the President is immune from prosecution in a court of law. The Supreme Court should have addressed this issue first and then taken the next step in the light of what the legal position of accusations brought against the President is. In other words, it means the government should have been given the opportunity of justifying or not its stand. Supreme Court has not done that but summoned Prime Minster Reza Gilani to present himself before the court on 19th of this month which he has agreed to do. The worst is that the Supreme Court will order Gilani’s ouster on the basis of contempt of court but then the PPP will elect its new legislative party leader and the coalition government will continue. Thus at the end of the day people will say that the Supreme Court had a grouse against the person of PM Gilani and it has avenged itself. If that is the factual position then the Supreme Court will be doing great disservice to the nation. PM Gilani has a case, and the case is that of forces endangering the democratic dispensation for whose preservation he has the constitutional, legal and moral responsibility. It is the Gilani-led government that recommended two year extension to General Kayani in a bid to ensure stability of the democracy in the state at a critical moment of her history when Pakistan is engaged in fighting terrorism.

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