The crisis escalates
With every Pakistani, nay every stakeholder, asking where this is headed, it seems the inevitable next stage towards a formal declaration of war is afoot. Before the government even tabled a proposed amendment, one of the combatants issued a rather unambiguous statement expressing its intentions. Now that a bill has been tabled, it is has been challenged before it has become law. An interesting fact, indeed.
The constitution embodies the process required to amend it. There is no ambiguity there. And the amendment is only passed if that process is completed. A two-thirds majority must vote for it. Based on numbers and facts, this government has that majority when it needs it. Or so it appears. But there is another important factor; the amendment should not impinge on three important aspects relating to the principles of the constitution, fundamental rights being the principle. I am making an educated guess in saying this bill doesn’t. Since the lower house has passed it with the required majority, once the Senate does it will be law.
Does it end there, is the multi-million dollar question. Without going into the depth of the bill, it is necessary to discuss whether the current amendment was forced upon government by the purported invasion of the apex court into the fundamental right of parliament to legislate, and perhaps as in the case of the former prime minister, ousting him for following specific articles of the constitution restraining him from taking steps ordered by the apex court. It’s obvious the validity of these interventions can be subject to challenge. But where would that challenge be heard?
We are landed smack bang in the middle of a war for supremacy and on supremacy by supremacy. Two major institutions are hell bent on fighting for their alleged turf. Let me correct that. The government is apparently fighting for survival against a challenge imposed upon it by another institution embodied in the Constitution that is, again apparently, striving to extend its jurisdiction, perhaps beyond its defined realm. So who then is the eventual custodian?
The truth is that this conflict has jeopardised the integrity of all institutions. Governance, bad as it may have been, is now in utter shambles. Nothing is happening; there is no focus on anything but this battle for supremacy. I believe it’s uncalled for. Having hoped that egos would be satiated after the ‘kill’, I once again find my optimism being furiously challenged. It’s sad it has come to this.
It’s an overkill to repeat that Pakistan’s current crisis and needs today far outweigh the events unfolding on Constitution, pun intended, Avenue. The time and money being spent to sustain this debilitating process, creating uncertainty, insecurity and making a mockery of this country for negative or very little gain is absurd. So much has been written about this Swiss letter, there is no need to add to it. Only one small point: even if it were written, no action is possible at the present time.
When I write that the government is being forced into a corner to defend itself, I am not relieving it of its own role in this dilemma. Certain actions have been more than questionable. Governance and law and order have been serious issues. Corruption is at a premium. And the common man continues to suffer seriously. The apex court perhaps does have reason to take some Suo Moto cognisance, but it too must exercise restraint. There are far too many statements attributed to the judiciary appearing in the media, which goes against the principle of ‘judges speaking through their judgement’. And most important of all both factions must get on with their main job to provide relief to the people in their respective spheres.
I know it’s fashionable to write against the government but sometimes facts must be brought on ground. President Zardari has carried the majority of political parties with him through the four and a half years of this government. Even the volatile MQM has been tamed to a large extent. The commissions of the ‘Q’ during Musharraf’s years have been forgiven. There are no scandals of a financial nature linked to him personally during the current tenure; in fact no scandal of any nature. And the despicable ‘midnight knock’ is a thing of the past.
Given this positive record, why have the government and apex court not been able to reach a compromise wherein both would function within the parameters clearly defined by the constitution? Instead of getting better, matters have gotten steadily worse and respite does not appear to be in sight. Growing number of allegations on both sides vitiate the atmosphere. Again, without going into the merits or demerits, it appears that everyone is tainted with some sort of negative hue.
This battle of giants has terrible collateral damage. Institutions are being damaged. The ability of the nation to interact with the world has been severely impaired, creating an aura of suspicion and uncertainty. It is driving investment, foreign and local, away. While around us, the neighbours prosper, we indulge in self-destruction. I can repeat till I am blue in the face, go beyond yourselves, it doesn’t matter who you think is supreme. Pakistan is Supreme.
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com.