The people factor is critical
There is no dearth of events happening in the country that would put the nation to collective shame. One such occasion is the day when an elected prime minister of the country was put in the dock and indicted for contempt of court. But what is really demeaning is the manner in which the party that he represents continues to defy the apex court’s judgement trying desperately to either survive in office or claim ‘political’ martyrdom and en-cash it at the next elections.
What is the upshot that has brought the country to this humiliating pass? A case for money-laundering was registered against Mr Zardari in a Swiss court. It was still pending when, claiming benefit from the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), Mr Zardari had a letter written by the then attorney-general of Pakistan to the Swiss court to withdraw the case. When the NRO was declared void ab initio by the apex court, it sought of the government to re-open all cases against over 8,000 beneficiaries as they stood prior to the promulgation of the ordinance. It also asked the government to write a letter to the Swiss court to re-open the case against Mr Zardari. The government defied the order taking the plea that the president enjoyed immunity under the constitution. After pleading for over two years, the apex court finally started implementation proceedings leading to the indictment of the prime minister.
The government’s stance is riddled with contradictions. On the one hand, it claims that there is nothing in the Swiss case, yet refuses to write the letter. It also claims total immunity for the president under the constitution, yet is afraid to move the court for claiming it. The prime minister’s defence attorney is on record as having repeatedly said that the letter will have to be written and that there was no harm in doing so, yet, with a senate seat under the belt, he stands in the court defending his client for not having done so.
At the same time, there is no trace of the US$ 60 million that were understandably lying in the Swiss banks and have been withdrawn after the letter by the then attorney-general was written to quash the case. In a clandestine operation supervised by Pakistan’s High Commissioner in the UK, fully caught on camera, reams of proofs in the matter were retrieved from the concerned offices in Switzerland and whisked away in vans. Where is the money? Where are those reams of evidence?
While the government does not tire of trumpeting endlessly its respect of the constitution and the rule of law, it is obdurately unbending in accepting the court’s constitutional right to interpret the same. Instead, it wants to manipulate this aspect of the constitution that rests exclusively with the judiciary. The government may have succeeded in delaying the sentencing – a conviction for the prime minister – but, by all indications, it cannot abort the inevitable.
At a stage when formal charges have been framed against the prime minister, there is the moral question and, according to some a legal one as well, whether he can and should continue to hold the coveted office? While there is little ambiguity as to the moral basis having eroded fully, some pundits may opt to wait for the final conviction before commenting on its legal sustainability. Also, we, as individuals and as a nation, have never really been beholden to the moral precepts and have repeatedly unmasked our degenerative proclivities, at times with destructive and debilitating manifestations. So, by all indications, Mr Gilani would continue to be the prime minister – even from behind the prison walls!
What utter depravity! Where do we stand today as a nation? With an unrepentant prime minister having been indicted for defying the apex court of the country, the entire basis of governance, moral and legal, stands obliterated. If the prime minister violates the judgement of the court, how can the government that he heads expect the people not to replicate their ‘democratic’ leader? Why should they also not defy the decisions of the courts and proclaim their innocence just like their elected leader is doing?
While the government is always keen to proclaim the parliament as supreme – an aberration as supremacy rests with the constitution and not the parliament – it is unwilling to recognise powers granted to other state institutions, including the judiciary, by the constitution. It is this paradox that has shaved the government of its much-needed legitimacy and relevance to remain in power together with creating doubts as to the efficacy of the constitution itself.
The country has virtually grinded to a halt. The economic plunge is unstoppable. The law and order situation was never any worse. Relations with our so-called allies, even traditional friends, had never sunk any lower than this. State institutions are tethering on the verge of collapse as rampant corruption digs its tentacles deeper. The review process of our relations with the US has stretched endlessly as the air route for NATO supplies remains open, thus nullifying the impact of the decision that was taken in the wake of the attack on the Salala check-post. But the government continues to claim laurels – unashamedly!
The fast deteriorating economic situation in the country, the law and order nightmare, the government’s inability to fully comprehend and address the grave situation in Balochistan, the seemingly unstoppable radicalisation and fragmentation of the society and the looming dangers on the horizon in its interactions at the international level pose a grave threat to the country. To help retrieve the situation, the recipe is simple: stop protecting the errant individuals bent on defying law irrespective of their status and position and start serving and promoting the cause of Pakistan to the elimination of all irritants. The people factor would be critical.
The writer is a political analyst and a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He can be reached at [email protected]