Supreme Court’s timely intervention
For all the Supreme Court’s forays into the administrative morass one can finally find cause for applause. The decision to enforce constitutional authority by compelling the government to hold the much-delayed local body elections was an urgent need. The SC can and must see to it that government follows the constitution. Elections at all levels must be held immediately as they become due. Compliance of the current judgment in the face of the overt reluctance is therefore crucial.
Beyond this the final judgment must ensure that the constitutional obligation to hold local body elections removes any discretionary powers that may allow government to delay the timing of the election beyond the due dates. Suspension or abeyance of local bodies needs to be treated as subversion of the constitution and be punishable as such, especially since the process of implementation of this law has commenced. Record confirms that elections to the local bodies have been held primarily to legitimize and favour authority. They have then been left in an ambiguity with much tinkering to create a subjugated format and then milked.
Milked in the real sense. Funds have historically been spent on upgrading the life of the powerful of the area, provincial and national legislators and rarely on the objectives set. The inclusion of an auditor-general in the Zia LG system to bring the financial discipline was bitterly opposed by stakeholders and subsequently not provided for in the final document. Not being current with elections adds to indiscipline. The resultant opacity allowing fulfillment of the ultimate desires of access to funds and disbursement with no questions asked.
The essence of local bodies the world over is to ensure civic governance and facilitation and empowerment of the citizen. Do you know of any other country that needs this as desperately as we do? Hence this thunderous applause! The SC has finally decided that its patience has worn thin and ordered the governments to fulfill their obligations. I find the Sindh government’s prima facie intention to hold these after another six months infuriating. Similarly, the Punjab hasn’t jumped gleefully at the opportunity either.
The unwillingness is observably due to the fact that the recent voting pattern has revealed that the local bodies in certain areas of the Punjab and Karachi in Sindh will not provide comfort to the governments in office. Comfort of the provincial governments is not an obligation of the state; the will of the people is. I can understand the Punjab’s hesitancy due to the vote bank inroad created by the PTI, but why is the Sindh government reluctant? The MQM, which will largely be affected again by the quantum of vote cast for the PTI, is not its coalition partner and the PPP is unlikely to suffer losses in the wake of the last election. There are no legitimate excuses for delaying the poll.
These elections will follow the installation of a new president, the campaign for which has already begun with the nomination of one significant candidate, Raza Rabbani. He fills a couple of interesting criteria. First he is a Punjabi and if I am not wrong a resident of Sindh, thereby accomplishing the national demand for Pakistani nationalism rather than the undeniable provincial vote in the last election. Secondly, he is a politician without blemish, at least in the context to Pakistan politics. He and I disagree on the inclusion of the infamous 8th amendment in the constitutional amendment bill passed by the outgoing parliament. Whether some or little was left is not the argument. That any of it is included is shameful. But you can’t blame only him. BB and Nawaz had 12 years between them to throw it out, they didn’t. Musharraf had nine, he didn’t. And now, no one is likely to. So do we continue to wonder where extremism takes its roots? Lastly, let me quickly add, the most significant candidate, the PML-N’s final nominee is still awaited.
On the subject of governmental obligations in respect of code of conduct, the recent egotistical shenanigans, they cannot be termed otherwise, of public representatives are utterly disgusting. The Punjab MPs including a woman have misbehaved atrociously with the general public. There can be nothing more repulsive than a woman MP beating up a hostess on a bus in the presence of an audience. Ok, Shahbaz intervened, but since there is silence. An MP slapped and assaulted an official, again, no action. The son of an official slapped an officer in uniform, an FIR has been registered but you can be certain nothing will come of it. Zehri’s guards in Quetta assaulted police. It took the BHC CJ to take notice and save the SP from the wrath of the politicians. Is physical assault not a crime in the criminal procedure code? Why isn’t the lawfully and independently empowered to deal with these cases?
I recall an incident when we were students in London. At Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday,a chap was castigating immigrants in abusive language and a group of us booed him loudly. His mates surrounded us adopting a threatening posture. A policeman appeared on the scene, called his backup. Within minutes a Black Maria whisked us off to the Police Station in the Park. We recorded statements emphasizing the word “threatening” as suggested. And then we left. Three weeks later, it was reported in the press that three had been jailed for physically threatening behavior in Hyde Park.
A British MP broke the traffic signal at Trafalgar Square and a policeman on duty stopped him. He informed the policeman he was rushing to Parliament as the Division Bell had been rung. The policeman said sorry and the MP drove off. The conscientious policeman wrote a letter apologizing to the Speaker of the House for causing delay in proceedings of the legislature. The Speaker referred it to the Secretary to verify if the Division Bell had been rung at the particular time mentioned in the letter. On finding it had not, the MP was challaned and the policeman received a letter of commendation for bringing the violation to the notice of the House. This is what happens when there is rule of law.
We have become a totally different people; all that spit and polish is long gone. This new culture must be attributed to the educated illiterates suffering from inflated egos. Followed closely by the marginally educated but lesser entitled, who use brawn instead of brain. Of course the totally uneducated ragamuffins of all ages that our mangled priorities and insensitivity have unleashed on society make up the majority. We are into this big thing about, culture, hospitality, manners and politeness; tehzeeb and what not. When was the last time you were the recipient of any of this? There is a lack of couth permeating our society; the role models for this are the elites with their exaggerated sense of entitlement and utter lack of humility. The lemmings follow mindlessly.
While we are talking of applause, Nawaz had planned to address the nation Monday evening, which was postponed by a day or two. When he speaks, the country will be glued to the screen in anticipation. It better be good, he has taken his time to collect thoughts. But, when he finishes, let him board a plane and fly to Karachi and stand humbled before the Quaid-e-Azam’s burial place in homage and prayer. This requires no briefing or even thought collection. This is a national tradition you are duty-bound to perform, Prime Minister, and it is six weeks overdue! Pakistan owes this to its Founder.
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