Yet another Chaudhry Nisar outburst stands out not for what he said, but for what he didn’t or, perhaps, has still not realised. True, nothing is to be gained from a possible confrontation between institutions – which Nawaz Sharif and his close aides seem to be fueling – but democracy will not be strengthened by establishing supremacy of the ruling party alone. Instead, there is a an urgent need to strengthen parliament and take opposition parties along, not something senior PML-N members are known for, Ch Nisar being no exception.
There are going to be limits to accommodation with the army and judiciary in the era of democratic consolidation. Civilian rulers no doubt wish to assert their authority. And the establishment is unwilling, naturally, to let go of foreign policy and security turf acquired under successive military rulers, not to mention the inherent weakness, also, of democratic dispensations. Yet Nawaz tried, at least, to establish his authority on the basis of the ‘big mandate’. But when that didn’t work Plan-B, apparently, was to take to intrigue in the form of Dawn leaks, etc. The legitimate route – of strengthening parliament and, again, keeping the opposition on board – was not taken. In fact, only in the dharna days of 2014, when some in the ruling party began fearing for the administration, did Nawaz take parliament seriously. Not before and clearly not after.
A resurgent judiciary, too, poses problems that politicians have only made worse. When politicians, like PML-N leaders, take their issues to the courts, they surrender turf to the judiciary which does more harm than good to the ‘system’ in the long term. PTI, too, rushes to the courts instead of leveraging the democratic system. Now, when the “tide has risen to dangerous levels” (Ch Nisar), the need for mobilising parliament is greater than ever. So far, despite allegedly fighting so often to save democracy, it seems while our politicians can make a lot of noise, they still need some schooling in the functioning of parliamentary democracy. Ch Nisar’s disclosure proves, among other things, that this realisation is just as missing from PML-N thinking as other prominent parties.