The cat is finally out of the bag. Speculations of the past are the reality of today. Civil-military relations are at their worse. The dissonance is spilled out in the streets. The third empire of 2014 resurfaced on October 2 and tried to bar the entry of politicians and the media personnel into Islamabad’s NAB court, which was hearing three references against the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Rangers could not have taken over the control of the NAB court on their own under any ruse. Certainly, civilian supremacy was challenged in the already vitiated atmosphere of prejudice. The Rangers work under the control of the Interior which is headed by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. The Rangers could not bypass the office of Iqbal, who is right in saying that no state within the state is possible and permissible. Similarly, the media could not have been excluded from entering the court premises to cover the proceedings. This is the two-pronged blunder committed by the Rangers on October 2. The people of Pakistan have all rights to know what is happening in and around the NAB court, Islamabad.
The Rangers no more belong to the community of neutral. Instead, they are partisan: the Rangers are also party to the issue. This is the message aired by the Rangers on October 2 when they took upon themselves the responsibility of instituting quarantine around the premises of the NAB court, Islamabad. Populism embedded in the domain of politics leaves not many neutral. Whether judges or the military, they are ever ready to jump into the domain of earning popularity, and this is how they end up in being politicised. For government servants, whether they are judges or uniformed officers, staying neutral and doing their professional work is perhaps both insulting and revolting. It is just a little desire of earning praise, called “wah wah” in Urdu, that prompt them to transcend the limits of their assigned role and impinge avidly on the domain of others. The “wah wah” is a coveted asset a judge or a military officer earn during his service and take pride on during his retirement. The media (both print and electronic) exacerbate the “wah wah” aspect of one’s unchallenged so-called noble intentions to work for the public welfare. The offspring of the “wah wah” earner keep basking in the glory so earned for generations. The “wah wah” is the ultimate objective, and the bane of democracy in Pakistan.
The problem with the courts generally is that they have entered the domain of populism. Instead of focusing on their decisions, they deliver decisions to earn popularity. They try to issue popular decisions which do not stand the test of judicial objectivity and trial in the long run. Late Justice Nasim Hasan Shah confessed (before his death) publicly to have issued an erroneous decision of hanging an elected prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, under the pressure exerted by the then military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. In just one sentence, Justice Shah exposed the credibility of the higher judiciary taking political decisions, the decisions, which have harmed Pakistan more than the wicked malevolent acts of the politicians amassed together.
Though the parliament is supreme for making and amending the constitution, the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa has reiterated publicly since July 28 that the constitution is supreme. Unfortunately, the same constitution stands violated on October 2. Instead of threatening to resign, Iqbal needs to put his foot down and hold those accountable who violated the constitution which otherwise guarantee civilian supremacy. Resignation is not a solution. Instead, the real contest for the supremacy of civilian begins now. The problem is not with the role of the Rangers, the problem is with the chain of command from where it is emanating, from military bosses or civilian bosses. The point is simple: no mini-martial law can be imposed, no semblance of martial law can be portrayed, and no violation of civilian supremacy can be tolerated. Pakistan is not under any martial law and there is no need of holding a closed-door trial. When the context is Pakistan, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif cannot be denied political accompaniment. This is not the 70s when a political leader was hanged to death to take control over the destiny of the country. The destiny created by General Zia-ul Haq through the 8th Amendment is still haunting the country in a nightmarish way.
Even the issuance of the July 28 judgement to disqualify the sitting prime minister on insubstantial disputed legal grounds was a manifestation of the pending lingering desire to mesmerise all and sundry. It is like marketing one’s institution or the office by undertaking steps, which invite attention. The mental sickness of seeking attention to fulfill one’s overdue unfulfilled desire of doing politics at the public expense is a new phenomenon taking root. It seems that the attention deficit disorder is taking its toll on most government-run offices of the state. If the July 28 judgement has not settled well with the rational legal thought, the job the NAB courts are going to do is also going to evoke the same level of doubt. There is required more public scrutiny on the NAB courts to figure out whether or not the judges are capable of and experienced enough to handling such cases.
The letter (dated October 1) sent by the SSP Operations of Islamabad to the Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad did not call for the deployment of Pakistan Rangers in place of the police. The letter called for the deployment alongside the police to enhance security and control law and order with a condition that the role of interaction with the public would lie with the police and not with the Rangers. In fact, the SSP Operations had not authority to send the copy of the letter to the Commander, Punjnad, Pakistan Rangers, Islamabad. The last hearing took place on September 26. The SSP operations should have sent this letter in the immediate aftermath of the hearing to let the higher officials discuss the matter, and not on October 1, just one day before the hearing. Moreover, it is not the written correspondence which leads to decisions. It is oral discussion first. No one had stopped the SSP Operations from raising up the issue of any law and order with the higher ups. There is some problem lying in this office. The SSP Operations overstepped his limits. The SSP Operations issued the letter at the behest of whom has to be investigated.
It was an attempt to offer a kind of vigilante justice. The Rangers taking upon themselves the responsibility of reducing the company of Nawaz Sharif to make him feel isolated and dejected. Isolation so introduced will have implications for the sons and daughter of Sharif. This is where the major challenge has been revealed: How to isolate Sharif from the rest of the party and the Sharif family from the rest of society? It is now known that there are attempts being made to isolate Nawaz Sharif from the rest of the political leaders of the PML-N. In Lahore, most people know that there was an attempt to sabotage the by-election in NA-120 by resorting to a kind of pre-poll rigging by prompting several parties to launch their candidates and by picking up of the PML-N workers for undisclosed detention. If the PML-N had lost the by-election in NA-120, hell would have been let loose. The PTI would have demanded dissolution of Assemblies immediately followed by a sit-in and it would have called for new elections. In the phase of the consequent interim government, the PML-N would have been in a difficult position and Sharif would have been isolated.
The point to understand is that a revolution cannot be induced into democratic politics. Instead, democracy evolves and evolution takes time to do its work. The only thing required is patience. If there is a dire need of the exclusion of the Sharif family from politics, it cannot happen through courts. The route to that lies through the electoral politics. The substitute, whosoever he may be, is also required to replace Sharif through the electoral process.