By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
Pakistan is a wondrous country, its people endure the worst; yet vote for the same lot, again and again. National leadership is correspondingly amazing one; while in the midst of crises, it craves for more crises, and complicates them through conspiracy and victimhood theories. Politics is criminalised with impunity; hence best asylum for criminals is to join politics.
All pillars of state and functionaries of the government are in a sort of Tom and Jerry race to have the last laugh. Decision making process has become dysfunctional. World holds its breadth, on day to day basis, to see whether Pakistan would exist the next day. More than foreign elements, our own media clowns strive hard to make the people believe, each evening, that Pakistan may not remain viable the next morning. Yet, it is the hardy common Pakistani who radiates the message loud and clear that it certainly would. With one political scavenger gone there are still many, readily available to re-play his role. However, in all probability, it is the hardy common Pakistani destined for the last laugh.
Exposure of institutions and individuals is about to come to a full circle. Failure of the latest anti-Chief Justice misadventure, and at least outwardly restraint by the military to stay behind the curtain has provided longevity to the system. Is military’s restraint-ability really tenable, durable and sustainable one, even if it spirals down well into the domain of indifference? This is an intriguing yet a key question for forecasting the coming events. Seeing from another perspective, has military lost its leverage of a neutral, credible and timely actor and is shifting positions on as required basis? Or does it perceive that the boiling point is far away, so it could wait and watch? During most of the crises since 2008, military’s balancing intervention came forth belatedly, once doomsday impressions had been radiated the worldwide.
It is indeed a comprehensive leadership failure at national level. Real leadership does not reside in creating crisis, letting them brew to approach a point of no return and then resolve them through a patchy solution. Instead, mettle of leadership manifests itself in not letting the routines turn into a crisis.
Will the judiciary limit itself to the fall of one Prime Minister or would it continue its march towards the actual target? Will electronic media remain a commodity on sale, offering its talk show time and spin doctors in black market, or would it bow down to a non-government content-regulator and a conduct regulating non-government ombudsman? Will father-son episodes of mega corruption scandals come to an end? Do we stand a chance of having our lower judiciary reformed or the high profile cases in the superior judiciary would continue to obscure the endemic rot in the lower judiciary?
Will our leading lawyers continue to sit under the banner of ‘on sale’ and some would remain erratic enough to overhype their personal security concerns and blame it on the state institutions and agencies; and will they overcome the hangover of ceremonious praises periodically hurled upon them by the CJP, and learn to abide by their professional ethics and apolitical character of their legal practice?
In the prevailing vertical and horizontal polarization, it is difficult to find objective answers to these dilemmas. There are many gray areas that inhibit reaching definitive conclusions. Nevertheless, whatever the answers to these questions we may presume, almost every entity is losing the credibility in the eyes of a man on the street.
There is credible information that the ousted prime minister was well on its way for defying the judicial verdict through an ‘Act of the Parliament’ to undermine the decision of the Supreme Court resulting in his disqualification. A person elevated to the slot through a memorable national consensus vote was indeed bent upon bleeding the system to its last drop.
In such an eventuality, judiciary could have exercised harsher options including the invocation of constitutional articles and call for implementation of the “rule of law in the country;” resulting into systemic collapse. Credit goes to the military component of national leadership that at the eleventh hour it communicated a ‘cold’ message to the ‘intoxicated’ political leadership that any move for confrontation would lead to reaction by the other side which could finally result into a serious damage to the democratic system. However, the ruling political leadership actually buckled when a real danger of meltdown of its alliance surfaced. While the ruling alliance was contemplating to act as a political suicide bomber, the rival political powers had decided to come to the street in favour of judiciary had the ruling coalition decided to go for the self destruct option.
It is reassuring that eventually the sanity prevailed and a chaotic situation was averted. Again the question arises that: Why do we have to reach that high level of political escalation ladder before falling flat on the ground?
This pattern tends to reinforce an unfortunate impression that Pakistan is heading towards the status of a failed state. This impression is repeatedly being created from within; threads are then picked up by the foreign elements for sustaining an ongoing campaign against Pakistan. No wonders that Foreign Policy magazine for 2012 has placed Pakistan as 13th on the index of failed states.
Judgement of the Supreme Court to oust the defiant PM has surely served as a morale booster for the people of Pakistan. It has strengthened the belief that rule of law and supremacy of the constitution would ultimately prevail, despite various odds. Attempts were made to erode credibility of the state institutions but the judgement has proved it beyond doubt that these institutions are intact and are playing their role, though much below the optimum level. Under the prevalent external and internal pressures, orderly completion of the political process to select the new prime minister is by no means a mean achievement.
At least on the face of it, everyone has accepted the final verdict of the apex court, which has the sole prerogative of interpreting the law and the constitution. The way the judges conducted themselves independently, and the compliant behaviour by all and sundry, has sent strong message to the outside world that Pakistan is a civilized country, having inbuilt capacity to move ahead despite hideous challenges. The judiciary has not only fulfilled the supreme demands of justice but also demonstrated its unflinching commitment to the democratic process. This is indeed a turning point in the otherwise chequered history of the country. Smooth re-election of the new prime minister is refreshing. However, his first daunting assignment is of writing the pending letter to the Swiss authorities; lest the death dance resumes.
It not a pleasant thing to watch the judiciary unseat an elected prime minister; however poor performance of the ruling coalition on various counts has translated it into the effect that a common man was happy to see the previous prime minister go. This does not mean that his government did not have any good things to its credit. Eighteenth amendment, NFC award and arresting the separatist trends in Baluchistan have indeed been its praiseworthy credits.
Nevertheless, a bold course correction is overdue. Playing the martyrdom, conspiracy or victim card will only go so far in the face of wholesome spectrums of the problems that the country faces.
As elections appear around the corner, it leads to the final question: Will the people throw up better leaders when asked to vote, or it will again be a hung parliament with familiar persona, parties and practices?