What has become evidently clear since the judgment announced by the special court in high treason case that Pakistan needs a grand dialogue between state institutions and political leadership to draw up the new rules of the power game between ruling classes. The tensions are running high. The polarisation has increased. The crisis –like situation persist. The judiciary is under attack since the Musharaf verdict. Even the outgoing Chief Justice on his last day in the office expressed displeasure over a malicious campaign to malign him and judiciary.
The institutional imbalance is the reality in Pakistan. We inherited this imbalance from British imperialism at the time of independence in 1947. We never tried to draw balance between state institutions. The civil and military bureaucracy resisted even every half- hearted effort to make this correction. Military being the most powerful institution dictate terms on many fronts. It enjoys impunity in its actions and different roles. Whenever its dominance and increased role is challenged or put to a question- it reacts aggressively as we can see now. The military top brass sees nothing wrong with its overstretched and multiple roles.
When state institutions go beyond their constitutional mandate and domain- it results into a power struggle between institutions. For maintaining harmony and cohesiveness among the state institutions- it is important to remain within their domain and assigned roles. The grand dialogue between parliament- executive and judiciary has become necessary to avoid confrontation and tensions among the institutions.
The special court announced the judgment against a former army chief and military dictator who abrogated and suspended the constitution. Yes if justice Waqar crossed the line with paragraph 66 in the judgment which is not even the part of operating judgment. Nobody can justify this paragraph or rather few lines in this 167 pages long detail judgement. But how can the DG ISPR justify his reaction and outbursts against a sitting judge. Much ugliness has indeed been spewed in public over the past few days against the third pillar of the state, including veiled accusations that it is playing into the hands of those seeking to sow internal discord.
Between the lines, one can also perceive a ‘promise’ of things to come if institutional reserves of ‘restraint’ run dry. Even the attorney general, an officer of the court himself, has not held back from adding to the toxicity. It is an entirely needless and manufactured crisis — but one that can still is defused without disastrous consequences.
For that to happen, however, the security establishment must view the former military dictator’s conviction through a more detached lens, and in a historical context.
The fact is: Gen ® Pervaiz Musharraf has been convicted under Article 6, which defines abrogating, subverting, suspending or holding in abeyance the Constitution as high treason.
The court provided every opportunity to General Musharaf to present his case in the court but he decided not to respond to the court. How can someone say that this judgement was announced in hurry when it took six years to complete the trial? This judgement must not be taken as a decision by a state institution against the other one. It’s a decision of a court of law against an individual happened to be a former army chief and military dictator. The court decided the case on the basis of record-evidence and arguments presented and placed on record. So what is wrong with this whole process?
These actions, as we are sadly too aware, are also part of the coup-makers’ handbook. By unwisely conflating the individual with the institution in the present case, is the security establishment by extension also declaring its support for military dictators General Ziaul Haq and Ayub Khan who usurped power from elected governments, and General Yahiya Khan who oversaw the breakup of the country? If, as the DG ISPR said, “the country comes first and the institution second,” this is the time to demonstrate that.
For its part, the judiciary has travelled a long way from validating extra-constitutional acts on the pretext of ‘doctrine of necessity’, first employed in 1954 by then chief justice Mohammed Munir. In 2011, Iftikhar Chaudhry, chief justice at the time, vowed the judiciary would no longer endorse military takeovers, and the special court’s verdict can be seen as an emphatic reassertion of that pledge.
Even parliament, despite brief, interrupted periods of civilian rule, has shown a latent capacity to understand the real issues that confront us; for instance, the importance of greater provincial autonomy. It passed 18th amendment to give provincial autonomy and more resources to provinces.
Our security establishment must reflect upon its constitutionally mandated role. The country is best served by respect for institutional boundaries: that is the path towards people-centric rather than security-centric policies.
True national interest in fact lays in strengthening democracy, with security considerations the bulwark, rather than the centerpiece, in this objective. Democratisation of state and society is must to achieve and maintain harmony among the state institutions. We must allow a natural political process to flourish and indigenous leadership from below to establish to strengthen the democracy. The controlled democracy is not going to serve the cause.
The consensus is not possible on important national and international issues and challenges faced by the country when there is wide mistrust exist between the state institutions. The mutual respect- equality and the due role defined in the constitution creates trust and harmony. Without it- the short lived alliances could be formed between different groups and institutions on the basis of mutual interests. But such alliances and arrangements would not last long.
We must listen to the sane voices like Raza Rabbani and recently retired Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa who are pleading for developing a new deal among the nation’s elite that can lead to a new social contract between the people and the state, putting Pakistan on the path to prosperity. The media must play its positive role to initiate and encourage such a dialogue.
The state works for the people when there are constraints to use its power appropriately. Effective states keep executive power in check through parliamentary oversight, strengthening of judiciary, strengthening of civil society and creation of free media. Democracy is the system of check and balances. We must put in place the checks and balances to stop the abuse of power and plundering the state resources.
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