Democracy survives

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Will it live to see another year?

2011 came to an end leaving behind the crisis that may continue to haunt the nation in the days to come. Confronted with multifaceted challenges on the external and domestic fronts, the country suffered a major setback from the institutional infighting with the infamous Memogate pitching the civilian arm of the government against the powerful security establishment.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani must have ruffled many feathers when he recently declared on the floor of the National Assembly that nobody would be allowed to create a state within the state. As a matter of fact he simply asserted the parliamentary sovereignty and delved deep into the principles of civilian supremacy when the military and the ISI appeared to be transgressing their constitutional mandate. No matter what the critics say it was only logical that the PM would subsequently accept General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s statement that the army was fully aware of its constitutional obligations and responsibilities

The army chief’s observation might have defused the stand-off temporarily but it cannot be taken to mean that the security establishment has confidence in the democratically elected government or that it is prepared to accept the civilian control over the armed forces and their intelligence apparatus. Somehow the army considers itself custodian of the national interest. And its insistence on defining the national security paradigm reflects a peculiar mindset which remains unchanged despite many humiliating misadventures in the past.

Former Ambassador Muhammad Younas recounts in his latest book how the unified state of Pakistan began to crumble after the military action on the people of East Pakistan in March 1971: “Pakistan Army, the only element in the body politic of Pakistan continued to feel confident of managing the unravelling situation that had been created in East Pakistan by its action since 25 March 1971. Senior civilian officials and entire ministries were reduced to having to refer to the military headquarters for their day-to-day workings. These generals exuded unruffled confidence in an environment of depression and loss of direction. Prompt directives poured forth from them in an unending stream creating an illusion of order and control. Their ready issuance was, however, due to the fact that their thinking was short-sighted rather than the result of careful deliberation and political savvy.”

Then came the Kargil debacle. But our security establishment did not seem to have learnt any lesson from a series of disasters it had committed nor did it try to understand the spirit of Georges Clemenceau famous saying that war is too serious a business to be left to generals alone. Not just that. It believes that it is well within its right to intervene in the democratic process. It was against this backdrop that, lending credence to Mansoor Ijaz’s allegations, it desperately wants the superior judiciary to investigate the matter regarding former Ambassador Haqqani’s alleged involvement in the drafting of the so-called memo.

The PM did not get it wrong when he talked about the conspiracies being hatched to ‘pack-up’ his democratically elected government. After all he was aware of machinations drawn by certain quarters against his government from the very outset. It included attempts to drive a wedge between the president and the PM that failed after Mr Zardari voluntarily surrendered his powers vested in the Constitution. The removal of Article 58(2)b brought to an end the arbitrary powers of the president to dismiss an elected government.

As if it was not enough, another conspiracy was hatched towards the end of the last year to create a rift between the executive and the judiciary over the NRO issue. Rumours were rife that instead of implementing the court verdict, the government had decided to remove the 17-member Bench of the Supreme Court by revoking the executive order of March 16, 2009 through which judges sacked under Musharraf’s Proclamation of Emergency were restored.

The government was once again being accused of planning to remove the army chief and the DG ISI with the rumour mill cranking out speculations at a time when the prime minister has already softened his tone to avoid confrontation with the military and the judiciary. Now that the Supreme Court, declaring the petitions filed in the memo case maintainable, has formed a judicial commission to probe the issue, coming on its heels was a comment by Haqqani’s lawyer Asma Jehangir: “This is a black day. This is very disappointing judgment. Today we feel that the military authority is superior to the civilian authority. Today, the struggle for the transition to democracy has been blocked.”

The fact that conspiracies hatched to dislodge the elected government failed indicates that the political leadership across the spectrum has a consensus on resisting extra-constitutional means to derail democracy. And while judiciary is also on the same page, it can do the nation a great favour by drawing up the parameters for the ISI functioning.

The writer is Executive Editor, Pakistan Today

3 COMMENTS

  1. This piece is a masterpiece of defective reasoning resulting in absolutely wrong conclusions.Nobody in his sane mind can ignore the multiple disasters caused by military misrule spanning over so many decades.,starting with our first and the only fake field martial followed by a handful of generals with stunted imagination and vision.But the very basic premise on which the writer has built up his conclussions is flawed.We must understand the current civilian setup is not a 'democratically elected government'.We conveniently ignore the abnormal circumstances and the unusual elections which produced the current accidental president and who ,in his infinite wisdom,has installed a democratic setup which has compelled people to remember Musharraf with a lot of nostalgia. and fondness.Civilians have every right to rule but not to misrule while the military has absolutely no right to rule not to speak of misrule.

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