All roads, it seems, lead to the apex court
After a torrid discussion with someone whose analytical excellence and intellect I hold in high esteem, I despondently asked the question, “Are you then saying my views are irrelevant in the present context?” His response was coherent but icy, “No. But they are in the minority!” I was seriously taken aback. My belief was, and I presume wishful thinking will make me continue to believe, that my views reflect those of the silent majority.
This, though, is where the goalpost has apparently shifted. The silent majority was dedicated to the rule of law. It sought democracy based on values. A progressive Pakistan committed to educating its people, building tolerance, eradicating corruption and extremism, enhancing its natural endowments, building international relations beneficial to a developing country and ending the confrontational stance with the country’s immediate neighbours.
When four plus years ago, the silent majority decided to show its hand in favour of the apex court and against the man who believed he had its tacit support, it was convinced the time had come for the writ of all institutions to be finally imposed. None of this has happened nor does evidence provide any chance for it to happen either.
Instead of the writ of institutions being firmly established as provided in the constitution, institutions have gone after each other and repeatedly encroached upon each other’s already-fragile writ, creating confusion and opening the doors to instability. All this time, a tide of negativity has taken over and the nation is confronted with complete disregard of the rule of law.
In an apparent attempt to curb dysfunctional government and provide justice to the people against arbitrary actions, the judiciary has taken over (or at least appears to have) the functions of every authoritative body in the nation. All roads lead to the apex court. The people believe that they can bypass processes by obtaining an order from the court. The court is inundated with applications of limited significance, especially from politicians. In many instances, it has moved suo motu. Its cause list is bursting at the seams.
One cannot fathom why aggrieved parties are not encouraged to seek the relief available from the office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib as many matters fall within the purview of that office. This will provide relevance to a statutory body established for the very purpose and create the valuable time needed by the apex court to deal with other important matters that bring relief to the common man.
The charter of the Mohtasib’s office is crystal clear: “The Establishment of the Office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983 empowers the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through maladministration of an Agency. The Order defines an ‘Agency’ as a Ministry, Division, Commission or office of the Federal Government or a statutory body, corporation or other institution established or controlled by the Federal Government but does not include the Supreme Court, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Federal Shariat Court or a High Court.”
“The Order further defines ‘Maladministration’ to include: (i) a decision, process, recommendation, act of omission or commission which: (a) is contrary to law, rules or regulations or is a departure from established practice or procedure, unless it is bona fide and for valid reasons; or (b) is perverse, arbitrary or unreasonable, unjust, biased, oppressive, or discriminatory; or (c) is based on irrelevant grounds; or (d) involves the exercise of powers or the failure or refusal to do so, for corrupt or improper motives, such as, bribery, jobbery, favouritism, nepotism and administrative excesses; and(ii) neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, inefficiency and ineptitude, in the administration or discharge of duties and responsibilities.”
Despite serious attempts at bringing order and providing governance, implementation is at times lacking. One missing factor has been the court’s apparently benign attitude towards the religious extremism that is trying hard to impose itself ruthlessly on our country. No suo motu action has been taken against extremist parties that have claimed responsibility for acts of violence and destruction, killing innocent people, creating fear and hatred within and leading to the branding of the country internationally as a terrorist state. It would be interesting to know the reasons that prompt this benign attitude.
When ‘mad men’ hurl threats damaging to the country’s integrity from a podium set up a few kilometers from the capital and scream and shout convoluted ideas reminiscent of the days of the caveman, it is imperative that authorities take cognizance including, if need be, suo motu action. Lack thereof perhaps provides impetus to these elements to continue in this negative direction.
The time is ripe for the people to assert themselves. Our battle is with ourselves; for us to know what we want and to enable those who are willing to come forth and work in that direction. Self-styled leadership based on financial ability, aided by angels and ghosts will only work for themselves. We need to make it known we have not capitulated or surrendered and we need to task the media to move away from destructive entertainment and towards building Pakistan. Leadership is the right of the people of Pakistan, not just its elite.
The writer may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]