Guest blog by Amjad Malik, MA, LLM
I wrote on 7 September 2008 that the litmus test for Mr. Zardari to prove whether he is an ‘don’ or an originator of a new dawn of democracy in Pakistan depends on his progress on 5 things: a) how he handles absolute power, b) his party, c) chief justice issue, d) charter of democracy and e) foreign policy. Looking at his performance in first 12 months, it is unfortunate that he is trailing on all. He could not father the nation and confined himself to the meager position of his party chairmanship and handles his party petty matters at President House, thus making it virtually impossible to look at PML with the same affection as required by the constitution bring his very office into a conflict & disrepute. He enjoys all the powers which ideally should have been assigned to his party premier, but he did not.
Drone attacks and missiles in Fata are still falling randomly, a bitter reality, and he has not taken concrete steps to implement sacred historic charter duly signed by his wife in London on 14 May 2006 which has a hope for the nation in decades to come. He not only backed out on his promises, & written agreements on judiciary, but humiliated the chief justice and went one step ahead by appointing higher court judges on whole sale basis without consensus, and consultation with provincial Govt in question & his partners in COD, thus he violated the charter which can save the Federation and civil rule in the country. He gathered a team of non elected commodity around him and has cornered opposition. He has ordered Governor Rule and let loose his fiery aide in Punjab to blow fire on opposition leaders. First he lost credibility of his words, his faith in democracy and now his respect amongst his peers.
PPP leadership has been enjoying the safe haven of UK and abroad to fight their corruption cases as well as advancing their activity of political and civil rights in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif was in exile too. Both BB & Nawaz signed a social charter in the end realizing the best way out to bring Pakistan to a viable state of civil rule. PPP always advocated for true democracy in the country. However, once they are in power they are adopting the very unfair means against which political parties have been fighting for last 9 years. They are unwilling to give the opposition the same rights which they were demanding for almost the whole decade for themselves. Ignoring ‘Charter of Democracy’ will wipe out the spirit of reconciliation in Pakistan and will end normal political activity and era of 90’s will return by default.
Politicians after seeing off 3 martial laws covering nearly four decades must learn a lesson from history and they must work jointly for rule of law, justice and democracy on the principle of live and let live in the country and initiate joint collaboration on ‘COD’ on emergency basis. If popular politicians are kept out of Parliament, then ultimately decisions will be made on streets which will be tragedy for the State which is in a volatile situation at the moment due to ongoing war on terror, bleak law and order situation where Sri Lankan team left during an unfinished test match and west is advising their citizens not to visit Pakistan, drone attacks laughing at the face of foreign policy, and country’s poverty ridden people with weaker institution(s). In this economic melt down a popular slogan of his govt ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ seems like a dream.
PPP and the Govt must honour the pledges and agreements of its leadership on Chief Justice and Charter of Democracy and Chief Executive should ensure that reconciliation efforts must speed up and must take all actions necessary to invite the opposition to remain in the Parliament and erect a time frame for the implementation of Charter of Democracy. Following urgent actions may send a signal of positive ‘confidence building measures’ and may attempt to solve the tension between both the heavy weights:
- Govt of Pakistan must initiate an action to review the Supreme Court decision and either file a review and or repeal the judgement of SC to show that they have full intentions to respect the opposing leadership in order to bring them to a dialogue;
- Governor rule must end forthwith; and provincial assembly special session is called to allow election of its Parliamentary leader and in this respect a mandate of a major political party PML(N) must be respected;
- 2 November 2007 judges must be restored at once as per agreement of the ruling party of 9 March 2008 to gain respect in the eyes of general public;
- Parliament session must be called immediately to repeal 17th amendment with consensus; and
- A time frame is chalked out to implement the ‘Charter of Democracy’ in its letter and spirit.’ If COD is implemented, then tussle between two may not remain. If the rule of the game are respected, and referees are independent then civil system remains intact, otherwise long term military dictatorship, shorter civilian rule and accountability on the name of corruption will be the legacy these political rulers will leave behind for the generations to come.
I have strong reservation on the role of West too. It is time that Western countries who are ready to broker deals in order to sponsor the imports of defunct leaders to Pakistan must take notice of barring opposition & the plight of deposed Chief Justice and the lawyers movement and they must impress upon Mr. Zardari to honour the pledges and give space to the opposition. If the West fails to make it clear strongly, we may miss the opportunity to have rule of law, justice and democracy in Pakistan for a long period to come which will destabilize the country & struggle for civil rights and will increase militancy and radicalization in the region.
Looking at the performance of Mr. Zardari’s team when his legal eagles are vigorously defending his poorly managed decisions & ordinances, it reminds us the performance of Wasi Zafar, Qayum and Qasuri, in not too distant past, and their fate in the end too. His media team is doing a hard job too and similar to that when we saw Sheikh Rashid, Afghan and Durrani selling a wrong stuff to the nation on the issue of exiled leadership and chief justice. He has not even learnt from the counter protesting rallies of 12 May when his own party was a victim at the hands of violence, and of course, violence breeds intolerance in return. Musharraf could not win even by showing fists and gathering millions with horse dance at Islamabad, as public likes humility and Govts never stage protests and rallies for and against their own performances, its the prerogative of opposition.
Political parties must realise that their workers are loose cannons and once they are out they are like swords drawn, and President Zardari is making life difficult for both major parties by remaining partisan and if they are confronted, it will wipe out ever a chance of having a healthy democracy in Pakistan. I am afraid Mr. Zardari could not get out of the shell and remained limited to the spouse status of the former Premier, Be Nazir Bhuttoo, a legendary, remarkable, charismatic leader full of intellect, and astute political sharpness. Alas, we could not see torch bearers of democracy acting as democrats in the end when time came, and Pakistan again stands alone calling out loud for help inviting to the elite, is there anyone who can save Pakistan by following the Quaid e Azam’s command of unity, faith and discipline. I am afraid rulers are on leave.
Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court of England and Wales