Guest Blog by Amjad Malik
On Defence day of Pakistan elected representatives of Pakistan will choose their next head of state who is originally a figurehead, a ceremonial position but General Musharraf armed it with deadly powers of sacking the parliament and bossing the army chief. Looking at a few clauses relevant to such election Article 41(2) says as following: (2) A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly. Article 62 narrates qualification and clause (d) says that he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions; and further more clause (f) says that he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen; (g) he has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence; and Article 63 details disqualifications where clause (h) says that he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction on a charge of corrupt practice, moral turpitude or misuse of power or authority under any law for the time being in force;
Looking at this when Mr. Zardari is proposing himself for the top slot there are many reservations. First of all, his party and nation deserve a better choice at this role of a fatherly figure of a nation of 160 million people. He is young and can play a better role in Parliament representing his party. As his party is forming government and if he captures this place, it will be difficult for him to avoid conflict of interest which his party promised to avoid in a Charter signed by two top parties of the country. The head of federation is a ceremonial role requires the one to be fair, and independent without party loyalties, it will be difficult for him to continue his co- chairmanship of the party being head of the state as Pakistanis suffered at the hands of General Musharraf who sided by Q league but coalition could have produced better results.
Secondly it will be difficult for him to ensure compliance on ‘Charter of Democracy’ once he will be in a position of unbridled power of 58(2)b to dismiss assemblies and has a power to appoint Chief of Armed forces, in that event it is likely that Parliamentary sovereignty will become a dream. Thirdly, if there are criminal investigations internationally carried on, halted or disposed off for the time being still it will haunt the man and wherever he will travel as head of the State these stories will follow giving unnecessary bad name and will ridicule the office of the president as well as putting his government on the back foot. Finally the job requires a political consensus as a figure head of the state must remain a ceremonial position and must be brought by consensus though I agree that the ruling party or coalition must have a major say in it.
Looking at all above, I feel Pakistani nation would be much at ease if PPP had reviewed their nomination and jointly could have saved the coalition to come up to the challenges Pakistan is facing which include to bring about a change in common man’s life, true parliamentary military free democracy, rule of law, and justice in the country and create a trust between power brokers of the state. The way things are developing though his contracts may not be holy but the value of his words will be lost if he continues backing out of his written memorandum of understandings with his colleagues. Soon this trust deficit will overpower any dialogue he imitate in future as no one will sit with him as his words will carry a little value and how the international community reacts on his statements when he signs any agreement with them will be crucial too so he needs to keep his credibility intact if he wishes to survive politically.
Military dictatorship has long seen the power in Pakistan and its time that a man of clean record, sober approach with political consensus is brought so that coalition or two major parties along with smaller parties get on with the real job firstly to restore sacked judges, eradicate the evils by repealing 17th amendment and work together to make Parliament sovereign. This is the time for the political forces to show that they are able to muster political advantage through a genuine political process. People of Pakistan have always delivered whenever they are given an opportunity whether it is 1947, 1971 or 18th February 2008 if the politicians fail now then country will revert soon towards ever green strategy which has the backing of west which is longer spells of military dictatorships, shorter civil rule followed by accountability of politicians on the name of corruption and nexus of military and judiciary. Political consensus, and joint collaboration is the key if they wish to save the civil system, ensuring a sovereign parliament with an independent judiciary. Powerful Parliament instead of the puppet government must be the aim of like minded pro democracy politicians if they genuinely desire to embark on solving genuine problems of foreign policy, price hike, international food shortage and stability via economic revolution & political reforms. I am afraid as things are moving the current Parliament in last 6 months has not initiated any concrete debate on the issues confronted by the State and its people and an era of 90’s is on the door inviting another general to do a speech as a result of the failure of the politicians and policy of confrontation and I bet there will be sweets all around and Musharraf will start looking better and who will be responsible for all that is a million dollar question.
Amjad Malik is a Chair of Association of Pakistani lawyers (UK) a life member of Supreme Court Bar Association and a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.