The choice is ours
January 20, 2012
Following the restoration of democracy after the Feb 18, 2008 elections, the troubled legacy and dynamics of Pakistan’s chequered political history has not been able to break free from civil-military tussle. To make matters worse the stand-off between parliament and judiciary has added to this troubled legacy of civil-military relations in Pakistan. The ongoing institutional clash between the military and parliament as well as between the judiciary and parliament is emanating from the poor performance and inefficiency of PPP-led coalition government to govern.
Bad governance seems to be at the root of all the problems and predicaments which Pakistan is currently facing. Corruption, questionable appointment of controversial personalities to key positions in public institutions, inability to control the damage in malfunctioning public sectors like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills, free fall of rupee against dollar, economic meltdown, ever worsening energy crisis and higher inflations rate are haunting the incumbent democratic dispensation like anything. For the sake of political expediency, quite cleverly, the issue of bad governance has been confused with the future of democracy.
All criticism leveled against the PPP-led coalition government on account of its inefficiency, inability to govern and moves by the superior judiciary to rein the unbridled corruption of government functionaries has been deflected towards ‘undue intrusion and interruption in the matters of the executive.’ The government has used this institutional clash as a pretext and justification to shy away from its responsibilities. The argument forwarded by the government for its 4-year dismal performance is that undue interruption has not allowed them to focus on the afore-mentioned key issues. It maintains issues like Memogate, writing a letter to Swiss government in connection with the NRO case coupled with the so-called conspiracies to derail the democratic process has not only hindered the efforts, but also diverted the focus of the government from performing its duties freely with a unity of mind and thought. Such issues, which according to the government have little relevance for geographical masses, have bogged it down. Resultantly ever since being voted to power the PPP-led government has been struggling to survive in the office what to expect of delivering on key issues of governance, corruption, economic meltdown and terrorism.
The assertion of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on more than one occasion that he is not answerable to anyone except parliament points to the fundamental flaw in the current context of institutional tussle in Pakistan i.e. lack or absence of agreed upon and consensual institutionalized checks and balances in the system. As long as parliament, judiciary and ‘democratically elected parliament’ find their feet in shifting the sands of Pakistan’s ever evolving political system the much-needed balance cannot be restored.
Notwithstanding this bleak and abysmal outlook of Pakistani political landscape the silver lining in the cloud is restrain from all sides to tone down their rhetoric, refrain from getting carried away towards any unwarranted extra-constitutional step and to avoid the drift towards a showdown that may lead to collapse of the political/democratic system. At the peak of the crisis the pledge from the army chief of no intention to bring a coup, repeated pledges from all political parties of not becoming part of any unconstitutional step as well as the admonition from the judiciary that the doctrine of necessity has been buried and judiciary will be the bulwark against any military adventure are more than reassuring.
Pakistan has learnt the hard lesson of continuing with its experience of democracy at a costly price of failing and eroding state structures. However, with this as a given constant, now efforts should be made to introduce the much-needed checks and balances in the system to avoid confrontation and institutional clash. The mechanism of checks and balances will not only act as guiding principles for the state institutions, but also as a deterrent in keeping their roles within the prescribed constitutional limits. This in turn will allow them to devote their efforts and energies to real issues Pakistan is confronted with. In this regard the role of media is of crucial importance. As a mirror of society it has to continuously keep reminding all the stakeholders of their roles along with engaging them in a constructive discourse of finding a right balance where smooth functioning of key state institution becomes possible.
Like always, today Pakistan stands at a cross-section of history where it has to decide which path it chooses for finding a solution to these issues or charting a territory of institutional clash leading towards further chaos and instability. The choice is ours to define the history or to be defined by the history. The former course will require a visionary approach of evolving a consensus of acting within constitutional limits while the later will confine us to the graveyard of history as a failed state.