Undemocratic mindset - Raoof Hasan - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=35130&Cat=9

Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s refusal to resign after the latest instance of a serious breach of security in the federal capital on the basis that “nobody resigned when Lal Masjid operation was launched” casts a long shadow on the democratic credentials of the incumbent government. Has he forgotten that the Lal Masjid operation was launched during the tenure of a dictator, or is it that he believes that this government is only a continuation of the policies and practices of the former despot? At the very least, it establishes that the governing mindset is moulded in the traditions of dictatorship.

The statement is also a testament to a palpable lack of morality that has been the hallmark of the incumbent administration. More than anything else, this has been aptly reflected in the government’s persistent endeavours to confront the apex judiciary. Capping a spate of instances of its intransigence in the face of the Supreme Court’s directives is its recent refusal to remove the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). This came immediately after the Parliamentary Committee, dominated by members of the PPP, refused to approve the Judicial Commission’s recommendations with regard to the extension in the services of six additional judges of the Lahore and Sindh High Courts.

This has since been annulled by the SC and the government has been asked to issue the notification as per the original recommendations of the Judicial Commission. According to reports, the case of the DG, FIA, originally scheduled to come up for hearing on March 15, has now been advanced to the week starting March 7 after the government’s expression of inability to do as directed. Are we seeing another confrontation building that would end with the government submitting ignominiously, yet again?

Understandably, law and order is the most serious challenge that the government faces at this moment. Yet, the man in-charge of the concerned ministry is seen more involved in handling the political challenges that the government is confronted with, as the president’s point man, than the work that he is supposed to be doing. This includes his frequent dashes to Karachi and elsewhere to pacify the government’s allies who keep threatening to withdraw the critical support that it needs to stay in power.

There are other instances of the government dragging its feet on key decisions to strengthen the rule of law including the setting up of an independent election commission and a transparent accountability mechanism. The reasons are obvious: the government has so much more to hide than it has to show to the world by way of its democratic credentials and delivery. What it fails to realise is that this ill-conceived stratagem may give it a few more days to continue its corrupt rule, but it is adversely impacting the prospects of the democratic system in the country.

Amongst the three branches of the government, the judiciary relies solely on its authority of compliance. This is essentially a moral authority as the judiciary does not have the long arm of the law to enforce its decisions. If, therefore, the system is to be streamlined and, ultimately, strengthened, judiciary’s decisions should be honoured expeditiously through unquestioned compliance. This is appropriately provided for in article 190 of the constitution which states: “All executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court”.

The SC’s moral authority has been given a boost by the unconditional apology tendered by its former Chief Justice (CJ) for having taken oath under the PCO. In his apology, Abdul Hameed Dogar stated: “With all humility and humbleness at my command, it is submitted that under abrupt, unexpected changes, confusion, misconception and misunderstanding, the order of November 3, 2007 could not be complied with which is highly regretted with repentance and sorrow”. The SC, graciously, accepted the apology filed by the PCO judge and terminated the contempt proceedings.

The government should have initiated steps to further strengthen this authority. Instead, its decisions speak of its inherent undemocratic intentions which keep manifesting themselves in various forms. Its persistent refusal to implement the SC injunction with regard to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is a case in point. Coming after the legislature’s refusal to authenticate the ordinance and make it part of the law, the SC’s edict should have been complied with forthwith. It is now almost a year and the government continues to live in defiance of the injunction.

There were questions raised when Benazir Bhutto negotiated with a dictator to facilitate her return to the country which, ultimately, came through in the shape of the highly immoral and (now) unconstitutional NRO. All adverse impressions that were created could have been erased through constitutional and democratic conduct. Unfortunately, an environment of belligerent confrontation has been assiduously cultivated between the executive and the judicial organs of the state that has nullified all democratic pretensions of the PPP.

Confronted with serious existential challenges, national survival can only be ensured through voluntary subservience to the rule of law. That has not been the case so far which has damaged the country’s prestige and sovereignty. It is ironic, though, that the ‘sub-judice syndrome’ is exploited in cases where it benefits the government to hide its real intentions, for example, the Raymond Davis episode. But, the same is construed as an attack on legislative authority when it concerns critical issues that may adversely impact the government’s position. This duplicity should be addressed urgently as its continuation and consolidation could further bedevil national ability to successfully confront the existing challenges as well as Pakistan’s position in the international comity.

The writer is a political analyst. Email: raoof hasan@hotmail.com 

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