STATE institutions and the relations between them are back in the news but it’s difficult to interpret what it all means at the moment. President Zardari, Gen Kayani and Chief Justice Chaudhry have all spoken publicly in the space of a day about what is best for Pakistan going forward and the first question is whether they have all said the same thing, i.e. that the constitutional order needs to be protected and strengthened, or if they have hinted at some underlying conflict that could boil over in the weeks and months ahead. When President Zardari spoke on Sunday of “the dying kicks of the old order” and of some threats still existing against parliament, was he painting a picture of slow but meaningful progress in the democratic order or was he obliquely warning of new dangers? Should the emphasis in Gen Kayani’s statement be on his reference to moving forward with “consensus” or on his warning that “conspiracy theories” and “rumours” were trying to drive an “unacceptable” wedge between the public and the armed forces and between the leadership of the armed forces and the rank and file? And was Chief Justice Chaudhry’s statement that it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to ensure the “supremacy of the constitution in connection with the actions of state institutions and authorities” a routine reiteration of a line that the judiciary has consistently taken under Chief Justice Chaudhry or a pregnant comment aimed at other institutions?

If the questions are many and the answers few at the moment, it is because of the unfortunate history and nature of institutional power in Pakistan. What is clear is that the old order is crumbling at the edges. New power centres — the judiciary, the media, an increasingly informed and vocal public, and even the political class — are jostling for space and trying to exert their newfound influence. So far, while forward movement in the democratic project has been halting it is also very real — the various power centres have avoided a truly destabilising clash that could take the country back to square one. Perhaps, then, it is a sign of progress that sniping between institutions through public speeches and press releases is as far as things go before common sense prevails and all sides back down temporarily.

Perhaps also this is the way forward: a messy system in which no institution enjoys predominance and all fight for space. But the ghosts of the past have not truly been exorcised either. Which is why the alarm bells start ringing when elliptical warnings, and threats, are brandished. The days ahead will reveal more.

Updated Nov 06, 2012 12:10am

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Comments (9) (Closed)

Nov 06, 2012 07:46am
In earlier years, or conditions, the army would probably have come in by now. So kudos to Kayani Sahab for remaining within his own domain and boundaries of action. One thing is clear: in any future scenario, no one, and I mean no one, should be allowed to become a sacred cow; above and beyond the realm of accountability. Whether they be politicians, beauracracy, judiciary or the military, no one must feel beyond the reach of justice. If only we could truly let the corrupt and fallible amongst us to be exposed, without consideration to caste, creed or profession, we just might be able to take that first step towards saving Pakistan.
Nov 06, 2012 08:09am
"increasingly informed and vocal public" ?
M. Asghar
Nov 06, 2012 12:33pm
The answer is clear. the basic and determing structure is the constitution that lays down the rights and duties of the different state institutions and whose judicilal gardien is the Apex Court.
RK Jain
Nov 06, 2012 06:00am
It is intriguing on what basis, Gen. Kayani makes statements that without armed forces inclusion in decision making or without bringing them in consensus, there would be problems. He is supposed to follow the orders of his Minister of Defense, a civilian. May be he needs to read the Constitution which he is sworn to uphold
andy fr dc
Nov 06, 2012 03:15pm
This entire discussion is nonsense. Only in a state with Rule of Law does this matter. Pakistan is not, and never has been such a state.
Gopal Patel
Nov 06, 2012 05:25am
The Constitution is the ultimate authority in a parliamentary democracy. The judiciary alone is the authority empowered to correctly interpret the provisions of the constitution. The judiciary some times do appear to over step its jurisdiction, but more often than not it is the failings of the executive that invite such judicial activism.The military, in spite of its best intentions, should not and must not interfere in the affairs of the state.The generals, should refrain from ensuring good governance,like one of the Indian generals did and was chided by the parliament nice and proper.
Nov 06, 2012 03:17pm
It is just the start. We still have to discuss the pak army involvement in the business and other sectors. We need to stop our army doing business as they are soldiers not shopkeepers.
Nov 06, 2012 03:42pm
Sixty five years after independence Pakistan is still reeling under political uncertainty! The heads of the army, civilian administration and the judicial system are airing their views separately, suspecting and probing one another and could not at all have a frank and open-hearted discussion. A solution is not in sight yet!
Iftikhar Husain
Nov 06, 2012 12:03pm
The analysis of the editorial is correct everything is in th open now and the public is informed. The things are on the right track and some good will come out of this.