WITH refreshing maturity and more than a little cleverness, the ruling party and the PML-N have managed to spin the army chief and chief justice’s recent remarks as cooperative steps forward for Pakistani democracy. This was, for several reasons, the wise thing to do even as some commentators and public figures were ringing hasty alarm bells about clashes of institutions and threats to the current set-up. For one, Gen Kayani’s statement seems to have been designed to boost morale within the army rank and file and demonstrate a show of strength in the face of a media and a judiciary increasingly willing to hold the army to account. Best for the civilians then, including Nawaz Sharif, to stay out of the fray and focus on the less hard-hitting bits of Gen Kayani’s speech. And while the information minister did take the opportunity to reiterate that it is parliament that sets the constitution, his welcoming of the chief justice’s remarks was a sensible response. Whether or not it was appropriate for the chief justice to opine publicly on good governance, little would have been gained from reviving the not-so-distant antagonism between the government and the Supreme Court, especially given the relative calm that has followed the much-awaited writing of the letter to Swiss authorities.

More importantly, both politicians emphasised a specific and quite critical point: they focused on the two chiefs’ remarks about upholding the constitution and law. The constitution as it stands, though, is more supportive of elected representatives than it has been for several decades, and recent judgments have left little room for doubt about the unconstitutionality of military interventions. So by focusing on this aspect, both Mr Sharif and Mr Kaira managed to use Gen Kayani and Justice Chaudhry’s remarks to strengthen the argument for democracy and for institutions remaining within their defined roles.

There was much hype in the hours following the two chiefs’ statements: who was Gen Kayani sending a message to? Were his words an indication that the military’s patience was running out, a veiled threat that things were about to change? And even if the timing of Justice Chaudhry’s speech was simply a coincidence, was he once again trying to assert the superiority of the judiciary over other state institutions? Would Pakistan make it to the next elections? Reactions from the ruling party and the main opposition not only defused the impact of such overexcited speculation, but also cleverly offered interpretations that bolster the case for upholding the importance of parliament and the democracy it represents.

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Comments (6)

November 10, 2012 6:59 am
It would be better to titlled the statement as apportunists reaction instead of Politicains.
M. Asghar
November 10, 2012 10:50 am
The Apex Court's articulation about the constitution as the basic document determining the role of the state's different instituions, has started to have a determining effect, which is a good sign for the country..
Walayat Malik
November 10, 2012 2:44 pm
One concept has to be propagated to all sections of the society and institutions, and that is the subordination of the institutions to the civilian government that includes parliament and the executive with the exception of ONE institution and that is Supreme Court. It should not be under the parliament or the civilian government. Supreme Court keeps check on the excesses of governments and safeguards the rights of citizens. Armed forces are UNDER the civilian government but not the Supreme Court. After the appointment of Judges, government has no other authority over the courts. This to me is the focal point of governance.
November 10, 2012 3:46 pm
II think your assessment is to the right point . While both Chiefs candidly addressed their constituency more or less , it was heartening to note the Commonality in their basic message 'rule of law and constitutional way , is the only way forward ' . Its good omen that the main political parties stated the positives of the two statements and complimented both the Chiefs , much will depend upon how the rulers do with the SCP judgement and their implementations and how the Opposition will do if they have the hand on the controls of power . But lets not jump the guns and thus commend both the parties for doing the right thing to start with
November 10, 2012 11:01 am
Dancing around the issue as to who is in-charge of national interest and conatitution is not going to help in future as in the past -- parliament must rise to the occasion and assert its responsibility.
November 10, 2012 3:44 pm
There should be no doubt about it that Judiciary and constitution is supreme. Army role should be confined to protecting national border after getting approval from defense ministry, like other countries where defense minister design national defense and Army General responsibility is only to implement will of civilian elected leadership. Making statement in public by army chief is not something appreciable. If there is some problem defense minster should speak in the public and army general being government servants is not permitted to do politics by giving public statements.
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