ISLAMABAD: As the opposition and government members argued over the perceived tense civil-military relationship, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani declared on Tuesday that the constitutional safeguards against military takeovers had become redundant.
“I believe that Article 6 has become redundant. Our weaknesses have made it redundant. In my eyes, no constitutional clause can protect democracy. Only the people can protect democracy provided they are given ownership of the system,” he observed at the end of a debate held in the upper house to commemorate the International Day of Democracy.
During the debate, PPP senators alleged that there was a “disconnect” between the civil and military leaderships and they were not on the same page.
But Iqbal Zafar Jhagra of the PML-N claimed that there was “no challenge to the democratic system due to the civil-military relationship”.
Civil and military leaders are not on the same page
He said there could be flaws in the current democratic set-up, but the good thing was that there had been continuation of the system. “Hopefully, there is nothing to worry about. Today democracy can face any challenge and one day the country would have an ideal democracy.”
The positive outcome of the debate, however, was unanimity among the senators that the onus to prevent military takeovers was on political parties and that there was a need for a complete national unity on the issue.
They agreed that there was no alternative to democracy in the country.
Mr Rabbani observed that Pakistan could not afford another military intervention.
“No system other than democracy can keep the federation intact keeping in view the country’s internal and external situation.”
He regretted that the Charter of Democracy, signed by the PPP and the PML-N in 2006, appeared to be flying in the air. “The charter is unfortunately under the cloud.”
Earlier, pressing for admissibility of his adjournment motion regarding the controversial interview of former minister Mushahidullah Khan in which he had stated that the former head of Inter-Service Intelligence had engineered the last year’s protest sit-in of the PTI, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP declared that “there is a disconnect between the civil and military”.
“When we were in the government we used to say that the government and army are on the same page. Now the PML-N is also making the same claim. But this is not the fact. They are not on the same page,” he observed.
The chairman, who reserved his ruling on the admissibility of the motion till Wednesday, remarked that “everyone knows that there is a disconnect (between civil and military), but the issue should be addressed through the house.”
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said Article 6, which declared abrogation of the Constitution as an act of treason, had never been implemented which showed that there was no democracy in the country.
He said if there was no democracy within political parties how could there be democracy in the country.
He suggested that intra-party elections should be held through the Election Commission of Pakistan.
PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain, who heads the Senate committee on defence, said that right now there was no threat to democracy. Today the army’s popularity was because it was fighting on the front and defending the nation from enemies within the country, he added.
He advised the government to focus its energy on improving governance and making democracy deliverable to people.
Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party said army generals had created a “fuss” in the past because of frequent interventions. He said people were heard saying openly that it was Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif who was actually running the country.
He called for convening a conference of all parties having representation in parliament to suggest steps to restore people’s confidence in democracy.
“If people have trust in political leaders, no dictator will have the courage to topple the civilian set-up,” he said.
But PPP’s Saeed Ghani said no institution could have any justification to take over the government even if the country had a bad democracy.
Nauman Wazir of the PTI said that politicians were responsible for every military takeover because they had failed to deliver.
Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal said the parties should not protect corrupt elements within their ranks and they should unite to protect democracy.
Warning to ministers: During the proceedings, the chairman reprimanded the government when he came to know that the ministers for religious affairs and water and power had left the house without waiting for the taking up of agenda items related to their ministries.
He said he was issuing the warning for the fourth and last time. If ministers skipped the proceedings in future, he would restrict them from entering the house, Mr Rabbani declared.
He also took notice of the absence of officials of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination from the galleries and referred the issue to the privileges committee.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2015