Mad Hatter’s party

Published January 10, 2012

The court has given the government six more days in which to show cause for non-compliance with the court orders, failing which it has warned that a bigger bench may be constituted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to get one of the six options contained in today’s verdict implemented. —Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com
The court has given the government six more days in which to show cause for non-compliance with the court orders, failing which it has warned that a bigger bench may be constituted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to get one of the six options implemented. —Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com

There is, after all, an all-round consensus on having no consensus on any given important issue. There is none between the army and the government; between the judiciary and the government; and amongst politicians, come what may.

Their Lordships at the highest court of the land have spoken on the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf in 2007 to grant immunity to a select group of politicians, benefiting mostly the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The court has given the government six more days in which to show cause for non-compliance with the court orders, failing which it has warned that a bigger bench may be constituted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to get one of the six options contained in today’s verdict implemented, none of which really exonerates the top executives, the President and the Prime Minister, nor other public office holders concerned. The court now says it seems headed to taking ‘unpleasant’ steps.

That said, today’s ruling still leaves a window of honourable exit open for the government when the court despite its utter frustration refers to recourse to the people of Pakistan either through their representatives in parliament or directly by way of gauging their will, given the current impasse. This is reassuring; and if the government still has an ear left for advice it would take that prudent course by quitting and calling the parliamentary elections sooner than later. The parliament, rather those manning that august house meant to embody the will of the people, has shown little clarity or depth in dealing with such thorny issues, be it Pakistan-US relations, the growing energy crisis or corruption charges against the government.

Instead, it is the non-issues that are raised in the parliament to the point where they do appear to be issues when none existed until the fit struck us. Take the issue of the formation of new provinces which does not fall under the purview of the National Assembly unless the provincial assembly concerned is seized of the matter and has ruled on it through a majority vote. Speaking of provinces, no number of bigger or smaller administrative units formed on any bases can truly address the people’s issues unless those representing the people have the will to do so.

We started a new country altogether chasing such a mirage in 1947 and it has not taken us very far. Then we got rid of half of our nation in 1971, hoping a smaller state would be easier to manage as indeed a smaller province would be, but nothing doing, or Balochistan would not be in such a thick soup today. And here we are, with practically no governance, and a civil-military establishment comprising a true ruling elite that has donned the mantle of the colonial power, and that cheerfully calls the shots — trigger-happy is the right term.

There is a certain mindset at work: suppress the will of the majority, of the people, and make hey while the sun shines. The Hindus were bad because they were in majority in an undivided India; the Bengalis were bad because they were in majority in an undivided Pakistan; and now the Punjabis are bad because, look at them, they outnumber everyone else so let’s not give them a dam at Kalabagh, because they’ll steal everyone else’s water, and let’s instead all go without power. In Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is bad because it has a majority behind it! Wait until Imran Khan comes to power, whenever that may be…

The government, too, is the majority ruling party, even a coalition, which is the bête noire because it has the majority vote behind it. It is not to be trusted with anything — from the nuclear button to the chance to complete its tenure in office, howsoever inept, corrupt or unworthy it may be. So even if the Supreme Court refers the matter of NRO non-compliance in national interest to parliament, which is only an option at best, nothing will really move. The popular fallacy is that elections will turn things around. Well, that too will be reshuffling the same deck of cards, unless of course the brave Imran Khan, with his promise of walking out of America’s war and building fences with the Taliban (who hate him despite his overtures) and dispensing jirga justice to bring corrupt politicians to book, can turn this nation’s fortunes around.

On another note, regardless of whether the apex court punishes the government or not on January 16, I just have this hypothetical question because it is Pakistan and Pakistanis I’ve been ranting mad about: You, the people of Hazara and Saraiki-speaking areas, do you really believe that starting new provinces will lead you to salvation? Remember, you yourselves will become the majority in that new province of yours and will start working against yourselves. Or so have the gods decided for us.

Murtaza Razvi is a member of the staff at Dawn.

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