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Why collective suicide?

Published Jan 20, 2012 11:02pm


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UNLESS Mansoor Ijaz finally arrives in Pakistan and makes an explosive statement before the memogate commission, the next couple of weeks are threatening to be uncharacteristically quiet.

Yes, quiet. The next hearing of the prime minister`s contempt notice isn`t for nearly two weeks. That the court didn`t convict and send Yousuf Raza Gilani to the gallows left the media-prosecutor-judges smouldering as they seemed to be aspiring hangmen too.

Crestfallen they may be but they`d have to live with that.

Such dramatically telescoped, conclusive court proceedings were never slated for that single day anyway. To face a possible conviction and land in prison Mr Gilani would first have to be charged then tried.

Then he`d have to exhaust appeals/review possibilities.

This was merely a show-cause notice, asking him why he shouldn`t be charged.

Thursday`s proceedings were steeped in such propriety and civility, and so bereft of political sloganeering (apart from those political activists in black coats inflicting indignity on their profession afterwards), that one hopes that incendiary sessions are a thing of the past now.

A respite would be welcome. Don`t we all want better governance, less rhetoric, fewer flying barbs, more delivery and the space to assess where we are? Didn`t the nail-biting excitement of the past few months seem to have paralysed Islamabad and beyond? Didn`t the ball need to be kicked into long grass if only temporarily? Once our talk-show hosts, a few exceptions notwithstanding, are done with venting their spleen, and realise the futility of questioning the integrity of one of the finest legal minds in their country only because he is defendingthe prime minister, perhaps they`ll revert to the real questions.

We became so ensnared in the minutiae of court proceedings that we nearly lost sight of the most fundamental irritant in national politics: civil-military relations.

Today, not just the partisan eye blames the judiciary`s renewed vigour to go afterthe government on GHQ`s ire over memogate.

But are things that simple? Not for any meaningful period of time anyway. Consider this scenario. The elected government continues to command a majority in parliament. It is `neutralised` by the judiciary because of its real or perceived violations of the law and constitution.

With the decline of an elected government would the `civilian` variable in the power-sharing arrangement with the military disappear or is it more likely to be replaced by the superior judiciary as was evidenced in the final months of the Musharraf regime? We all know what happened then.

Back to square one? Good heavens no. World Bank estimates Pakistan`s growth in the current fiscal year to be at 3.9 per cent. Frankly, I couldn`t believe the figure.

Please don`t throw China and India`s growth rates at me.The two Asian giants have neither faced natural disasters such as floods nor have been hit by a tsunami of intolerant, self-righteous buffoons. Despite these oddslook at our potential.

Given the backdrop of a vast majority of 180 million Pakistanis merely aspiring for a peaceful environment in which to find enough work to feed, clothe and educate their children wouldn`t our political, judicial and most of all national security shenanigans appear badly out of place? We have often discussed how miserably poor the government`s governance record is. We have also asked whether giving extensions to military commanders was the right course if the civil-military imbalance was to be corrected. Poor governance is hardly the route to civilian supremacy.

But we also need to acknowledge that only the poor and the dispossessed deliver on their part of the deal nearly 100 per cent. They work very hard and well in excess of hours (and in much poorer conditions) than tolerable in any civilised society.

To say the affluent pay barely a fraction of what they owe in taxes to the state would be a cliché, an understatement. A visit to any court will explode the myth of a `people`s judiciary` as, apart from admittedly worthy symbolic gestures, no justice is being provided at the grass-roots level. What little is actually delivered is paid for in hard cash.

We mention the scourge of madressahs once too often without really focusing on the abject and utter failure of each and every government to invest in education. No meaningful attempt has been made to ascertain facts about these institutions of religious education.

Depending on which side of the divide we stand on, we`ll either say these madressahs are imparting a proper educanon or assert they introduce misfits into society whose commitment to obscurantism and intolerance is so complete they can kill or be killed for it.

And yes how many times have we openly debated where a large chunk of our resourcesgoes. Mostly to waste surely as that could be the only explanation for why our more than half a million strong organised, well-equipped armed forces have to forge alliances with insane hordes to achieve their near shambolic national security aims.

These are but some of the issues, the tip of the iceberg.

How do we tackle them? I am reminded of what a friend of my brother`s, who had just broken off his engagement, told him many years ago. The friend said he hadn`t met his father-in-law who was abroad when he got engaged and took the drastic decision on meeting him.

“I had no choice in the case of my father. But a father-in-law I would most definitely be able to choose.” One wishes that the relationship, the equation between the judiciary, executive and the military was that simple. But it isn’t.

The only viable option is to abandon the path to mutually assured destruction and get on with it.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

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Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.

He tweets @abbasnasir59.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (4) Closed

A Rashid Jan 21, 2012 10:27am
Mr Abbas Nasir has produced a brilliant piece of wakeup call to the beleaguered citizenry of Pakistan. After such a loud and clear warning, it is up to all the players involved to mend their ways or keep going down the slide at 32 feet per second per second. After this article had been dispatched to the to the print, another baffling performance has taken place in the national drama which must draw the attention of the conscious minds of the country. Someone, more loyal than the king, has put up a petition in the Supreme Court, praying that he fears the government was contemplating to remove the army chief and DG ISI, from their posts, that the apex court must restrain the government from doing so. And the Supreme Court in their wisdom has ordered the Attorney General to put up a written assurance by the government that the generals in question will not be removed from their jobs. Now in the first place why an ordinary citizen should be worried about the service tenure of the two generals who would have gone home, after completing their stipulated service periods long ago, had they not been granted service extensions voluntarily by the government and without the generals’ requesting for that? Is there any involvement of fundamental rights violation that the petitioner has resorted to such a course? And in the second place why should the apex court interfere in the administrative duties of the government and goes an extra mile to ask for a written confirmation by the government that the two generals will not be removed from their jobs? Is the apex court confirming the apprehensions of the public that the army and judiciary are ganging up against the government?
Nasah (USA) Jan 21, 2012 11:28am
Since there is already a well established judicial precedence for jailing and hanging prime ministers in Pakistan -- my question -- can the bench of 7 honorable judges hang another Prime minister for contempt of court or they will need a bench of 17 judges to do so after jailing prime minister Gilani?
Qasim Jan 21, 2012 01:18pm
But who is listening
aqabdulaziz Jan 22, 2012 07:24am
Excellent point. I was wondering why the judiciary is interfering in the affairs of the elected govt. If the govt feels that the generals had to go, they should go, that is it. Unfortunately, the military is interfering at all levels of the govt and the foolish people of Pakistan keep saying that the military is the best institution in the country. It is the military that, time and again, has interfered and made the civilian govt untenable. The weak govt, in order to survive, were forced to resort to crazy policies. There is no future for Pakistan unless the military establishment is brought completely under the civilian govt.