LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not feel comfortable after the civil disobedience call given to the people by Imran Khan and the ultimatum by Dr Tahirul Qadri that he should step down by Monday night or the people would snatch power.
But he himself is responsible for creating this nerve-shattering situation. Today his government in under siege just like the Model Town remained under siege for ten days, before the PAT supporters were ultimately allowed to go ahead with their long march on Islamabad on Aug 14.
There is no constitutional way left to get rid of the head of government, no matter how corrupt and unpopular.
The only way through which the prime minister can be removed is a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly. But this option cannot be exercised when the ruling party has comfortable majority in the house and the treasury legislators are no more than courtiers, self-servers.
In 1985, a special Article (58-2(b) had been incorporated in the Constitution which gave the president the power to dissolve the assembly and sack the government in case they were not functioning satisfactorily. This article was regarded as a “safety valve” against military interventions. The article was used against the Benazir and Nawaz Sharif governments but it helped keep the army away from power.
But when Mr Sharif became the prime minister for a second term after the 1997 elections, he got this article thrown out of the basic law to become an all powerful head of the government, with no presidential check on his working.
However, when Gen Musharraf came to power after overthrowing the PML-N government, he amended the Constitution drastically. The president was once again given the power to dissolve the assembly and sack the government in certain conditions. But during the 2008-13 PPP rule, political parties amended the Constitution and withdrew this power from the president, making the prime minister free of all checks. The president was reduced to a figurehead, denuded of all powers.
After returning to power for a third time after the 2013 elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif broke all norms of parliamentary democracy and set new records of nepotism and favouritism. His rivals repeatedly pointed out that the prime minister was giving all important positions to his family members and friends, but nobody took a serious notice of such complaints. The allegation that the Sharif family is the third biggest foreign investor in Britain was also not rebutted. Likewise, the ruling family did not refute the allegation that it is misusing power to promote its personal business and amass ill-gotten wealth. Perhaps, the Sharif family was not in a position to refute these allegations.
The prime minister also took very lightly the PTI chairman’s allegations about 2013 electoral fraud. And he agreed to set up a judicial commission to examine the complaint when Imran Khan started demanding fresh elections.
What Dr Qadri is demanding is people’s voice. Granted that his party has no representation in parliament, but this doesn’t mean that he has no right to speak on national issues.
More than a dozen PAT supporters were killed in police firing at the Model Town residence of Dr Qadri. He tried to get a case registered against the prime minister, the Punjab chief minister and a number of ministers and police officials. But the police did not entertain the complaint, arguing that a case has already been registered on the basis of a statement of the Faisal Town police station SHO.
The PAT approached the sessions court to seek an order for the registration of a case against the rulers. The judge has accepted the petition and ordered the police to register the case against all those named in the application.
But now the chief minister plans to challenge the court order before the high court. Apparently, there is no need for approaching the high court. He should trust the police, whose culture he claims to have changed over the years. Now, there is no concept of corruption or intercession in police. The police are colour blind and treat all people equally, just as required by the law. If the chief minister and all others mentioned in the PAT complaint are not responsible for the murders, they have nothing to fear.
But if the chief minister feels that the police would do injustice to the accused – now or at a later stage – it would mean that all his claims about the change of police culture were nothing but bullshit. He knows that the police don’t follow the law; they just do what the people in power want them to do. Had it not been the case, the police would not have mentioned Dr Hussain Mohayuddin, the son of the PAT chief, as the principal accused in the FIR on the Model Town tragedy. And when the chief minister reckoned its likely negative fallout, he ordered the police to remove his name from the case. Inclusion and exclusion of the name of Dr Hussain was done on the orders of the chief minister, and not as a result of any investigations.
Is this the rule of law? Is this the change of police culture the chief minister always boasts of?
The chief minister has the provincial exchequer at his disposal and can afford to challenge the order of sessions court against him and others before the high court. But he must know that the common man is at the disposal of this very brutal police and can’t afford to approach court for justice, regardless of the seriousness of the complaint.