Pakistan has been a victim of political instability that has thrown the country into darkness (literal and metaphorical), severe recession, receding productivity, extreme polarisation and poor governance. The present government has survived by sharing the spoils of power, but has made no serious effort to elevate the standard of living or providing the basic amenities, education and health facilities to the poor. It has exploited its parliamentary majority to successfully bring a number of legislations that are significant at macro level, but have no direct bearing on the lives of the common people. State laws are routinely flouted by the rulers with the public following in their footsteps that has created a sort of anarchy across the board.

Our nuclear armed army has retained its strong position due to discipline and single command. The military employs 617,000 active duty personnel and its defence spending is $6.4 billion. In addition, it offers competition to the private sector by diversifying into industry, real estate development, banking and infrastructure though their allied companies registered in the civilian setup. This huge capital and human base and popularity at the national level as the protector and saviour of the nation has turned the military into a powerbroker. The military spearheaded by the army has always regulated the foreign policy and exercised influence behind-the-scenes in matters of national importance. The intermittent dismissal of civilian governments by army generals never met with any resistance and has actually been welcomed by general public.

The seminaries have filled many gaps left by the ineptitude of most governments over the years. They have taken the initiative on public welfare and education by opening over 8,000 madarssahs belonging to different schools of thought. In excess of 1.7 million young pupils, mostly homeless or from deprived backgrounds find refuge in these seminaries, many of which provide free boarding and lodging and impart basic religious education. The subjects of science or arts are not included in their curriculum nor are they trained with any skills that could earn them a livelihood in practical lives. Many of them, unable to get adjusted in mosques or similar institutions, are an easy prey for nefarious activities or are attracted to militancy and extremism under the false notion of religious convictions. Their resistance to learn modern thinking gives rise to numerous social problems such as intolerance of opposing points of view, suppressing and preventing women from becoming an active part of the society.

The army had limited patience with the performance of politicians, who blame their misrule on its interference that ends their tenures prematurely. The army considers civilian leaders to be a security risk, corrupt and incompetent to rule. Earlier, the higher judiciary favoured the status quo and invented the law of necessity to provide legal cover to all forms of governments hastily put together by the dictators, and to the abrogation and mutilation of the Constitution by military strongmen. But today, we have an independent judiciary and it is doing what it should have done long before – that is, impart justice!

Meanwhile, the religious brigade has been patronised and used for militant objectives by the military and civilian governments alike. However, neither of them had the foresight to cater for the adjustment of these jihadis into the mainstream of society once those missions were accomplished.

The September 2001 airplanes ramming into the World Trade Centre that killed around 3,000 people drastically changed the American and Western worldview. The Muslims became the targets of their scorn and revenge. Iraq and Afghanistan were invaded by the USA that cobbled a coalition of pliant Nato countries and twisted the arms of United Nations into supporting the invasion and occupation of two sovereign states, which resulted in the mass murder of innumerable innocent people. (Their revenge has since extended to Libya, then to Iran, Syria and Gaza, and one wonders that which Muslim nation may be next!)

Historically, the US has been a major financial benefactor of Pakistan. The Pervez Musharraf regime became an ally in the so-called war on terror and was compensated with billions of dollars in cash and arms. The economic progress of the country was planned as a consumer and trading economy by the Finance and later Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The GDP grew at about 6 percent per annum, but the investment on basic infrastructure, like power generation, education and healthcare, was mainly ignored. The arrogance after almost a decade in power pushed President General Musharraf into a confrontation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who refused to comply with his demand of resigning his position. This bold resistance to a general in uniform became a catalyst in sparking a movement for the independence of judiciary that ultimately led Musharraf to compromise with Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party and holding of the general elections in 2008.

The fate of Musharraf turned a full circle similar to what he had done to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He was made to resign as President and exiled under threats of impeachment. The Chief Justice was eventually reinstated consequent to a “long march” by the lawyers, civil society and opposition political parties led by the Supreme Court Bar and Nawaz Sharif, and fully supported by the print and electronic media. The newfound public sympathy, popularity in general public and a long tenure till 2014 bestowed an added confidence to the Chief Justice to lead the Supreme Court judges into taking notice of matters of national and legislative importance and human rights and adjudicate on them. Many of these stepped on the toes of the Executive that has made the higher judiciary an adversary of the coalition government particularly that of the PPP, many of whose prominent members face serious charges of corruption.

This has been dubbed as judicial activism. It certainly is an end to the status quo that our courts have been accused of since the time of Justice Munir, who did not allow a durable political system to take roots in the country. The Supreme Court has been taking up public interest litigation that is construed as exceeding its authority and interference in the affairs of the Executive. Conversely, it needs to be done as the coalition government is weak and has been unable to provide an equitable system. The Executive has also failed to deliver, to provide security to its citizens or to improve the economy. The judiciary has provided the public with some feeling of protection from the violations and excesses of the powerful and the rampant corruption in higher echelons that have emptied the coffers of the state.

Presently, Pakistan is cornered from all sides. It suffers from poor governance and apathy of the irresponsible politicians that have ceased to see beyond their noses and their personal interests. Religious and militant extremism that is being fought by the West and has been denounced internationally, including the Muslim nations, is gaining strength in our country that has become their safe haven. The US is bombarding our tribal areas in the pursuit of militants and we remain silent spectators. Our country that was once a leading light in the Islamic world is now internationally thought of as a failed state. Yet, our rulers are making merry!

These are trying times in which the higher judiciary is the sole ray of hope that must not disappoint us. They must act with discretion, compassion and wisdom that is normally associated with them and is expected of them.

n    The writer is an engineer and an             entrepreneur.

    Email: k.a.k786@hotmail.com