In January 2018, the Balochistan government was toppled and CM Zehri had to resign after opposition benches filed a motion of no-confidence against him. There was much brouhaha that it was establishment hand moving pawns in whole scheme of things and it was to smooth election of Sadiq Sanjrani as Chairman Senate. Right after new CM Balochistan Bajiznjo was sworn in, Zardari chaired a meeting in CM house Karachi where CM Sindh and his cabinet members were sitting on one side and entire cabinet members of new CM Balochistan on the other. That was more than enough to expose who was the pawn in game doing the trick. Group photo was an indication that the PPP had started mustering support from Balochistan for the coming Senate elections and subsequently Sanjrani was elected Chairman Senate. Was Zardari doing any service to democracy by executing this ominous plan? I would have felt really proud if “Champions of Democracy”, Farhat Ullah Babar, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman would have made furious speeches or held presser protesting against detrimental undemocratic norms displayed by their co-chairman. But nothing happened. Because, as far as any unconstitutional meddling serves the vested interests of political parties and affords desired exceptions...it is okay. Even if it was establishment desiring to bring hand-picked Chairman Senate, plan could have never been accomplished if political elite was not ready to abet the engineering. It was not establishment ghosts who came to Senate on Election Day for voting, rather it was political elite thumping stamps on Sanjrani name. Interestingly, Senate elections are held through secret ballot rather than head count. And amazingly, politicians even in secret ballot could not dare to stand against headwinds. Expiry date of recent “Holy Grand Opposition Alliance” will tell you rest of the story.
PPP leader Khurshid shah, before elections, wrote a letter to Zardari complaining about meddling by establishment even mentioning names of some military officers. What purpose that letter has served other than just maligning the state institution? Was Zardari holding some portfolio in investigating agency? Has the matter been resolved with justice by such a media trial? Why copy of same letter was not dispatched to COAS and Chief Justice to dig out the facts? Many people, recently, have been heard propagating that today judiciary too is as much maligned as other institutions and not dispensing justice. They got to remember that same judiciary, if can give stay on Military Court verdict and at times even overturn it, can also mete out punishment to offenders if somebody dares to approach it with irrefutable and conclusive evidence.
Even after having narrated all facts and figures through rippling Pakistan political history and Politician’s transgressions, I still believe that any form of democracy is better than dictatorship. It is only the democracy where once powerful politicians have to be answerable to questions of their voters. It is only democracy where anybody desiring to lead nation has to declare each and every detail of his assets and interests so that he remains accountable. And most of all, it is only in democracy where ‘untouchables’, the influential clan heads like Khars, Dosas and Legharis can be shown door by deprived and wretched people of society by exercising power of their vote. But, at the same time, in democracy, politicians need to understand that, instead of simply asserting their constitutional rights to shape the destiny of the country, they need to strengthen institutions. This can only happen when they start to deliver on their promises to the electorate and create the space to assert themselves vis-à-vis other power centres in substance. They have to create credibility with the people, govern effectively so that they have the support base to be able to create a space for themselves and their parties. It simply cannot be asserted as a legitimate right only because it is written in the Constitution.
Establishment too has its limits. They cannot wholly make or break at their own without politicians support. Despite IJI formation, in 1988 elections, Benazir led the PPP to victory in the election, taking 93 of the 205 contested seats. The IJI took only 54 seats. In 2002 elections, when General Musharaf was all powerful having all military as well as civil institutions under his thumb, his party could get only 126 seats out of 342. Even in recent election, despite all allegations PTI could not claim an outright and foretold victory, jeep is nowhere to be seen scratching arrogantly, PSP has been drowned somewhere deep in the Karachi ocean by masses and right wing parties are not swelling anymore taking parliament as a hostage.
It always takes two to tango. Powers that be, despite all desire to bring somebody to knees and celebrate victory, can never clap till the time second hand for clapping is not provided by the politicians. Even if we agree that establishment places “Fauji Cement” in foundation of preferred party to make it impregnable, it can never catch desired strength until Politicians don’t make themselves readily available for regular watering of said foundation twice a day every day. Espousing flip-flop strategy by politicians contemplating favourable conditions for own party, on-again off-again approach to safeguard their interests and good-cop bad-cop tactic in search of deals and NROs from powers that be is not going to serve any purpose to uphold the democracy. Political elite needs all-inclusive introspection – and that too fast.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.