Since the ouster of Nawaz Sharif in July 2017, a barrage of criticism has been let loose against the establishment for designing his exit from politics. Instead of accepting the verdict of the Supreme Court, the PML-N has buckled down to expose the higher courts for tolerating a disarrayed lower judiciary and providing judicial covers to overt and covert coups. Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Mariam Nawaz are painting the House of Sharif as a victim of an unjust legal system. The message being conveyed to the potential voters in public rallies is that Nawaz Sharif has been singled out because of his democratic credentials that do not go well with the establishment. The wallowing over the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif has definitely worked in favor of PML-N. Most voters seem to have been duped into believing that democracy means party power and a strong party leader. The victimhood narrative has sold quiet well. The buyers have been actively participating in the rallies giving the impression that the towering Nawaz Sharif cannot be defeated. After the senate elections the defence of Sharif clan has increased. Despite having majority in Senate, the PML-N could not get its Chairman elected. Called as engineering, the Senate Chairman’s election has also been painted a strategy to prevent Nawaz Sharif from using his number power in both the houses to amend the constitution to redefine the roles of the judiciary and the military.
As the roar against the establishment became louder in public rallies, the GHQ invited a handful of journalists to give a context to the existing tension between the civil-military relations. The journalists were told that the establishment was not happy with the performance of the leadership in power because of governance issues. The reliance of the country’s financial system on debt economy, the failure to empower and strengthen the police structure, the procrastination in implementing the National Action Plan, and the unwillingness to make laws for the prevention of money laundering and increase tax base, are issues that the establishment believes has kept the governance structure weak. It was further said that because of these deficiencies Pakistan was perceived internationally as a country that supports a predatory system of governance favoring the powerful and exploiting the poor. According to the briefing Pakistan’s inclusion into the gray list of Financial Action Task Force is also because of the non-performing legislators. One word that reverberated throughout the moot was constitution. It was told to the audience that no one, at any cost, would be allowed to subvert, undermine, or maoeuvre the constitution. In short, the informed synthesis was that the application of law, accountability, and adherence to the constitution should be made the guiding principles of the country’s legal system.
The issues raised at the GHQ have merits. How is it possible to have democracy without rule of law, a strong criminal justice system, and an indiscriminate accountability process? Not until Nawaz Sharif was taken to task by the judiciary did he start seeing flaws in the judicial system that grinds even slower for the ordinary poor people who are in majority. It is an irony that Nawaz Sharif, even after three decades of political career behind him in which he had three stints as the Prime Minister of the country, has to sell using the victim card. Not that Pakistan has not developed during his tenures, indeed it has, and today we have less load shedding, and the stock market has also improved. But the general state of the people, their wellbeing and social condition is not forthcoming or reflective of a state that gives importance to quality life. According to the Oxfam’s 2017s report on Commitment to Reduce Inequality, “Pakistan has high economic deficit which has caused 35 per cent of the people to live below the poverty line, around 22.4 million children are out of school, and 45 per cent are stunted. Moreover, women’s unpaid domestic work is not measured in any data. They are not paid equal wages and around 63 per cent youth spends their life impractically.” In addition to social inequality, almost 60 per cent territory of Pakistan is without the writ of the state. In Balochistan, except in Quetta, the police has no presence. The interior Sindh is on the mercy of the landlords. The tribal areas have no sense of what government means. On the roads to Parachinar safety or law and order is nonexistent. In Peshawar a hefty amount is paid to the Haqqanias to gain the support of the religious fanatics on the eve of elections or for maintaining peace. The issues are enormous and the governments are doing politics for personal interests. In the process as has been rightly pointed out, constitution has been deliberately ignored. From what we have understood over the years about the differences in civil military relations is that corruption has been the main irritant leading to coups or indirect interventions.
The question is if corruption is an issue, why an arrangement has not been made to address the problem once and for all. Every military dictator came to power with the pledge to eradicate corruption, but they all left leaving behind more corruption. Interestingly, to justify and prolong his political existence every
dictator had to create an alliance with the civilian leadership. Which means accepting to the corrupt practices of politicians. The solution perhaps lies in getting serious about the business of corruption and not using it as tool to grind one’s own axe. Two wrongs do not make a right.
The removal or destabilization of a democratic system by making the politicians more corrupt, as has happened in Balochistan and in the Senate Elections, gives an impression that the establishment intends to expand its powerbase rather than improve governance.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore.
As the roar against the establishment became louder in public rallies, the GHQ invited a handful of journalists to give a context to the existing tension between the civil-military relations.