Jalees Hazir The government's con frontation with the Supreme Court over new appointments in the superior courts brought to the fore, yet again, the personalised and corrupt content of party politics in Pakistan. The way the whole drama played out makes it obvious that the presidency that manufactured the crisis, and the prime minister who swung like a loose pendulum between saber-rattling and fire-fighting, were not motivated by any political convictions. The darbari jiyalas and leaders of PPP, who came out to burn the Supreme Court order annulling the presidential appointments, were equally bereft of any political vision and acted more like unthinking serfs that are at the beck and call of their amoral king. Surely, there is more to politics than what these power-driven and power-smitten individuals have to offer. Democracy, in whose name such Machiavellian games are being played, has nothing to do with it. After all, the decision to disregard the chief justice's recommendations was taken by the president in consultation with a handful of mostly unelected advisors. Let alone the PPP's coalition partners, even Cabinet members belonging to the party were not taken into confidence. There was no public debate on the procedure for the appointment of judges, no reference to the as-good-as-buried Charter of Democracy. Behind closed doors of a bunkered president's house, one person's paranoia and visceral fear of the independent judiciary and the eagerness of a band of yes-men to please him, plunged the entire country into unnecessary turmoil for most of last week. The procedure for the appointment of judges might not be perfect, and there's nothing wrong with a government trying to improve that procedure, but obviously, that was the last thing on its mind. The president's unconstitutional order was more of an attempt at browbeating the judiciary into submission rather than making the procedure of appointments more democratic. Had his action been informed by any higher political purpose, he would have done things differently; very differently. To begin with, his party's position on the appointment of judges is clearly spelt out in the Charter of Democracy which is a part of the PPP manifesto, and the president has no role to play in the entire exercise proposed by the document. Even if he wanted to change his party's policy position on the matter, there are ways to do that in the context of democratic politics. Granted that the charter is not without its flaws and could be improved, especially when it comes to the appointment of judges. In any case, it was written and signed before the momentous events of the Rule of Law movement that has had a profound impact on Pakistan's political culture. The references to the non-PCO judges have become irrelevant in light of the struggle for an independent judiciary and the courageous stand taken by a number of sitting judges who were earlier tainted by PCO-oaths. There are other problem areas as well, like the inclusion of the law minister and law secretary in the proposed judicial commission and the discretion of the prime minister to select one out of three names sent to him for each appointment. At the same time, it would strengthen the institution of judiciary and democracy to improve the method of appointment of judges, which at the moment gives a virtual monopoly to the chief justices to decide about the nominations in their respective courts. There is agreement among respected jurists that the method of appointment needs improvement and it should not depend on a single individual. The idea of Judicial Commissions for the appointment of judges is therefore a good idea. It makes sense for the chief justices to head the commissions for the Supreme Court and their respective High Courts, and that two to four senior-most judges of the courts are also included in these respective commissions. Members of the concerned bars and nominees of the government and opposition are other stakeholders that deserve a place in the federal and provincial commissions. The recommendations for appointment finalised by these commissions should be binding on the appointing authority. This is the considered opinion of a senior jurist widely respected among the legal and political circles and it clearly comes across as guided by a desire for making the process more democratic and transparent. There could be other credible views on the issue as well, but unfortunately, none of that is coming forth from our elected representatives who are paid by our taxes to be doing exactly that. When it comes to utilising their privileges to actually do something that would create better systems, something that would make a positive difference in the lives of the people whose interests they claim to represent, they are not only ineffective but also uninterested. One could forgive them for their lack of vision but their lack of interest in this regard is criminal. The PPP leadership is not alone in pursuing its self-interest behind the faade of democratic politics though. Across party lines, legislators, leaders and their workers, who claim to be working for the welfare of the people, have reduced politics to an unprincipled quest for attaining power and abusing it for personal gains. The political parties seem to be only interested in creating more and more space for unaccountable exercise of power, and a system that depends on enhancing the privileges for the elected representatives with enough crumbs to throw to keep their workers loyal. The turf wars enacted in the democratic arena by the parasitic elite have made politics a dirty word. No amount of hollow sloganeering and breast-beating can save the democratic system unless this basic distortion is removed from the politics that our parties play. Politics, in the true sense of the word, is actually the exact opposite of what our politicians have made it. It is supposed to rise above personal considerations and work towards the attainment of collective ideals. And as we saw in the Rule of Law movement, attaining power is not a prerequisite for changing things for the better. The writer is a freelance columnist.