As constitutional tenure is near its completion, the powerful apprehensions and mistrust about caretaker setup is about to reach its climax. Different power groups, organisations and politicians look busy in offering innovative ideas for installation of the caretakers. One radical idea is: Our sole trustworthy Chief Justice,  may declare “Judicial Martial Law” to ensure credible caretakers who can guarantee transparent general elections.

The demand for judicial martial law may be a good option for certain groups and power centres but it would be a step backward to institutionalising democracy in a republic confronting powerful split within civil society and state. In stable and successful democracies, there is no single precedence by which judiciary has come forward to evolve yet another legal framework first for composition of caretakers and holding fair and free election after if the government and opposition create consensus to appoint caretakers both at federal and provincial levels. Shifting all burdens on the shoulders of honourable Chief Justice is nothing but an ill-conceived idea to create difficulties for the apex court that is already on the way to purify our bastardised political system. Extending the role of one organ of state at the demolition of another organ never brings fruition to a nation state. The only remedy for eradication of ills lies in making all state departments independent, responsible and answerable entities. If entire state apparatus is not capable of implementation of law and code of conduct; how it can ensure good governance and justice to the masses, particularly at a time when elected government grows evasive to discharge its cardinal functions.                               

Admittedly, general elections in every turbulent state further weakens the state. In presence of deeper split and polarisation, general elections create a powerful current of emotions and sentiments of upheavals, brutally damaging the national society, system and state. Given the situation, wisdom and self-control lose significance and the ability of taking right decision at right time disappears in men’s mind and character. For this reason, Plato 2400 years ago opposed chaotic democrats and supported wise, intelligent and trained kings, pleading that the citizens always became sentimental in marketplace while the kings were ever logical and prudent in solitude. Though, it was his strong reaction against the assassination of Socrates, his teacher, by the charged democrats, yet the post-Socrates Greek history testified a truth in Plato’s the theory, as the democrats in disarray miserably failed to handle the emerging challenges, enabling the deposed monarchs’ dynasties to establish dictatorial regimes over the ruins of the republic. When Plato died in 348 BC, the king Philipos-II had already been completing a decade of his reign over Macedon. Subsequent history of Macedonian kings in Hellenic age is also equally lamentable but Plato’s idea that the emotional and sentimental citizens could not defend democracy, remains even today a trustworthy political theory. Thus, a demand for judicial martial law for formulation of caretakers and holding elections appears yet another sentimental move to make the commencing general elections 2018 controversial at the same degree as they were in 2013. If it happens, the nation will endure yet another five years of instability in which the political party possessing even two third majorities in the lower house faces the wrath of controversial elections of 2013. For this time, instability would plainly be unaffordable for all stakeholders.

Beyond all doubts, the fifth largest democracy of the world, Pakistan is passing through a very crucial phase of her 7.8 decades history. Internal and external challenges have grown many folds but the remedy is not to insert such measures leading toward further deepening the polarisation in already popularised society and state. Instead, the state institutions deriving incontestable forces from the constitution and statues should be persuaded to ensure the rule of law, impartiality and national spiritedness in playing pivotal role during transitional period, killing the syndromes of political likes and dislikes presently dominating the state functionaries. We must refrain from promoting particularism or cronyism in holding elections and smooth transfer of power to those who win the electoral contest through fair, free and transparent mechanism of political choice. Insight hidden in constitutional interval i.e. called caretaker set up is as important as the running of democratic system itself. Dislodging of previously elected government and making of the people’s next government enable a state machinery to evolve a capable, competent and intelligent system of management. Public representatives come and go but state departments enjoy permanence only for making the nation stable.      

Where the elections bring multiple challenges, they also provide opportunity to civil administration, educationists and judiciary, too, to prove their individual as well as collective worth for making the elections acceptable to all. The apex court instead of imposing judicial martial law may persuade subordinate judiciary, civil administration and education department to conduct fair elections. If they fail, their official life will come to an end. Similarly, the results of the controversial electorates should not be announced until all contestants are satisfied. In nutshell, the challenge of free and fair elections ought to be converted into a chance for judiciary, administration and law enforcing agencies that must undertake holistic pledges to streamline the impaired system of governance. This is the only possible way to come out of persistent controversies, mistrust and dominance of one favored political group over the disfavoured one. The rest would do nothing but worsen the situation already in worst form.


The writer is EX-Directors General (Translation), Senate of Pakistan