There has never been such defiance in protecting a criminal; and blatant misuse of authority than the indicted of the Panama Case. PMLN is jeering at the verdict of Supreme Court of Pakistan amply supported by its majority in the National Assembly to cross all lows of law making. The Legislature and Executive, two of the three organs controlled by PMLN are indulging in conduct that is prejudice to parliamentary norms, traditions, conventions, rule of law and the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan. It appears that the most potent center of power right now does not lie in the Parliament or the Executive or the Judiciary. Everything moves and stalls on whims of one man.

To utter dismay, a disqualified individual along with his daughter is leading a chant against the judiciary and other authorities of the state to hide guilt and mislead the people.

Alarmingly, the entire cabinet that owes its position to the ‘will and aspirations of the people’ has become a puppet to desires and dancing to these tunes. At least a major segment of parliamentary majority is no more a surrogate of the people. It is rather protecting the corrupt for the rule of the corrupt.

What can the parliamentary system do about such violations? Within the theory and concept of checks and balances, can the judiciary with other institutions move to stem the rot?

But this is not the first time that popular politics is hitting hard at the edifice of the state. When individuals become bigger than the institutions, when desires and greed outweigh political ethics, when whims become law and when the organs and institutions are weak, democracies become autocratic and fascist. Such autocratic and ambitious rulers are Pied Pipers that gather a crowd and lead the people and the country to disaster. The most recent example is Zimbabwe.

Populism is a double edged sword. It makes a leader popular; populist emotionalism ignores weaknesses and faults. The rise of populism in 1970 led to a split verdict that divided the country. Bhutto’s populism of 70s led to economic restructuring that was a total failure. The present populism is leading the country to unchartered domains of monetary and ethical corruption. Populism by nature it is anarchic and defines its own course never following the course of law. The two recent trends are therefore ominous. Left unchecked, they will cause serious damage to the State.

Zoom to Zero Point and observe what another form of populism can do. A cleric known for emotional speeches is raising a frenzy that results in bigger crowds. Notwithstanding that the Islamabad High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan have raised the issue of foul language by a cleric leading a religious charge, the cause becomes stronger and crowds continue to soar. The inaction of the government, probably aggravated by splits between the Punjab and Federal Government makes matters worse. Still locked with its foul play in Model Town, the federal government does not know what to do. Expediency is overriding good judgment. The government knows that it is not just one Oath but also a host of many other laws that are being affected. There is a full team of movers and shakers led by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter at stake. Locked in a dark alley, the government is postponing a decision and thus moving the country towards an insolvent crisis.

It is time that the legal fraternity of Pakistan and the courts start taking notice of this constitutional and street anarchy. The inaction on Zero Point and reluctance to get to the architects of an ill-framed law with equally dangerous provisions takes the country closer to popular anarchy. Time is of essence and the intentions of ruling elites the biggest impediment.

So where is the recourse to rule of law?

Part II of the Constitution of Pakistan deals with Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy. ‘Principles of Policy’ are well defined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan from Article 29 to 40. Article 29 (1) states, “It is the responsibility of each organ and authority of the State and of each person performing functions on behalf of the organ or authority of the State, to act in accordance with those Principles in so far as they relate to the functions of the organ or authority”. Who are the surrogates of these principles is not clarified. Article 30 (1) affixes the responsibility of a surrogate of principles of policy on an organ, authority or a person performing such functions. However Article 30 (2) does not call to question the validity of the action. But the anomaly is addressed in Article 184 (3). Chapter 1 of Part II is interlinked with Chapter 2.

It is therefore the responsibility of the opposition parties in the Parliament, the legal fraternity, citizens of the country, civil society and the Apex Courts to question the spirit of recent amendments in the Laws and Constitution  that are not universally applicable and in conflict with Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy.

For instance it can be argued that a recent amendment of allowing a disqualified individual to head a political party is not universally applicable on many grounds and that it is over ridden with self-serving intentions.

First, why does it appear as an individual specific law laden with bad intentions? Political Party Laws apply to every position holder whether elected or appointed. The haste with which Nawaz Sharif was appointed as President of MLN indicates that the spirit of the amended bill was individual specific. Hence the spirit of the bill does not meet the ends of Fundamental Rights and Policy Principles. Secondly, under the 18th Amendment, the head of a political party that is in power exercises more influence than a Prime Minister or the Cabinet in all spheres of governance. How can he be entrusted with such responsibility, when a stands disqualified to hold a public office. As is evident, the entire federal cabinet along with the prime minister work on the whims of one man.

Thirdly, the amended Bill was passed in reaction to disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in Panama Paper’s Case under provisions of the Constitution that says that any person not qualified under Article 62 and 63 (cannot hold office), The Supreme Court has set precedent on the matter by disqualifying Nawaz under Article 62(1)(f) in the Panama Papers case and shortly after the Parliament partly eroded the precedent.

Fourthly, all challenges to ‘Rule of Law’ are coming through well studied and identified gaps in the constitutions. The majority of members in Parliament remain neither surrogates of people nor representatives of the rule of law. This brings the Parliament in head on clash with the judiciary and the only logical recourse to law is through the unchartered territory of Article 184 (3) and perhaps 190. So the net result is that deeper PMLN digs itself, deeper in sinks in a quagmire.

 

The writer is a political economist and a television anchor person.

samson.sharaf@gmail.com