“Hope is the poor man’s bread.”

- Thales

A large number of people in Pakistan live a miserable life. What is common for all of them is poverty and everyday struggle for survival. However, the nation lives in its past glory; and it would not be out of place to say that a vast majority of people do not believe in modesty, but have pretensions of grandeur. This not only inhibits personal advancement, but also impedes the establishment of an independent identity of people.

The same is true for state institutions (executive, legislature and judiciary), where it is common to find monarchist tendencies. While the three claim to be the custodians of democracy and peace, their behaviour points to the fact that all have the trappings of the old feudal order and they do not hesitate to encroach upon each other’s domain. This has created confusion and despondency among the people, which, in turn, results in an environment that is not conducive to democracy.

It would have been ideal if the executive, legislature and judiciary functioned within their own spheres demarcated in the Constitution. Instead, there have been several overlappings and encroachments by different state institutions upon each others’ domain, leading to a situation where people’s faith is fast diminishing in the democratically-elected government and the state itself. They wonder that with very little time left for the PPP-led ruling coalition to complete its tenure, fancy ideas are being propagated that may once again derail the process of democracy in Pakistan.

If the print and the electronic media is to be believed, a feeling emerges that all major organs of the state are at each other’s throat and it is only a matter of time before any one of them would collapse. While there is no conclusive evidence as to which state institution has transgressed its constitutional obligations, it indicates that a cold war exists between the executive and the judiciary in Pakistan.

For some wise men, it is time that all those who are responsible for protecting the Constitution should work together to frame a code of conduct, which will allow democracy to prosper. If the confrontation between the two institutions persists or escalates beyond control, it is surely a recipe for disaster. They rightly believe that the holding of parliamentary elections is the only option available that can help to mitigate or eliminate the weaknesses of the system. Any effort to tinker with the established norms will only spell disaster for Pakistan.

We all know that the country has been subjected to several experiments by dictators and usurpers because they succeeded in perpetuating their stay in power. However, they failed to improve the living standards of a vast majority of Pakistanis. While it may be a good idea to reduce the present tenure of any elected government from five to four years, it would not be appropriate if other shortcut methods are enforced in this country by any institution.

Recently, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf stated: “Only people’s representatives can exercise state authority.” What he meant was that all the institutions must accept that Parliament is supreme and that they cannot override people’s will expressed through it. Obliquely, he was referring to the recent enactments of law that have been challenged in the Supreme Court.

The interpretation of laws and to determine as to whether they are in conflict with the basic tenets of the Constitution, indeed, remains within the judiciary; yet several issues fall within the executive’s jurisdiction that must also be respected by other pillars of the state. Thus, while their lordships may have good reasons for their regular interventions in different organisations, but for the sake of harmony and good governance, it would be in the fitness of things if they intervene rarely and only in cases where gross injustice seems to have been committed by any department. The frequency of judicial interventions reflects on the state of governance, especially in situations of law and order that are the exclusive domains of the provinces. Therefore, the damage may create conditions where the people’s trust will further erode in the institutions that function to provide security.

One hopes that the present period is only transitional and that the issues confronting the order, which is a prerequisite for the smooth functioning of a democratic system, will soon settle down. The current encroachments into each other’s domains that happened due to the creation of a vacuum, which sucks in other institutions into areas that do not fall under the purview of a certain pillar of the state, will also settle within their constitutional orbits.

As far as the people are concerned, the only way out from the present impasse is to create awareness and provide more opportunities for education so that they realise their duties and obligations towards one another and the state. In addition, the undemocratic forces, who advocate the use of shortcut methods to tackle the enormous challenges facing the country, must remember that the only hope of progress and salvation for the people of Pakistan is if their will is respected by the country’s political leadership.

n    The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.

    Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com