It would be an understatement to say that Pakistan is at the cross-roads. The challenges that the country is faced with, including terrorism and religious extremism, have in fact put the territorial and ideological integrity of the country at stake. This situation is a cumulative effect of deviation from the constitution by the state institutions and their transgression into the domain of other organs of the state. All the countries of the world who have written constitutions clearly demarcate areas of constitutional responsibilities of the Executive, Judiciary and the legislature, which are recognized pillars of the state so that they compliment each other’s role by sticking to their own operational sphere for promoting the well-being of the people and strengthening the state structure. Similarly the constitutional role of the institutions which are part of these three organs, including Army are also clearly spelt out with a view to ensure that the system works in unison without any friction. Any deviation from the constitutional norms is regarded as a recipe for disaster.

Harmony among the state institutions, therefore, is absolutely imperative to achieve the national objectives, particularly in times of adversity and crisis. The executive, which is the elected government, has an ascendant role in any constitutional arrangement due to its pivotal position in running the state affairs. Except for Judiciary which is the custodian of the constitution and guarantor of the fundamental rights of the people, prescribed in the constitution, all institutions are obligated to play a subservient role to the executive. Even the judiciary itself has to follow the constitution in regards to its powers and role. No justification whatsoever is acceptable for any state institution to interfere in the functioning of the other institution or assume a role of self-styled savior or advisor to other institutions or the state organs.

Unfortunately we have a very unenviable history in regards to adherence to the constitution by the state institutions. There could not have been a more appropriate time for making amends for the past follies by the state institutions than now when the country is at the edge of a precipice. We have not only to deal with the internal threats but also the external challenges which pose a security threat to the country. Those institutions which have been guilty of pummeling the constitution and trying to overlord the parliament or the executive need to retract in the interest of the state of Pakistan and its people who cannot afford any more of their shenanigans.

Quaid-i-Azam who was the greatest constitutionalist must be turning in his grave to see what our own state institutions have done to Pakistan which he envisioned as a constitutional democracy. I think the Judiciary also has an important role in ensuring that the state institutions do not encroach upon the territory of the other institutions or the state organ instead of solely focusing on the indiscretions of the executive.

Regrettably, the media which is regarded as the fourth pillar of the state and is supposed to not only act as a watch-dog against the government but also against other state institutions and represent the society is also supposed to not only act as a watch-dog against the government but also against the other state institutions has failed to discourage attempts by them to act unconstitutionally. It has rather been encouraging some of them to continue with their indiscretions. Democracy and free media go hand in hand and it is the prime duty of the media to nurture the tree which is a source of its own freedom and strength. As a representative of the society it is under obligation to promote democracy and constitutional norms.

We need complete unity and cohesiveness among the state institutions to ward off the formidable challenges confronting the country. In the permeating circumstances it is however heartening to note that the present government is fully aware of the intensity and gravity of the situation and has adopted a very rational and pragmatic approach in tackling them by promoting a culture of consultation with state institutions and other stakeholders and taking decision with consensus. The frequent huddles between the civilian and military leaders in regards to fighting terrorism, security challenges and dealing with the overall security environment in the region are a renting testimony to the fact that the government was open to the views and inputs of other institutions ungrudgingly. The government also needs to be complimented for the courage and single-mindedness that it has exhibited in taking on the terrorists which no government in the past either had the spunk or will to do. It has mustered national consensus on operation Zarb-e-Azb, National Action Plan and targeted operation in Karachi, which have produced very positive results. Thanks to the role played by the security establishment and law enforcing agencies who have spared no sacrifice in breaking the back of the terrorists and created the space for action against their abettors, sleeping cells and supporters spread over the length and breadth of the country. They deserve an unqualified appreciation and gratitude of the nation. They however need to accept the reality that the overall credit for these successes goes to the government.

It is not the time for state institutions to wrangle and embarrass each other through loose cannon like behavior but to show solidarity in pursuance of the national goals. The government ostensibly has not shown any slackness or lack of will in the implementation of the National Action Plan. However certain elements of the Plan have cultural, religious and political sensitivities attached to them and would need very careful handling which might take a longer period than desired. There are also some legal snags. Improving governance also involves some structural changes through legislation by the parliament. Here again the things cannot be done with the click of a finger. It requires building of consensus on those issues among all the political entities represented in the parliament. Therefore there is no need for becoming jittery on the slowness of the process. Even the military campaign against the terrorists will be a long drawn out undertaking due to a host of internal and external factors. We as a nation will have to show patience, perseverance and commitment to the national causes. All the state institutions are also expected to show a similar approach in dealing with the issues at hand and developing their proper understanding.

Apart from the state institutions and the government, the political parties who are sitting in the parliament and are part of the system are also under obligation to extend unqualified support to the government and the security establishment in dealing with terrorism, religious extremism and other diabolical challenges and remain committed to supporting the plans that they helped to orchestrate. The nation is in a crisis situation, therefore, politicking can wait for better times.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.