This government is evidently out to drown all that stands in its way of loot and plunder in a deluge of corruption. Nothing is sacred to them. Nothing is too holy to sacrifice to attain their unholy objectives. They have already neutered, if not destroyed, the National Accountability Bureau to facilitate the scramble of looting the state that we see. Not a single functionary of state has been prosecuted, let alone punished, for corruption during the tenure of the present government despite its hard-earned reputation for being the most corrupt in Pakistan’s history.
The other thorn in the government’s side, the judiciary, is turning out to be a more difficult nut to crack. But through its callous disregard and disobedience of a number of Supreme Court rulings and promoting and elevating to high posts those who fall foul of the court, not to mention pardoning of their prison sentences, this government has spared no effort to undermine it and render it ineffective. Contempt of court is committed with impunity and the penalty imposed for it by the court is side-stepped through extra-constitutional exegeses.
And now questions are being raised whether this whole Arsalan Chaudhry corruption scandal was a trap laid to ensnare his father, the chief justice. It is an age-old ploy to discredit the man when you fail to discredit his ideas. When Caesar proves to be above suspicion, sling mud at Caesar’s wife in the hope that some of it sticks to Caesar as well.
The government’s shameful defiance of the judiciary has produced the entirely predictable effect of fostering the same impulses in others. Malik Riaz sat before a national audience in his press conference and declared that he does not recognise the Supreme Court which, according to him, was operating under Arsalan Chaudhry’s influence, implicitly accusing the entire apex court of corruption. He further boasted that he was not afraid of contempt of court proceedings and was ready to go to jail. He appeared to be quoting Gilani.
Then on June 16 the attorney general’s shameful conduct before a bench of the Supreme Court headed by the chief justice, in the case of the speaker’s ruling on Gilani’s disqualification in light of his contempt of court conviction, broke all barriers of misconduct and impropriety. Being a government employee, it has to be assumed that the AG cannot act without instructions from the government. The government must, therefore, clarify whether they had instructed the AG to stage the little drama he enacted in court on June 14. If not, then severe action must be taken against him. But we all know this will never happen because the trend this government has thus far established is to reward those who insult and demean the judiciary.
The speaker’s ruling on Gilani’s disqualification reference was a blatant instance of flouting the law and Constitution. Article 63(2) of the Constitution makes is abundantly clear that the speaker ‘shall’ (not ‘may’, but ‘shall’) send a reference to the CEC regarding the disqualification of a member of the National Assembly within thirty days if he is hit by any of the provisions of Article 63(1). It further provides that if the speaker fails to send the reference within thirty days, the reference will be deemed to have been sent to the CEC. This does, in fact, reduce the role of the speaker to that of a post office as it leaves no room for the speaker to apply his/her mind or exercise any discretion.
If the Constitution were to provide some room for maneuvering for the speaker to apply his/her mind or use discretion, the provision about the reference being deemed to be with the CEC after thirty days would not have been included since then the speaker would have the power to kill the issue. But according to the provisions of the Constitution as they now stand, the buck stops not with the speaker but with the CEC because the Article 63(2) vests the power to decide whether a member has become disqualified or not only with the CEC. The government is grasping at invented straws and using parliament as a pawn in its power game regardless of the damage it might sustain in the process.
The putsch against the judiciary is at its peak and even some former white knights on white steeds have chosen to don the robes of dark lords for this round. But these hostilities against the courts are only one facet of the greater war against the state. A deliberate, concerted effort appears to be afoot to dismantle the institutions of state that serve as its foundations without which it cannot survive. The purposes and interests of this government are evidently at odds with national and public interests. They are treating the country like a sinking ship and, instead of rescuing it, seem keen to loot it as it flounders. And they are certainly not alone in this. They operate under the sheltering aegis of their foreign masters who brought them to power and sustain them in power against all odds and at a back breaking cost to Pakistan and Pakistanis. It matters not that people are committing suicides at record rates out of desperation and are forced to sell their children to survive while a daily expenditure of two million rupees is sanctioned in the budget for the Prime Ministerial and Presidential palaces.
It matters not that at a time when the country was drowning in the worst floods in a century, the president was vacationing at his French chateau. It matters not that thousands of our citizens have perished in drone attacks which are a barefaced act of war, not to mention the invasion of our airspace on May 2, 2011 for which our president and prime minister congratulated the invaders. It matters not that the demands for an apology over the Salala tragedy have been drowned out by the avaricious demand for money for Nato supplies. Money is everything. It anesthetises the drive for honor. None of these things matter: As long as obedient servants continue their servitude of foreign masters, even at the cost of indispensable state institutions, or even the state, there is paradise on earth, and anon!
Make no mistake about it; the war being waged in the Supreme Court is a war for our national survival. As a nation and a country, we will sink or swim as does our judiciary. The judiciary stands as our last bastion of hope against the rising tide of malaise and evil. It is the only state institution fulfilling its role of defending and protecting all that is worth defending and protecting. If the judiciary is allowed to sink, the war is lost. The country will stand defenseless against the winds that will then blow. This cannot be allowed to happen.
But it is sad that the judiciary is alone in fighting the war for our survival. At this lowest ebb in our history, when the soil we live off calls out to us to act in its defence from destructive forces, we the people remain silent idle spectators even though we stand to lose the most. If the current trajectory of events plays out to its logical conclusion and the worse case scenario comes to pass, the fat cats have their French chateaus to retire to. What will become of the rest of the nation? The time for positive action is now to save Pakistan from the clutches of those who seem hellbent on obliterating it. Raising a hue and cry from the sidelines or shedding tears over spilt milk after the event serves no purpose.
The writer is a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.