Honestly speaking

August 15,2017

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Nawaz Sharif has spoken of a need to amend the constitution, and has identified the fundamental problem to be the disrespect of the vote in the country. If constitutional changes do take place, it will be a matter that turns back the pages to how the constitution has been meddled with by military dictators. The lines in the debate over Articles 62 and 63, controversial since they were inserted into the constitution under the dictatorship of the late General Ziaul Haq, are now very clearly drawn. Suggestions are being made that the said articles be pulled out, or clarified to explain precisely what they mean, or amended. The PPP had taken this line in the past and, although it appears to be refusing to actively do so at the present moment, the Senate’s suggestion that parliamentary supremacy be strengthened indicates a willingness to move towards resolving issues that could threaten parliament.

Meanwhile, we have a ‘resistance’ movement brewing. Not surprisingly, it is led by Imran Khan who has taken a U-turn on the issue and altered his view – expressed repeatedly in the past, when his own honesty and character were under question – that under these two articles in the constitution, no one would be able to remain in parliament. He had once even pledged to challenge the said articles. Now, in his perennial quest for short-cuts to power, it has dawned on him that it is important to retain the articles since Pakistan needs honesty beyond all else. It seems this will remain the case as long as it is the honesty of his political rivals that is under question. Imran has warned that a “conspiracy” against the articles will be fought. It is not expected to matter much to him that constitutional moves do not really fit the bill for a conspiracy. In his warning, he has been understandably joined by another figure of sterling character, Sheikh Rasheed of the non-existent Awami Muslim League. The Jamaat-e-Islami, always a fervent introducer and defender of distortions in the constitution under dictatorships, has also spoken vociferously on the matter. This is the latest rightwing constellation in our politics – led by Imran Khan.

The distortions in the constitution, and the resultant instability of our political system and uncertainty that surrounds civilian and elected leadership, are a problem much older than the recent affairs. ‘Honest’ games by the power hungry have been played before at the expense of this country. Parties and politicians are playing the game again according to what suits their interest. Even the pretension of rising above gross opportunism has vanished. We know that Articles 62 and 63, at least in their current form, can really do nothing to prevent corruption. They never have – and that was never their purpose. It is a telling indication of the failure of political parties that these articles have remained ‘unused’ with us so long and finally came into play in a most unfortunate way with an elected prime minister disqualified. Any mature political leadership would be able to recognise that any amendments to the articles will have an impact far beyond personalities. This is also why the ANP, which has not been dragged into the Panama Papers affair, has supported calls to amend them. Much more interesting will be the case of the JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman, an ally of the PML-N. Imran Khan’s reversal once more on a position he had previously held is neither graceful nor fitting of a major leader. It is sad to see that the PTI seems to feel that the path to power has to involve using the legacy of dictators rather than a fair vote.


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