Has political power shifted from the government and fallen into the hands of the people? In the last few weeks, there has been a growing trend that has been witnessed – not just in Pakistan but across various countries – whereby government officials are being removed from public office or governments are being compelled to change their stance as a response to mass protests.
However, this is not just a Pakistani phenomenon. As Pakistan was embroiled in a major political controversy, many other countries also faced political turmoil. India has witnessed serious riots and protests against the Bollywood film ‘Padmavati’. The film appears to have offended the Shri Rajput Karni Sena. So strong was the opposition against the film that its scheduled release date had to be postponed indefinitely.
A member of another caste group even went to the extent of offering a reward for the execution of the film’s director and its leading actress. In the face of considerable resistance, the Indian government was unable to control the resulting violence and protect the rights of filmmakers to freely express themselves.
Other countries that have recently faced social and political upheaval include Ireland where Frances Fitzgerald, the deputy prime minister, had to resign in the face of mounting public pressure following revelations that she had attempted to suppress evidence that incriminated the police force in corrupt practices. Following the military takeover against Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president for three long decades, it was ultimately public protest that made his resignation inevitable and paved the way for his successor, Mnangagwa.
Although the Supreme Court in Kenya has recently declared President Kenyatta’s presidential win to be legal, it has not silenced the outrage over his electoral victory and the opposition movement led by Kenyatta’s rival Raila Odinga remains strong.
These events raise the question: have governments lost their legitimacy to be able to manage their countries? If they have, then why? The foremost reason appears to be that most governments across the world have lost the stability that used to be associated with them.
In Pakistan, the resignation of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier this year compromised the legal and moral standing of the PML-N government and the outcome of the recent Faizabad sit-in is a clear testament to this fact. Even in countries like the UK, the Conservative Party had to secure its position in the government only after a cooperation agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. Similarly, Germany has recently witnessed a breakdown in its cross-party coalition, which thereby threatens Angela Merkel’s chancellorship. We are living in times of such uncertainty when even governments find themselves weak – both internally as well as externally.
There has been an increase in right-wing beliefs across almost all nations and that too among huge sections of the public. The already weakened governments have found it difficult to remain in power without succumbing to the demands of the non-state actors. As a result, it is quite apparent that political power has shifted towards the latter. This has led the ordinary citizens of these countries to raise questions over who wields ultimate authority over them. The answer leads to further uncertainties as ultimate authority appears to have moved to those who can exercise it and this does not seem to be the sole remit of the government.
The writer is an advocate of the high court.
Email: qadirmuneeb gmail.com