Tuesday May 21, 2024

Pulling the edifice down

By Raoof Hasan
April 21, 2023

“Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)/ The dungeon of thyself; thy soul/ Imprisoned now indeed, / In real darkness of the body dwells, / Shut up from outward light, / To incorporate with gloomy night/ For inward light alas/ Puts forth no visual beam.” – John Milton

It is seldom that, in human history, one would come across a comparable instance when all constituents of the state would collaborate in pulling the entire edifice down simply because of fear that their chances of holding on to power have depleted beyond redemption.

Such is the sinister enactment that we see unfurling in front of our eyes, bit by bit, yet we remain captive of our own uncertainties and apprehensions. We also don’t realise that each day that goes by is further weakening the structure that we survive under, inexorably pushing it to the brink of collapse.

This is the story of Pakistan through numerous phases where an extreme step was malevolently taken simply to save the careers and futures of the very same people who were responsible for the woes of the state. Politicians, civil-military-judicial bureaucracy, thinkers, writers, academia, common people – all were responsible for this remorseless act of demolition, some by intent, others by default.

Despite the structure having become weak and wobbly through blatant misuse over decades, nothing really has changed. We still have the same battalions of inflictors who are determined to maintain their stranglehold over the state and the inflicted, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, deprived of even their basic needs for survival, who remain helpless in confronting this brutal and barbaric multidirectional assault.

As I write this, Pakistan is yet again caught up in the throes of pain, born of the same reasons, enacted by the same actors, with the same coteries of inflictors and afflicted playing their roles which have been witnessed countless times in the past. The ruling elite and the institutions are bonded together in this camaraderie based on furthering their common interests which have always been achieved at the cost of weakening the state, badgered to a skeleton through remorseless bruising. It can hardly stand on its own feet, yet flights of ever-hungry vultures continue hovering above to skin it of any remnants of flesh which may still be hiding its shame. There is no mercy. They have tasted blood and they believe that there is still some left for their insatiable appetite.

As the country bleeds, the actors remain engrossed in establishing the supremacy of one or the other constituent of the state. In the process, they forget that such perceived supremacy belongs to no institution per se. It is the constitution which is supreme as all powers vested in various organs of the state flow from the statute book. It is the constitution which empowers parliament to legislate, and it is the same constitution which grants the prerogative of interpretation of the legislation to the judiciary. None of that can change through a mere act of parliament. It can change only through an amendment in the constitution which requires a two-thirds majority.

But the charade regarding who can dictate to whom goes on irrespective of the reality that the self-serving reasons prompting this are palpable, visible even to a blind eye. The orchestrators appear completely denuded of even a shred of shame. In promoting their blood-sucking culture, they don’t brook any opposition. It is either them or none.

So, what is the battle really about? It is not about the paucity of funds to hold elections. It is also not about any shortage of personnel to provide security on the day of the polls. Terrorism is a routine phenomenon in the country, and it poses no particular threat to the conduct of polling on the given day. What is it then that is hindering a process which is clearly defined in the constitution – that of holding elections within 90 days after a provincial assembly has been dissolved – more so when the Supreme Court has adjudicated in that regard, fixing May 14 as the polling day in Punjab? Why is the executive so obdurate as to defy the apex court directive and why is parliament bent on frustrating all endeavours (cunningly) initiated in this regard by blocking them – and this by a house which is truncated to half of its mandated numbers because of the absence of PTI members, thus gravely impacting its legitimacy?

The battle is about the dangers that lurk over the continued political survival of the beneficiary elite which has held a stranglehold over the fate of the country through decades since its independence. The same can be validated by the statements of some of the stalwarts of the ruling concoction including the interior minister who, in a television interview, claimed that things had come to such a pass that, from here on, “it is either us or him” (the latter meaning Imran Khan).

In weaving and then implementing the conspiracy of removing Khan from power, they thought that they had secured their future. In fact, they had invited their own doom as, defying all pre-conspiracy projections, Khan’s ratings surged and is today universally acknowledged as the most popular leader ever in Pakistan’s history after the Quaid. This is the actual threat that the traditional beneficiary elite is confronted with which generates from the fear of a thrashing at the hustings that would, inevitably, lead to their political demise. It seems this criminal conglomerate is not willing to take chances by going through with holding the elections anytime soon.

In the process, Pakistan has been reduced to a country without a constitution, without rule of law, and without justice. The legitimate powers vested in institutions are being defied blatantly and affairs of the state are being conducted by the whims of those who have the reins in their hands. This has adversely impacted the quantum of trust that the world reposes in our ability to survive and international institutions to deal with us. This is amply demonstrated by the ongoing cat-and-mouse game with the IMF which shows no signs of coming to an end. Most of our bilateral relations have suffered similarly.

This lawlessness syndrome cannot go on indefinitely. Individual interests cannot dictate state policies. The constitution should hold precedence over all else and its dictates should be implemented without any let or hindrance.

It is an inequitable and unjust system which people have endured painfully. It must change. This will come about either by pursuing an orderly transition of power by holding elections, or by instigating a blood-drenched revolution on the streets of the country. Judiciary is the only institution which can avert the latter prospect – otherwise, the entire edifice will come crumbling down.

The writer is a political and security strategist, former special assistant to former PM Imran Khan, and currently a fellow at King’s College London. He tweets @RaoofHasan