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Editorial

August 12, 2017

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Joining heads

Joining heads

The proposal emanating from the Senate suggesting that the executive, the military and the judiciary sit together to discuss relations between institutions and how they can more smoothly work together is a welcome one. The suggestion was made by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani after a discussion in the Upper House over recent developments in the country following the Panama leaks. A Committee of the Whole House is now to work out a modality. The invitation to the military will be conveyed through the prime minister since the institution falls under the executive – although we often forget this. For the judiciary the invitation will go via the chief justice of Pakistan. Over the last few days Pakistan’s recent history and the fallout on democratic government of friction between institutions has been discussed again and again. There have been many observations and many comments. Comparisons have been made with the dismissal of previous governments and the role played by various institutions in these unfortunate events. Each of these events may have differed somewhat in nature and in detail but the overall impact is destabilisation of the democratic process and consequently governance in the country.

It would be an extremely important step forward if three major institutions, responsible for running the affairs of the State, agreed to sit together and in an amicable environment discuss how best to move forward. For this, each institution needs to work within its own sphere. Every institution needs to set boundaries that cannot be transgressed. For example, the executive needs to show greater deference to the legislature by ensuring the prime minister is a regular participant in the National Assembly. The judiciary needs to realise that its role is that of a neutral referee and not a participant in the game itself. The military has a clearly defined role in the constitution of safeguarding the enemy from hostile foreign powers and domestic threats like militancy.      The deviation from the constitution on this count has contributed to multiple problems. As was also raised in Senate the inclusion of Article 61 and 62 in the constitution, especially in the absence of any real clarity on what they mean, is also problematic. What is however most important of all is that all institutions agree to come together and build a stronger system. The contribution of each of these institutions is required for this. It is also correct that the supremacy of parliament, the body neglected by the people, needs to be upheld more strongly. Over the decades, parliament has not gained strength. If institutions regularly veer into each other’s space the problem we face today will continue and lead to further complications. Clearly harmony and a sound working relationship need to be developed. The only way to achieve this is by joining heads and engaging in an open dialogue which allows all the players to spell out their positions, express their areas of difficulty and from here construct a structure that would enable them to work in cooperation and good spirit.

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