Tuesday October 04, 2022

The path of the constitution

March 28, 2018

We have just celebrated 78th anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution that was a stepping stone in taking the Independence Movement to its logical conclusion through the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims. Unfortunately, the country appears to have veered away from fulfilling the objectives of Independence. The vision of Pakistan’s founding father on consolidating the gains of Independence has taken a backseat.

The challenges and threats that Pakistan is confronted with today are a mere sequel to the machinations of politicians, dictators, judges and the bureaucracy who have shown criminal indifference to the ideological moorings and vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Our founding father wanted Pakistan to become a democratic entity where the will of the people reigned supreme and state institutions showed an unflinching commitment to honour the constitutional arrangement.

Democracy remains as vulnerable as ever and the constitution has been violated and decimated with impunity. This national tragedy can be attributed to our politicians and the judges. It took the politicians almost nine years to devise a constitution for a newly-born country. These delays were caused by the incessant political wrangling and the consequent instability that ultimately paved the way for the first military takeover in the country by General Ayub Khan.

Much to the misfortune of the people, Ayub Khan found pliable judges to endorse his military regime. This opened the portals for the other military adventurists to make similar moves and push the country away from its democratic and constitutional path. These military dictators were able to give longevity to their unconstitutional rules with the help of the so-called politicians who were mostly carpetbaggers and fortune-seekers – like the Chaudhrys of Gujrat and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed – who have always thrived during times of military rule.

Our major political parties have also contributed to the fiasco through the politics of self-aggrandisement and their own political vendetta. They have failed to pull the country out of the quagmire that it find itself in during these military regimes.

However, the country has been under democratic rule for the last 10 years and is poised for yet another transfer of power from one civilian government to another. But it still lacks the political stability that is required to surmount the challenges faced by the country. Conspiracies and behind-the-curtain manoeuvres to have a doctored democracy are still at work – as is evident from the elections for the Senate seats and the selection of the chairman and deputy chairman of the Upper House.

The politicians are once again responsible for the dirty game that is being played in the country. After the events that took place during the Senate elections, analysts and political observers have expressed concerns about what could happen before the general elections. This ambience of uncertainty is indeed very ominous.

The usual political characters are also actively engaged in rocking the boat of democracy and constitutional rule in the country. For nearly four-and-a-half years, Imran Khan has focused on destabilising the democratically-elected government with the single purpose of reaching the corridors of power, irrespective of the legitimacy of the means. And yet, he still has the audacity to reiterate his democratic credentials.

Last week, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed came up with a bizarre proposal on the imposition of a judicial martial law by the chief justice of Pakistan. His remarks have come under severe scrutiny across the national spectrum. Even the CJ had to clarify that there was no provision of a judicial martial law in the country. While speaking to the media in Lahore, Sheikh Rashid made yet another demand: he asked the CJ to play an active role in forming a neutral caretaker setup that is strong enough to put an end to rigging in the 2018 general elections.

Sheikh Rashid has been a parliamentarian for a very long time through various political platforms– the PML-N, the PML -Q (under Musharraf) and the PTI. Nobody would believe that he was not aware of the unconstitutionality of his remarks. It appears that he is doing these things on purpose by staying true to his role of an agent provocateur who relishes undemocratic and unconstitutional arrangements. Such sinister antics are meant to create an ambience of uncertainty and confusion in the country with a specific purpose.

We now also have a chief justice who is on a mission to reform everything under the skies and who seems to be in the headlines a lot. The nation needs institutions that work in conformity with the constitution instead of messiahs or saviours. The CJ is correct when he says that the judiciary is independent and isn’t part of any conspiracy. However, what he is doing in an individual capacity is likely to have a long-term negative impact on the political landscape of the country and weaken parliament and the executive. It is an undeniable fact that the judiciary has been trying to override parliament and the executive since its restoration after the Lawyers Movement.

Reforming the political system falls outside the domain of the judiciary. The CJ could serve the country better by reforming the judiciary and ensuring the expeditious dispensation of justice. People are suffering countless problems due to corruption in the lower judiciary and the inordinate delays in the adjudication of their cases.

This is the area that requires the judiciary’s immediate and unruffled attention. It should focus on this sphere rather than transgressing into the domain of other state institutions. The country can move forward and address inadequacies in the system of governance if every institution stays within its own domain. A strict adherence to the constitution is the only way forward.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: