Friday May 24, 2024

National truth and reconciliation — no political NRO

By Senator Rehman Malik
November 04, 2018

Sitara-e-Shujaat, Nashan-e-Imtiaz

National truth and reconciliation is the real need of the day and I am advocating not for a political NRO but national reconciliation with the nation — meaning that we need to reconcile the truth and intellectual stock of national mistakes and blunders and then work on a national revamping plan to rectify our past mistakes.

A national reconciliation move is needed in the way Mr Nelson Mandela had proposed even having faced with all the hate and sufferings. He forcefully advocated for reconciliation amongst the society and decided that the best thing for his nation is reconciliation at national level where in some understanding be created with some political solution to the issues.

Following were the objectives of TRC (Truth & Reconciliation Commission) established by Nelson Mandela:

1. Truth commissions seek to contribute to transitional peace by "creating an authoritative Record of what happened; 2. Providing a platform for the victims to tell their stories and obtain some form of redress; 3. Recommending legislative, structural or other changes to avoid a repetition of past abuses; and 4. Establishing who was responsible and providing a measure of accountability for the perpetrators."

The nation accepted the idea and now we see this nation is progressing and there is no ethnic issue there. There was a concept of “Petty Apartheid” an Afrikaans word meaning "apart-hood" that began with the 1949 Prohibition of Mixed Marriages. The main objective of the Apartheid system was the division of people into racial groups using a trivial series of tests. The population was classified into one of four groups: White, Black, Indian and Coloured, with Coloured and Indian groups further subdivided. The restrictions intruded into all aspects of life while the sharpest distinction was between Black and White. Segregation occurred everywhere as the Blacks were not allowed to enter White hospitals, schools, buses, universities and also churches.

As soon as the TRC was set up in terms of Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Bill, 1995, it brought about unity and reconciliation by providing for the investigation and full disclosure of gross violations of human rights committed in the past. The idea behind this reconciliation was to give every citizen equal rights without discrimination. In other words implementation of rule of law at all levels and accountability across the board was made compulsory.

We are a country with rich history and culture but unfortunately we have rather become a nation with fully paralysed and prejudice minds with the aim to get stuck with the odd memories of the past. We are merely destroying the present of our nation by using the negative national past to resolve our issue.

The kind of NRO we need at national level can be built out of the Charter of Democracy, which was signed on 14th May 2006 between Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan People’s Party in London. It was laid down in the Charter of Democracy at serial No. 13. (a) that a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established to acknowledge victims of torture, imprisonment, state-sponsored persecution, targeted legislation, and politically motivated accountability. The commission will also examine and report its findings on military coups and civil removals of governments from 1996”.

It was the dream of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto that there should be such a commission in the country to bring out the causes of political polarisation, economic dwindling and divide of the nation. She had been a staunch supporter of this commission till her martyrdom.

The major objectives of that charter are as follows:

1. The structure of constitution of 1973 should be revived like exactly what it was till October 1999.

2. Both parties will not do any deal with the ruling party or mercenaries, so as to win the elections.

3. The judiciary, law and election commission shall be make neutral.

4. If any party win the elections then it will not torment opposition, but instead of this it will invite opposition in offering suggestions in political social, economic, regional and international affairs. And none of decisions shall be made that will go against the mind of the parliament. And the same liability is for the opposition that it will also not anguish government like what traditionally it is used to be doing.

5. LFO shall be revoked, and the principles, which say that minimum age of voters should be 18 years, women are permissible to be the parliament member, and seats of parliament can be increased.

6. Congenial relations shall be established between civil administration and military.

It is unfortunate that the sprit behind Charter of Democracy lost its spark due to some political expediency by one of the signatories. Had it been followed strictly by both the parties and implemented, the nation would be having a different political fabric. The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has become more important now in the wake of continuous polarisation of the society due to vilification of one section by the other section of the society. The over-reactive media including social media lacking self-control have further aggravated the divide by propagating false and fake information, which overshadowed the facts and realities. It is now time that nation needs to know the facts of every issue affecting their lives including politics and politicians.

It is the time for the nation to know as to who was/were responsible for the political polarisation, divide in the society on the sectarian, ethnic or linguistic line, economic dwindling/crises. Therefore, the Parliament must constitute a National Truth & Reconciliation Commission comprising of members of judiciary, politicians, civil society of impeccable reputation to bring out truth out of fictions and realities so that our future generations would not live in a society engulfed in misconceptions/misperceptions.

The commission should also be mandated to review the role of the media in the nation building or otherwise with the recommendations to streamline its utility in nation building exercise. The conclusions of the commission then must be debated in the Parliament to enact necessary legislation to ensure that none of the State apparatus cross their constitutional boundaries in future.

Let’s have a national truth and reconciliation commission and not politically motivated NRO.

The writer is Chairman of think tank "global eye" & former Interior Minister of Pakistan. @Email: rmalik1212@gmail .com, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik, @GlobalEye_GSA, WhatsApp +923325559393