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June 12, 2019

The twist in the tale


June 12, 2019

Politics is a strange affair with no permanent friends and foes. It is often a game of war and love, unfolding a new story with each passing day, a saga with a hero and a villain. The hero may turn out to be a villain and vice versa when the script of the story calls for a twist. The moment of the twist is so powerful that it absorbs the effect of repentance by the audience for supporting the wrong hero. The level of oblivion of the past depends upon the power of the scriptwriter. Politics too is full of moments of surprise where the heroes of yesterday are turned into the villains of today.

In politics, the twist in the story depends upon the strength and influence of the scriptwriter. In politics, the image of the enemy is created to define 'good' and 'bad' in a popular narrative of perfection. A hero is perfect in all goodness and the villain is an absolute evil incarnate. The villain becomes a mirror image of the hero – identical in form but opposite in essence and function – and this binary opposition is imposed through the virtual world of the media.

We in Pakistan have seen many political heroes turning into villains, from Z A Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif. These heroes were created, pampered and destroyed at will – and all this was done in the name of democracy and national interest. Popular will to choose political leadership was not honoured, not even as political symbolism. French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan would envy our ability to create the perfect ‘other’ out of the mirror image. This is not a simple game of political demonization of heroes of yore; it is all about destroying the image of the erstwhile goodness.

However, the demonization of the perceived forces of resistance has not been confined to the political domain only; it has happened within all institutional domains of the state. One of the most affected institutions is our judiciary where judges were forced to take the oath of allegiance to power under the PCO. The history of our judicial system is replete with such examples when it exercised unrestrained powers to persecute political opponents. But there have also been those within institutions whose professionalism could not easily be tainted.

ustice Qazi Faez Isa enjoys the same reputation of defiance to the attempts to subdue the sanctity of the judicial and legal system to the whims of power. The common perception about him among the legal fraternity is that of a firm believer in merit, professionalism and the dignity of the judiciary and rule of law; it is that of a man of strong commitment to what is right and not what is pleasing to power. His stance against the ‘activism’ of former chief justice Saqib Nisar and his remarks in cases of extreme importance only added to that reputation. It will not be easy to turn him into a villain. And the moment of the twist has come at a wrong time.

Could the case of Justice Qazi Faez Isa lead to democratic forces going beyond political expediency or will our lives continue to be shaped by considerations in which the only one who is wrong is the one who loses? Victory is the name of the game; one wins and the other loses in their bid to establish the truth of their choice. We all take sides in love and war – and that is what politics is all about.

Changing loyalties is an act of necessity to continue to survive in a complex world of changing interests. This is how pragmatism precedes principles for many of us. Pragmatism is an extreme form of self-centredness which devours idealism, principles and convictions for short-term gains. Statesmen are idealists who make history while politicians are pragmatic who live through history. Do we have statesmen or do we still rely on constituency politicians and pragmatic opportunists?

We live in a tumultuous time dominated by politicians not statesmen. Which is why we have failed to evolve into a mature democratic country. Democracy has always been under threat in the history of politics because power does not like to share authority and resources; instead it would moderate relations and institutionalize equity through the right of the vote and inbuilt accountability.

The reference against Justice Isa is being seen not only as about the explicit political rivalry of those who take issue with courage to speak the truth but as a much more complex matter wherein visible fissures within the institutions of state could unleash yet another era of legal-judicial activism. The legal fraternity and bar associations do not see the reference against an individual. They see an attempt to undermine the constitutionally guaranteed sanctity of the judiciary.

Assets owned by wives and children who are not dependent do not automatically translate into charges under Article 209 of the constitution. You may find a number of such instances when spouses and children with independent means of earning will not prefer to disclose their assets to the authorities of a different country. As Justice Isa has pointed out, you would never allege violation of Article 209 against the prime minster whose wife and children reside in the UK and are not bound to disclose assets to a third country.

What then is the case here?

The writer is a social development and policy adviser, and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AmirHussain76

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