Tuesday April 23, 2024

Polls and prisons

The presidential election was another lost opportunity for Pakistani democracy. The way both the rul

By Ahmed Quraishi
August 01, 2013
The presidential election was another lost opportunity for Pakistani democracy. The way both the ruling and the opposition parties approached this election shows no forward progress in political thinking or maturity commensurate with the desire of most Pakistani voters to improve the political system.
This was an opportunity for the PML-N to pick an upright Pakistani citizen for president – a unifying figure for the federation – use the occasion to set a precedent, and strengthen democracy.
Instead, the nation welcomes a 'Tarrar II', a president who will act as a rubberstamp for the prime minister. While Mamnoon Hussain is an accomplished and respected citizen, Pakistan deserved someone who could contribute to strengthening the system, uniting the country and helping the government meet challenges. The current choice is designed to secure the prime minister’s back.
But the PML-N’s choice for president remains far better than the PPP’s choice for president in the last five years. Zardari’s presidency has presided over one of the most incompetent and corrupt administrations in our political history.
Zardari’s reputation since 2008 as a political survivor might invoke admiration in the context of dirty Pakistani politics but his elevation to this position remains a disturbing statement on the health of our political system.
The PPP and the ANP have done no service to democracy or Pakistan by attempting to make the presidential election controversial. The arguments put forward by both parties to boycott the election were flimsy at best. It is surprising that Senator Raza Rabbani accepted the assignment of floating these flimsy and weak arguments.
The few upright and untainted politicians like him sully their own reputations by becoming willing pawns in disruptive and negative politics. The repeated statements by Rabbani questioning the future of the Pakistani federation as a result of the presidential election betrayed a measure of exaggeration and irresponsibility on his and his party’s part.
The DI Khan jailbreak strengthens the case of the Pakistani military and exposes the failure in effectively dealing with terrorists.
The fact is that our military and law enforcement did succeed in arresting dozens of hardened criminals and terrorists who operate under different TTP franchises. The jailbreak shows the failure of politicians to equip the police, the investigators and the prosecutors, and the failure of the courts in handing speedy justice to these killers of Pakistanis.
Before questioning the PML-N and the PTI, the two parties in power today, Pakistanis must ask the representatives of the PPP, the MQM and the ANP why their coalition that ruled us for five long years failed to secure jails and equip the police. These parties are quick to point to their members and their families attacked and killed by terrorists. But these stories of personal courage, like that of the ANP’s Mian Iftikhar who lost his 26-year-old son to ruthless killers, do not absolve the former coalition rulers of charges of gross incompetence.
Our military and law-enforcement agencies are criticised when they act alone to deal with terrorists and killers. However, politicians and courts successfully evade responsibility after breathtaking jailbreaks that demoralise all those upright officers who worked hard on arresting the terrorists.
The government and parliament should consider setting up special and secret anti-terror and intelligence courts. These courts will provide anonymity and protection to judges, prosecutors, and eyewitnesses, and hand speedy justice. This would also help make it easier for law enforcement to present evidence without risking exposing intelligence sources and methods.
And with introducing the secret anti-terror and intelligence courts, Islamabad should lift the undeclared moratorium on capital punishment for terrorism and violence.
For a change, the government and parliament could maybe improve the salaries of the police and those in charge of the prison system in the same way that the compensation packages of politicians and judges saw healthy improvement since 2008.