The defender of democracy

January 15, 2017

Javed Hashmi, a man known for pointing out foul play in politics

The defender of democracy

Javed Hashmi has distinguished himself by defending democracy and parliament in recent years. His latest intervention came when he reminded the country yet again of the PTI’s still active plan of removing Nawaz Sharif through what he calls judicial martial law. Though the revelations are not entirely new, having been made earlier when Hashmi walked out of the PTI during the now infamous dharna (sit-in), the timing definitely is.

Hashmi’s revelations have coincided with the PTI’s fresh new thrust on the Panama Leaks front with the elevation of the new chief justice of the supreme court. This strategy seems to be in harmony with its sit-in strategy to push Nawaz Sharif out on the eve of the elevation of Justice Nasr-ul-Mulk. The rumoured plan was to get the judiciary to act on PTI’s legal challenge and oust Nawaz Sharif.

The fact that Hashmi is spot on yet again seems to have been confirmed by one of PTI’s leaders Fawad Chaudhry’s claim that the government of Nawaz Sharif is on its way out in months. It will be replaced by a new leader following submission of purportedly new evidence in the Panama leaks case. Chaudhry’s claim points to a combined strategy of building up pressure on the judiciary to get a favourable outcome as well as forcing the PML-N for some form of in-house change.

Some observers suggest that Hashmi’s latest batch of revelations is part of his wider strategy to find his way back into the PML-N. There may be some substance to it, yet the argument does not hold much water when set beside Hashmi’s political evolution in recent years. Here a look at Hashmi’s political trajectory and formative influences on his political evolution is instructive.

Hashmi is one of the brightest stars of the student union movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He matured politically in the crucible of student politics at a time when anti-Ayub movement was at its height. Hashmi continued his crusade against the Bhutto regime as part of wider alliance of right wing and conservative forces in the early and mid-1970s.

Some observers suggest that Hashmi’s latest batch of revelations is part of his wider strategy to find his way back into the PML-N. There may be some substance to it, yet the argument does not hold much water when set beside Hashmi’s political evolution in recent years.

His political journey began with the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba from whose platform he rose to prominence as the president of the Punjab University student union. While being connected with Jamiat, he was also linked to the wider democratic-minded political figures and human right activists at the time. Hashmi has mentioned working closely with Malik Ghulam Jillani, father of Asma Jahangir, who was an influential opposition figure of the 70s.

Hashmi also worked closely with Baba-i-Jamhooriat (the father of democracy), Nawabzada Nasrallah Khan, whose political career was three parts solidly democratic and one part non-democratic blighted by his association with General Zia regime. Like Nawabzada, Hashmi also blighted his solid democratic credentials by joining General Zia’s cabinet, a cardinal sin for which he has repeatedly, and profusely, apologised.

He has done more to make for this colossal political misjudgement, spent long years in prison under the military dictatorship of General Musharraf -- one of the few politicians to undergo this tribulation in recent decades.

From the vantage point of his prison cell, he saw closely the machinations of the military dictator and some elements of judiciary to delay restoration of democracy -- conniving continuation of military regime. Even Hashmi’s bail was delayed which fits the dictum ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. Hashmi’s democratic outlook, forged in the furnace of military rule, rebels against the idea of judicial martial law. Therefore, every time the idea is floated or contrived political circumstances point to its realisation. Hashmi feels motivated to come out of the woodwork to sound alarm bells. This is what seems to have motivated his recent intervention too.

As for his relationship with the PTI and PML-N a word or two are in order too. When Hashmi was not honoured by the PML-N for his stalwart role in keeping the PML-N show on the road during difficult years of the military rule, he felt compelled to part with the party.

Hashmi was soon lured into the PTI, attracted perhaps by the party’s politics whose theme was justice and its unprecedented popular mobilisation. However, soon he found the PTI-propagated brand of politics unappealing as it smelled of some element of democratic subversion and collusion with extra parliamentary forces. While he was enthused by the political energy of the youth that flooded the PTI, he did not like short-cut political strategy to get to power through a combination of judiciary and military. From within the party he fought off this strategy at each step. Hashmi has given detailed account of his efforts within the party aimed at dissuading the party from taking this course of action.

However, when he felt the possibility of this strategy succeeding during the decisive phase of the Islamabad dharna, he broke ranks with the party and took to the airwaves to expose the party’s widely believed liaison with judiciary and military.

On one stroke, the PTI movement was deflated and knocked from its high altar of moralism and fair mindedness by Hashmi’s shocking revelations. When the future history will be written of this important period, Hashmi’s dramatic revelation will surely be counted as one of the singular moment which contributed to preservation of democratic government.

Afterwards, like General Charles de Gaulle of France, Hashmi retired to his home town, tending to his garden and books. Yet the charge sheet he threw at Imran and the PTI’s leadership remains unanswered, denoting some elements of truth to his revelations.

Hashmi also resurfaces from time to time to do his historical duty of reminding the nation of dangers that democracy faces today from a populist party of the right. This act is also in line with his belief in writing account of his political struggle for future generation of historians. His book Haan Main Baghi Hoon arose out of his struggle against the military dictatorship of Musharraf. He is writing another book which will soon be there.

The defender of democracy