The nudge, the push
“There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion.” — Lord Acton
The photograph of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) nudging Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the de-jure prime minister, to stand up during the Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad has gone viral. He was either caught napping, or busy seeking permission from the de-facto prime minister whether he needed to stand up in compliance with the demands of the occasion.
It made me think about what all and who all needed to be nudged in the country to make them functional. The bucket-list is endless.
But, then, there is a counter instinct also: the institutions which have geared up to rendering their responsibilities, as they should have always been doing, are being badgered venomously for trespassing into others’ domains.
Take the case of the judiciary, for example. There are no two opinions about the institution having played a regressive role in legitimising military take-overs in the past and committing countless other excesses which brought infamy to it, and the country. But, the way it has graduated to assuming a lead role in establishing the centrality of the rule of law in the country, and vowing to be a bulwark against any extra-constitutional venture is, indeed, heartening.
But, it appears to have earned the ire of those who, having condemned it to perpetuity, are unwilling to re-cultivate their faith and evaluate its activism objectively. There is an incessant din about it trying to intrude into others’ authority zones and the apparent partisanship of its focus and judgments.
For me, it is utterly unimportant to see who is behind it. All this should have happened a long time ago. Even now is not too late. It must continue to happen and all those, across the board, who have looted the resources of the state must be forced to stand in the court of justice. Accountability only strengthens democracy. Let there be more of it, not less!
The core argument that a bulk of the critic community forwards is that the judiciary is doing so on the behest of the military and, in the process, becoming an instrument in weakening both the government and democracy. Primarily, this argument stems from the perception that only the military could have nudged it on to disqualifying the former prime minister from holding the top public office in the country on account of a mere technicality.
Military’s hand is also seen in a later judgment. When the disqualified former prime minister assumed the office of the president of his brand of political party by virtue of the national assembly having passed the infamous, person-specific amendment in the law, the apex court nullified it by holding it against the spirit of the constitution.
Yet, in arrogant defiance of the Supreme Court decision and norms practised in democratic dispensations in the world, he was expressly declared Quaid (leader) of the party for life.
Not strangely, the hordes of critics of the Supreme Court’s earlier decisions have remained silent on the patently undemocratic credentials of this last step. It looks they have, somehow, lost their power to speak.
Let’s also take the case of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). It has been napping under the leadership of a sequence of criminals appointed as its heads by both political dispensations which have ruled Pakistan in the last one decade. Now that it is showing some signs of life, it has become a convenient target of a vituperative tirade. Instead of expressing satisfaction that a key institution of the state is becoming functional, it is being accused of witch-hunting.
But, there is a pernicious method to this madness. Cases which should and need have been fought on legal grounds are being politicised. Going through the statements of the father-daughter duo that they have made after coming out of each hearing at the accountability court would help us realise that they contain a lot of venom, but no logical defence of the charges which have been framed against them. In the absence of a rational defence, it is construed best to indulge in a litany of counter-charges accusing the judiciary frontally, and the military obliquely, of targeting them.
Then there is talk of 103 phantoms having descended on the floor of the senate on the day of elections for the offices of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the upper house of the parliament. It is said that these phantoms were the ones who took part in the elections, and not the actual members of the senate. Multiple charges are flowing in all directions, but there is not one with the courage to concede that politics in Pakistan has degenerated to being all about money and corruption.
It is alleged that these phantoms were creatures descended from the Mars to stage-manage the election process, thus sowing seeds of disbelief among those who, against self-inflicted expectations, didn’t emerge victorious. Instead, those unwilling to play their cards were declared the winners.
In reality, the phantoms were senators representing various political parties of the country. In using their right to vote, some of them may have done so against gratification received. If that be so, who should take the blame? Members of the senate receiving the remuneration, or the alleged manipulators of these phantoms who had taken control of the house?
Aspersions are also cast on those who were elected to the offices of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman. Who is Sadiq Sanjrani, it is said? He is neither Raza Rabbani as one may have wished, nor Raja Zafar ulHaq as one may have tried. Consequently, it is construed that he is a bad guy who has not been elected by the political parties and their representatives in the senate. He is an alien elected by the phantoms.
What’s going on? The prime minister has to be nudged to do a task he should have been briefed about in advance. Judiciary is accused of partisanship by those who have not been able to provide trails of huge amounts of funds having found their way to so many countries of the world. NAB is accused of witch-hunting by those who are facing serious charges of corruption, money-laundering and amassing wealth grossly disproportionate with known sources of income.
And there are dreams of the likes of Justice Qayyum descending from the skies to rescue them from the clutches of these demons — the judiciary, NAB, and, oops, the military.
Understandably, that is not happening. On the contrary, there is burgeoning feeling in the country that the mighty and the powerful can, after all, be held accountable. That means there is hope that justice may be done in the end and the ones who have indulged in remorseless plunder of the state exchequer may have to pay for their myriad crimes.
For me, it is utterly unimportant to see who is behind it. All this should have happened a long time ago. Even now is not too late. It must continue to happen and all those, across the board, who have looted the resources of the state must be forced to stand in the court of justice.
Accountability only strengthens democracy. Let there be more of it, not less!
By Raoof Hasan
The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RaoofHasan