The confrontational mode adopted by the PPP government went into top gear last week, threatening to bring down the much-revered house of democracy. The Prime Minister told a Chinese daily that the replies submitted by the Chief of the Army Staff and the Director General ISI in the memo case were unconstitutional. In an interview to a local news channel, the President categorically stated his government's resolve not to write the letter to Swiss authorities as directed by the Supreme Court. Obeying the court's order, according to the President, would mean initiating a trial of Benazir Bhutto's grave. An ill-considered move by the PPP government to pit Parliament against vital State institutions was thankfully thwarted by some good advice by its coalition partners. Meanwhile, we saw a resumption of drone strikes and did not hear a whimper of protest from the civil or military leadership. Weren't we supposed to shoot them down? Is the lack of a proper response to this latest aggression due to the chaos created in the country by those in charge of our destiny? Or are drone attacks kosher again?
The man with two hats sitting in the presidency left the nation speechless with his chameleon act during the interview. One moment, he donned the hat of the President to speak, and the next moment, he spoke as the PPP Co-Chairman. It didn't stop there. He vehemently told us that the Prime Minister runs the government, and in the next breath spoke with the authority of a dictator who calls all the shots and single-handedly decides about important national matters. As far as the spinning top Prime Minister is concerned, it is difficult to tell where he stands. One day, he makes an emphatic statement with far-reaching consequences on an important national issue, and the next day he eats his words, changing his stance without any explanation. The two have turned democratic governance into a painful farce with their somersaults and sense of political adventure. Surely, democracy could do better than that.
There is a method to their madness, of course. Their democracy circus has only two goals, and none of them has to do with the people of Pakistan in whose name and interest they claim to be fighting their unconstitutional wars. The goals are simple: To continue in their positions of power and to thwart any effort that seeks to make them or their government accountable. It is becoming more and more obvious by the day that the duo would do anything and everything to achieve their goals, regardless of the cost to the people and State of Pakistan. Sick and tired of the high drama enacted by the two, more and more people are heard questioning the use of democracy. This is blasphemous to the politically correct worshippers of democracy, who are willing to accept every abuse of the democratic system as long as it comes with the tag of democracy. But can you really blame those wishing for an end to the present dispensation?
The people of Pakistan have been turned into helpless spectators of the unfolding drama in the name of democracy. They see no role or stake in a democratic system that seems to have forgotten its raison d'etre. With the pseudo-democrat duo in charge, the chances of accountability through the ballot and a smooth transfer of power are remote. The Election Commission of Pakistan is dragging its feet when it comes to implementing the Supreme Court orders regarding the deletion of bogus votes from its electoral lists and updating them. The federal Law Secretary has conveniently gone abroad on the pretext of medical treatment and his ministry has submitted an application in the Supreme Court for an adjournment in the NRO implementation case. Rather than running its affairs according to the Constitution, the government seems to be hell-bent on subverting it.
Surely, things cannot go on this way. The opposition parties have finally come to some agreement on how to take the democratic process further, but they need to strengthen this initiative to make a real difference. The pressure from coalition partners seem to have brought some sanity to the government as well and there are indications that it has stepped back from an all-out confrontation with the judiciary and the security establishment, for the time being at least. Some feel that these developments bode well for the survival of democracy. Still, there are apprehensions that given the propensities and the compulsions of the President and his Prime Minister, they are likely to hurl us into another crisis whenever their hold on power is threatened. The irony is that the PPP government, which is solely responsible for creating one crisis after another, would like to be viewed as the victim against whom everyone else has ganged up.
With all the chaos created by the government due to its undemocratic and unconstitutional behaviour, can Pakistan expect to handle the devious machinations of the ‘badmash’ superpower and redefine our relationship with it? Obviously, with the review of Pak-US relations still underway, it is safe to believe that things stand where they did in the immediate aftermath of the November Nato attack on Pakistan army checkposts in Mohmand Agency, and the recent drone attacks do not have the approval of the Pakistan leadership. It is also safe to assume that the US has been emboldened by the friction between State institutions within Pakistan and has, therefore, re-launched the drone strikes. The civil and military leadership seems to be too preoccupied with the crisis at home to respond effectively to this latest affront to the sovereignty of the country and the killing of its citizens.
Is this the democratic experiment playing itself out, with different players and stakeholders finding their right place in the scheme of things? Will it correct itself given time? Will the political parties, including the PPP, manage to rein in the lust for power of two men and their chailas to save democracy? Or will the two men bring the whole house down in order to save their seats and skins? One would like to end on a hopeful note for democracy's future, but, with the two men glued to their seats, it is difficult to see either hope or democracy.
The writer is an independent columnist.