Visiting the graves of Bhuttos last week, the new Prime Minister reiterated his party’s stance on writing the letter to Swiss authorities. According to the Constitution, he is bound to follow the orders of the Supreme Court and write it. But as the PPP Co-Chairman has declared that writing the letter would amount to the trial of Benazir Bhutto’s grave, the puppet Prime Minister is determined to disobey the apex court, even if it means being disqualified like his predecessor. To confirm his credentials as a loyal majaaver of the Bhutto shrine rather than a constitutional head of government, he told his audience that currently the PPP is being led by Asif Zardari and in due time his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, will lead it. Interestingly, the one-eyed champions of democracy are crying for judicial restraint on part of the Supreme Court in face of such blatant flouting of the Constitution and democratic principles. They’d like us to believe that they want to save democracy.
The discourse on democracy mouthed by PPP wallahs and a small but vocal band of so-called progressives refuses to address basic defects in the system that rob it of any legitimacy or credibility, even entitlement to be called democracy. Waiting for fruits of democracy without coming to grips with these defects that disconnect public welfare from democratic politics, is a recipe for disaster. How can the system evolve if the glaring contradictions in the conduct of those leading it are left unchallenged? How do we hope to create a more democratic polity by covering up every crime of the political government in the name of democracy, all the while gunning for the Supreme Court single-mindedly as if it is conspiring against the government by trying to bring it to the book? What’s so progressive about being stuck in an outdated narrative that refuses to address new realities? That, in fact, is very retrogressive.
Obviously, just the thought of rule of law and an independent judiciary makes the PPP leadership and its apologists very uncomfortable because these democratic concepts threaten to shake the very foundation on which they stand with their dirty feet; denting their oppressive illegal privileges and restricting their space to abuse public offices and state power for personal gain and advancement. After all, these are their feudal tools of domination and oppression, tools that they have amassed and polished over generations. Partymen without feudal backgrounds feed on the crumbs of the same above-the-law power culture thrown their way as rewards for their loyalty to the leader; happy to serve as puppet prime ministers if they are higher up in the essentially feudal hierarchy and content with lesser public positions and state largesse if they are still rising in the loyalty-driven ranks. Under Zardari, those in the party with a conscience and political convictions have either been defanged through clever co-option in the stench-filled corridors or they have been sidelined.
Little wonder then that Zardari’s PPP is on a mission to discredit, malign, weaken and eventually destroy the independent judiciary that has made a consistent effort to enforce the rule of law. The strategy is to create hurdles in the implementation of court orders and investigation of scams, and to create controversy around its rulings on constitutional matters. The scandal involving the CJ’s son has been added to claims about a witch hunt targeting the PPP and accusations about the court being soft on the PML-N and the army, to cast aspersions on the court’s clean image and impartiality. There’s no use pointing out that the cases against the PML-N leadership have been suppressed by the government-controlled NAB. They have no time to consider the expose of characters behind the Arsalan scandal or cases where the Supreme Court has taken the army to task. Their narrative has been tailored by the big boss and inconvenient truths must not stand in the way of repeating it like loyal serfs without a mind of their own.
If Rehman Malik is convicted, Zardari pardons him in his capacity as the President. When the apex court disqualifies him for violating the constitutional provision on dual nationality, the now-sacked puppet Prime Minister makes him an Advisor. As if to pointedly ridicule the Supreme Court, Zardari and Altaf Hussain announced in London to make it legal for dual nationals to contest elections. That, of course, is more important than finding a way to end the endless violence in Karachi where the two party heads preside over the government like dictators. In this no-holds-barred attack on the Supreme Court, we are told that a nominated party loyalist posing as the Speaker of National Assembly has the authority to trash a judgment of a seven-member Supreme Court bench and a puppet Prime Minister can interpret the Constitution better than all the Supreme Court judges put together.
For the PPP wallahs, the reasons for blindly supporting the patronage-politics perpetrated by their big boss are pretty obvious; they are the ones waiting in line to be patronised. The so-called progressives, claiming to be non-partisan and independent, have joined their ranks for reasons of their own. Dragged into this polarised framework and forced to take sides, for some of them it is just convenient to repeat the bubble-headed and misinformed tirade against the judiciary being aired in their circles. They do not even bother to check their facts or so much as even read the judgments of the court before forming their anti-judiciary opinions. Their intellectual laziness is, however, a much smaller crime as compared to the calculated intellectual dishonesty of their donor-driven progressive leaders, who feed them with all the misinformation and propaganda to strengthen Zardari vis-à-vis the independent judiciary.
In a larger framework, these apologists of Zardari, feast on the same imperial table that stands on the legs of status quo. They have a privileged role in the script written by their masters, who shower dollars on them for dancing to their tunes. This greedy cabal of masters and serfs hankering for power, privilege and domination behind the smokescreen of democracy and human rights do not like anyone to change the script that promises a good ending for them and their children. Their problem with the independent judiciary is that it was never meant to have a major role in the script. The well-entrenched forces of status quo, including the US government, its brokers Musharraf and Zardari, the security establishment and the donor-driven progressives, have all tried to block the entry of this unpredictable factor in the power equation without success. They were further frustrated when after the restoration, the Supreme Court refused to become a co-star in this exploitative anti-people script.
These days, you can see some of them literally frothing at the mouth, descending into an incoherent onslaught against the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court based on hearsay, conjecture, conspiracy theories, distorted political theory and a selective reading of history. The good thing is that they have stopped making any sense whatsoever.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.