“The devil loves nothing better than the intolerance of reformers.”
Collective wisdom demands that one must learn from past mistakes, but Pakistani politicians refuse to do so. When the PPP government came into power after the 2008 elections, it had the opportunity to steer Pakistan out of its multiple crisis. Keeping this in view, the government and the opposition joined hands in a coalition set-up, providing some relief to the people. But as things unfolded, both parties overlooked the Charter of Democracy signed by them and fell apart, creating despondency and confusion amongst the masses.
Mian Nawaz Sharif, however, showed political sagacity when he refused to toe the line of the hawks in his party, who advocated outright confrontation with the government in Islamabad. It seems that these stalwarts preach that the PML-N thrives in confrontation. The policy adopted by Nawaz Sharif was criticised by the detractors of PML-N, who accused its Chief of being a ‘friendly opposition’, rather than playing the role of a ‘viable and vibrant opposition’.
At the same time, the PPP-led government displayed political maturity when it made developmental funds available for its political opponents allowing them to function. It also accomplished some landmark achievements such as reaching consensus on the issue of National Finance Commission, or NFC, and passing of the 18th, 19th and 20th Amendments laying the groundwork to strengthen democracy. However, with the elections now less than one year away, politics has returned to the old ways where difference of opinion and personal animosity are borderline cases. The mudslinging between the PPP and PML-N belies the understanding that the politicians have finally matured in Pakistan.
The shouting matches between the leaders of the two mainstream parties started after the Supreme Court verdict, which adjudicated that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is guilty of contempt of court because he disobeyed the order to write a letter to the Swiss authorities in a case related to the NRO. While the right of appeal is available to the government and a decision that may or may not be overturned by the court, the opposition parties have gone for the jugular of PPP.
In essence, they have jumped the gun. In response, several PPP ministers have come out in the open and levelled extremely serious charges against PML-N’s top leadership. This debate was, it seems, initiated by the Opposition Leader of National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who declared: “The Prime Minister will not be allowed to enter the Assembly hall.” According to him, Mr Gilani was disqualified after the court verdict.
In the meantime, the government came out with its own version declaring that it was the prerogative of the Speaker National Assembly and the Election Commission of Pakistan to declare whether an MNA is disqualified or not. Anyway, it would have been better, if the opposition had waited for the outcome of the appeal that the government intends to file before the Supreme Court to review the decision of Mr Gilani’s case. Therefore, the premature reaction by it has ignited a chain reaction ringing alarm bells about the country’s security. The politicians must remember that if they continue with this attitude, the time may not be far when there is an early demise of democracy that would add to the problems already being faced by the country. Therefore, the country’s political leadership must play a positive role to save the system before it is too late!
Charge sheets are being distributed by the PPP and PML-N leaders against one another to the satisfaction of those who do not want the people’s will to prevail. It will be a pity, if conditions deteriorate to an extent where the country falls a prey to yet another military intervention. Some may think that this is a farfetched proposition, but history reveals that military dictators have intervened on much lesser issues than those that confront Pakistan today.
One hopes that sanity will prevail and the government and the opposition, as well as other state organs, will not only strictly follow the Constitution of Pakistan, but also ensure that they do not encroach upon the others’ jurisdiction. At present, it seems that some state organs are not strictly following the Constitution. And there is an effort by design to acquire the powers of other institutions that are not within their constitutional domain.
As far as the political leadership is concerned, it must remember that the major responsibility for the country’s progress and prosperity rests on its shoulders. It is advisable for the political leaders to refrain from mudslinging that will do no good to this country. Instead it will complicate an already fragile situation, ruin the economy and create conditions where political parties may become irrelevant in Pakistan. So, it is the duty of the top leaders of all political parties to stop their members from indulging in activities that are deterimental to the country’s vital national interests.
To achieve this purpose, it is the government’s duty to invite the opposition parties to sit together and draw a plan where a political code of conduct is agreed upon and then enforced, which will lead to a peaceful transition from one democratically-elected government to the other without much hassle. Otherwise, political parties and their leadership will be the first ones to bear the brunt in case democracy is booted out of the country once again!
n The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.