We have a new Prime Minister elected with a tally of 211 votes as against 89 for the PML-N candidate. The transition is from someone who became tainted during his term of office to someone who is already tainted. Neither is a beacon of hope, nor of inspiration. Those in power are rejoicing, others are waiting for their turn. The minority among the hapless public that can think is wondering if there is a deeper hole for us to sink. The majority of the public that is poverty-stricken, and have no education or basic amenities, don’t really care, as they have enough to worry about where their next meal will come from.
The PPP is the largest political party in the coalition government. It has no internal dissent, whereby its Co-Chairman retains absolute discretion for award or punishment to whosoever he may choose. He had no dearth of other members equally loyal to him and perfectly eligible to get into the shoes of Yousuf Raza Gilani. Why then, the President didn’t let Mr Gilani go gracefully and why wasn’t a more acceptable replacement selected on merit and past performance? Why was the parliamentary majority pitched in direct confrontation with the Supreme Court? Can the majority in a democracy justify their existence and their rule without restraints of law? Why did the government not concentrate on the badly needed governance and went on to defy the judiciary? Do all the component parties in the coalition favour a lawless land and consider the Supreme Court a redundant body to be dictated by elected people gone astray in their quest to retain power?
The answer to these riddles is the Swiss courts, power at any cost and unquestionable loyalty. Prime Minister Gilani served his master admirably by refusing to comply with the Supreme Court order to write a letter to the Swiss that would have reopened the money laundering cases against the President and several others. Even the conviction on the contempt of court did not deter him. He continued to buy time under one pretext or the other, until a three-member Supreme Court bench disqualified him to be a member of Parliament, which is a prerequisite to be elected as Prime Minister. Only time will tell as to how many more Prime Ministers will be sacrificed before such a letter is eventually dispatched by someone or the other? Or will the judiciary lose patience and be forced to take some action that will further damage the credibility of Parliament and those gracing it? The losers can only be democracy and the people.
The PPP was founded on a platform to bring revolutionary changes in the lives of the downtrodden. The common man remains beholden to this concept and will return this party, in all probability, in the next elections. The poor still continue to wait for the basic amenities promised to them, while the party seems to have deviated from these fundamentals that have found a place on the backburner. It exists on a thin edge always courting martyrdom and somehow manages to be on the wrong side of the law and the establishment with disastrous consequences, and then use it to gain sympathies amid slogans of anti-PPP conspiracies. Its workers take pride in being free sprits where the only rule is the allegiance to its leader and the law be damned if it comes in their way!
The divide between the rulers and the ruled has never been so glaring, as it is today. The brains of half a dozen of the mainstream political parties put together have not been able to set a direction for progress in any field or to elevate the downtrodden to a reasonable level of subsistence. We are in financial ruin domestically and totally isolated in the world community internationally. Financial and moral corruption is rampant and has reached new heights in all walks of life.
Most in authority appear insincere to their responsibilities and indifferent to resolving the daily problems the public is facing. The police have failed to maintain law and order or provide protection to its citizens. Kidnapping for ransom, dacoities, murders and family feuds out of frustration from joblessness, rising cost of living or energy crisis have replaced suicide attacks of the recent past on the sensation loving media. Speedy and fair justice to the average citizen remains a pipedream, as the lower judiciary still follows the century old systems and practices. The army is bogged down in the tribal areas and its affiliated bodies are sources of mega financial scandals.
Under these chaotic environment and failure of the politicians to deliver, people see the present institution of higher judiciary as the solitary institution that is going by the book and is the only ray of hope shining within dark clouds. Its judges are indeed human, but possess impeccable credentials. It may not be infallible, but it has pursued cases of human rights violation and corruption in high places with an upright, strong and uncompromising conviction. It has struggled against adverse odds to curb a free fall and assert the supremacy of law that ironically has not gained favour with the executive.
Among this despair there is hope. The coalition government accepted the Supreme Court verdict, though grudgingly. All political parties participated in the elections of the Prime Minister despite serious differences. There may be vocal criticism, public rallies and blame game, but the democratic process continues. It is unfair to lump the entire blame of our woes on the ruling parties. It is the people of Pakistan who put them there and they must share their portion of responsibility.
n The writer is an engineer and entrepreneur.