Ignoble precedents

Pakistan continues to totter on the verge of implosion. At this point in time, its society is totally polarized, bewildered and shell-shocked. Political history seems to be repeating itself, ad nauseum. Pakistan remains politically destabilized; a contentious media war threatens to deepen the political divide further; its economy has tanked, default looms portentously; IMF refuses to play ball; law enforcement is selective and ruthless; and there is a visible, rampant disregard of political, constitutional, legal, judicial, moral and ethical norms in the pursuit of politically advantageous positions. An unrelenting brain drain continues. Pakistan’s main national institutions too seem, willy-nilly, sucked into this baffling vortex of compulsive political power struggles amidst widespread, rising public dismay and embitterment.
Unwanted, unsavoury precedents are being set by our polity.
The mobs crossed a national threshold on 09 May 23 when they started attacking national-military installations, monuments and buildings in their misguided political frenzy. The party leadership should have exercised stronger, more assertive command and control over its cadres. This is unacceptable and unforgivable. The guilty must be brought to justice forthwith and the necessary deterrence created for the future. Not only those who desecrated these national monuments but also those who spewed forth vitriolic harangues and diatribes against the Armed Forces and their leadership must also be taken to task, under the law. The confounding lack of response by the local and provincial governments (LEAs, fire brigades, ambulances etc) to predict, forestall, intervene and stop this mayhem must also be investigated. A wholesome inquiry is thus inevitable and must, of necessity, apportion blame equitably. Justice must be complete, all-encompassing.
The dismantling and deconstruction of ostensibly the largest political party of Pakistan perseveres. The mass exodus of all political carpetbaggers from its ranks, voluntary or otherwise, continues unabated. As is their wont and character, they are abandoning ship at the first signs of trouble, unabashedly, without care for moral or ethical values - till the next time! It appears to be a fascinating, cascading domino effect. The ruling coalition seems primed to move in for the kill. Pakistan’s political history is yet again in its perennial cyclic-repeat mode. The turncoats seem to be flocking towards the ostensible “new pretender to the throne”- who ominously might not necessarily be part of the current ruling coalition! Sanitizing the political spectrum of “undesirable elements” will further polarize the body politic, leave a yawning void in it, and potentially disenfranchise a very large part of the population. It might even lead to further polarization and radicalization of the disenchanted youth. Political pygmies aspiring to hijack this party will fall short at the national level. Strategic foresight, prudence, balance and reconciliation need to be the order of the day.
Elections for the Punjab and KP governments have not been held even after the passage of the mandated 90 days limit. This is a contemptuous disregard of the Constitution, its articles, authority and sanctity. The main reasons given are the lack of funds, the deteriorating security environment, the terrorist threat, the need to have all elections on one day etc. All appear frivolous as funds and LEAs have been made available to deal with the given law-and-order situation. The precedent, if allowed to be established unchallenged, can potentially create serious issues for Pakistan. Any future government may then turn around and give the same or similar rationale/reasons for either postponing the elections or not holding them at all. As a matter of fact, these or similar excuses could come into play very soon, in the October-November 2023 time period for General Elections! This will lead to political mayhem, will upend the entire political process and defile and debase the Constitution. It will evoke a response from the nation. The SCP, in what could be a defining moment for the rule of law in this country, thus has an onerous task and responsibility at hand!
A new precedent seems to be taking ground in our political spectrum. Political parties are now trying to align themselves with one national institution while indirectly berating the other. In a perverse way, they tend to play one against the other. So, these institutions which could have positively influenced events to resolve this political imbroglio have been literally manoeuvred out of the equation. This is a most undesirable tendency and must come to a stop.
Seemingly, efforts have been made to bring the SCP/Judiciary, largely perceived as split, under some sort of scrutiny. Legislations have been passed to ostensibly streamline the procedures of the SCP and create some Parliamentary oversight of the CJP/Judiciary. Every such legislation must be according to the Constitution and of necessity must enhance the independence of the Judiciary even further. In blatant disregard of its imposed restrictions of Sec 144, Red Zone, the Ruling Coalition held an impudent rally at the gates of the SCP. The LEAs facilitated it. Its undisguised warnings (and threats) to the occupants of that august building did not go unnoticed by the people. Although it did not match the 1997 physical assault on the SCP by the then-ruling party, it is still establishing a precedent that this nation can do without. Any assault on the Judiciary, physical or verbal, must be outlawed and liable to severe punishments. The judiciary must retain its independence regardless of any/all considerations. The government of the day and people must ensure it.
More diabolic precedents are being created by re-arresting politicians, multiple times on trivial charges. Carrying out searches with or without warrants, and coercive and brutal treatment of the accused, their kith and kin especially women, at home, in police stations and jails is standard and is being maintained. The media has yet to cover itself in glory in these trying times.
Pakistanis are a very resilient lot. They have always arisen Phoenix-like from massive natural and man-made disasters. The current imbroglio is no different and will be overcome. We need dedicated, selfless leadership. Free and fair elections, as per the Constitution, are the only legitimate way out of this conundrum. Let the people decide. Period.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at im.k846@gmail.com and tweets @K846Im.

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