Pakistan

A splintering state (Part I) – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

One is reminded here of Aristotle: “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”

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What does it say about a state were a girl-child is abducted, brutally abused, raped and murdered? What does it say about a state when over last three years, over 700 cases were reported on child rapes and murders from a small town (Kasur) alone?

What does it say of a state when a case of pornography child scandal case burst upon the scene in 2015; is still pending with four accused granted bail on grounds of benefit of doubt in the same small town of Kasur?

What does it say of the state when the villagers tell Reuters that a prominent family there has for years forced children to perform sex acts on video? The footage was sold or used to blackmail their impoverished families. (The Dawn; Updated January 10, 2018)

What does it say of the state when over the abuse, rape and murder of Zainab police shoot straight at unarmed protestors at the DPO office? Two died, injuring five others. One reportedly died later. What does it say about the state when no one is apprehended for the crimes against the girl-child Zainab?

This clearly states that the system has completely splintered. It offers no protection to lives and property. It says law operates one way for the influential and not at all for the unprivileged.

We have reached this state of affairs progressively and with dedicated focus. Instead of being democratic in nature, Pakistan has turned ‘dynastocratic’ for all practical purposes. Whereas power is craved for, the accountability and responsibility that goes with it is shirked. Vested interests supersede national interests. The political parties over years have failed to represent the common people in the true spirit of democracy.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s former High Commissioner to the UK, quoted this term “dynastocracy’ by this scribe and written, “Yasmeen says that Pakistan instead of being democratic in nature has turned into ‘dynastocratic’ for all practical purposes. True. Indeed. Pakistan’s position today is both paradoxical and enigmatic. On paper it is democracy and we have an elected government in power but far from it.” (CRSS Blog: October 13, 2017)

There are two principles built-in within the very definition of democracy. These are equality and freedom. These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to power, and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution. This explanation raises many questions: Do our political parties within their cadre allow its workers equal access to power? Can a worker within a party structure have the opportunity to rise to the status of the Chairperson of that party in due course? Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we remain stuck in the groove of dynastic dynamics and have not progressed from this point.

From PPP to MQM, to PTI to PML N and all shades of parties in between, we see the mantle of leadership worn by the one who originated the party – much like a family heirloom passed on from one generation to the other. Is this the much touted democratic order? Where is the democracy WITHIN the party cadres themselves? Is heredity to determine who heads the party and merit to be ignored? When heredity becomes the corner stone of the political parties, this in turn inevitably leads to sycophancy and appointment by favoritism, not merit. There is no accountability within the party from those who purport to lead the party.

The second part of the definition deals with the right of Pakistani citizens protected by the Constitution. These rights are determined from Articles 8 to Article 28 in the Constitution.  Among them is Article 25 which  professes that all citizens are equal before law and have a right to equal protection of law; Article 14 deals with inviolability of dignity of man and subject to law, in the privacy of his home is inviolable, so on and so forth. However the violence against Zainab and many like her before her, the murder of Shahzeb Khan (to quote two recent examples only) are huge question marks for our system.

Many think “elections” is synonymous with “democracy”. One often hears that once the system is “allowed to continue” it will lead to a “better democracy”. Those advocating this thought process fail to appreciate that there are elections is a step only in the process of democracy. It is not democracy itself.

Democracy is a method of deciding who shall rule. It does not determine the morality of the resulting government. At best, democracy means that government has popular support. But popular support is no guarantee that government will protect your freedom.

How these ‘democratic leaders’ respect the law that they are first and foremost supposed to uphold is reflected in the unfolding saga of Panama Leaks. Nawaz Sharif, having been disqualified by the Supreme Court by a panel of five judges unanimously, in the words of  Justice Khosa who opened with reference to well-known novel of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”, stated “In the above mentioned sorry and unfortunate state of affairs a conclusion has appeared to me to be unavoidable and inescapable that in the matter of explaining the wealth and assets respondent No. 1 has not been honest to the nation, to the nation’s representatives in the National Assembly and even to this Court.”

Instead of accepting the decision of the apex court with grace, Nawaz Sharif went about to change the law that disallowed a disqualified person from heading a political party. He was successful in achieving this objective largely with the help of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and BNP-Mengal (with Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini). Triumphant, in denial of his loss of face internationally, Nawaz Sharif returns to head his party making a mockery of democratic norms.

A number of fiery speeches against the superior judiciary were delivered, he then challenged the July 28th Judgment of the top court. On numerous occasions Nawaz Sharif’s government has chosen a similar path of confrontation with the Army as well – Dawn Leaks is one example.

During the turbulent period of his government’s tenure, the issues that should have been addressed to improve governance and the lives of the common man have been sacrificed at the altar of politics revolving around the survival of the former First Family and the elite entourage.

The bug of dynastic politics erodes the very fabric of the democratic political landscape of Pakistan. The lack of focus towards priorities, appointments of the ‘blue-eyed’ rather than deciding the appointment on merit, corruption scandals and the following of weak policies internationally allow space to other institutions in the public arena in wake of the vacuum created. This may either be judiciary or the army.

One is reminded here of Aristotle: “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”

To be continued………………..

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. This article is like a blue print in which in the garb of democracy almost all political parties are playing a game of hide and seek with poor masses. Most unfortunate thing is system is not changed but some faces are changed in every successive
    election and they loot Pakistan lavishly with both hands. Main issue is how to change bad system of governance but politicians fight with each other than to change system. The points raised by author is a voice of every Pakistani so it
    must be given due importance and their implementation. There is a strong need to think over national level rather blaming
    others as a matter of routine. Let us forget all differences and make Pakistan a sovereign state in its true sense!! No begging but rely on our own resources.

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