Filed Under MEDIA COMMENTARIES
The writer is a lawyer and a social activist.
The success of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate, Abdul Qadir Gilani, in the by-election of NA-151 Multan, for the vacant seat of his father and the former prime minister (PM) Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani is seen in two ways. The PPP hails it as a great success and the people’s court’s verdict against the apex court and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s verdict about former PM Gilani’s ineligibility. Some opposition parties term this a victory through rigging. This mistrust- and allegations-ridden atmosphere in Pakistan has an old history and benefits only the undemocratic forces.
Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad put the first undemocratic move into practice. He dissolved the government of PM Khawaja Nizamuddin over charges of bad governance in 1953, and Justice Munir of the apex court validated that move under the name of the ‘law of necessity’. Since then the removal of elected governments has been an exercise of dictators.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a ray of hope for the disappointed masses of Pakistan. He established the PPP on November 30, 1967. The first free and fair parliamentary elections in the country were held in 1970. This party’s slogan of the provision of ‘food, clothing and shelter’ to everybody and purging this country of dictators endeared Bhutto to the disappointed and deprived youth of the country. The increasing popularity of Bhutto first ousted Ayub Khan then Yahya Khan from the corridors of power. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s move of nationalisation of all private schools, colleges, universities, banks, insurance and most industry, and distribution of lands among landless poor peasants provided an opportunity to the opponents of democracy to exploit Bhutto’s action. Apparently, Bhutto’s move was to make Pakistan like Japan and South Korea where such initiatives had been taken in the past and produced positive results by curbing feudalism and taking them onto the trajectory of success.
Bhutto’s opponents forced him to think of early elections, and thus he held elections one year prior to the completion of the tenure of the elected parliament. The results of this election were apparently overwhelmingly in Bhutto’s favour, but the election fell foul of allegations of massive rigging. Bhutto was executed on an alleged murder charge in 1979. That was done with the misconception of burying democracy with Bhutto. The move of General Ziaul Haq was undemocratic and unacceptable, and hence received much world condemnation. However, there was not much reaction from any other political party in Pakistan.
The conspiracies against democracy have so far been successful due to disunity and mudslinging among the political parties, the support of the judiciary to such moves in the past, and at times, immature behaviour of the ruling party. In the given scenario, the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lost two governments each, but the former has been a bigger victim of such moves, having lost two of its great leaders. While the latter has been a victim as well, it has also, directly or indirectly, created impediments for the democratic set-ups, as the PML-N’s actions against the current democratic PPP government show. The PML-N did not learn any lessons from the past; thus it soon parted ways after the 2008 elections with its coalition partner, the PPP, and knocked on the doors of the apex court of Pakistan challenging different PPP party leaders and its decisions. That invariably increased unrest in the country, multiplied problems and paved the way for potential moves by the undemocratic forces.
The sacrifice of the world famous leader and chairperson of the PPP, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, for democracy and the country in 2007 strengthened the PPP, and hence it came into power after over eight years’ government of the general-cum-president, Pervez Musharraf. This was the time when all political parties of the country had to welcome the PPP and play their role in addressing the socio-economic, law and order, poverty, corruption and energy crisis issues. It was time to join hands with the PPP to bring many constitutional amendments to curb the entry of army dictators into politics and their favourite practice of dissolving democratically elected governments, but that happened only partially.
In Pakistan, the role of opposition parties in the past has been to create impediments for the democratic set-up with the apparent intention of getting a chance to rule through an undemocratic intervention. This merely reduces the delivery capability of the government and paves the way for army generals to take over.
It is a fact that the PPP has failed on many counts such as curbing of corruption, improving the law and order situation and ending the energy crisis, but, nonetheless, it has at the same time a long list of successful endeavours too. However, some sections of the media and opposition parties seem to be absolutely biased against the PPP, thus exposing only its failures. The success list includes: three constitutional amendments, the Balochistan Package, consensus on the NFC, fight against terrorism, creation of the new province Gilgit-Baltistan, provision of jobs to thousands and enabling tens of hundreds of youth for jobs through stipends and training of the BBYDP. For an uninterrupted flow of democracy, it is necessary that opposition parties and media highlight both the failures and successes of the ruling party, whatever party’s government it may be.
Surprisingly, the opposition has also not spared the victory of Abdul Qadir Gilani and they have labelled it a success through rigging. One is unable to understand how the opposition alleges rigging in the presence of the monitoring of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
It is time all opposition and ruling parties and the apex court learn that it is the unity and consensus of all parties and the judiciary that can stop future army takeovers and lead Pakistan towards economic progress and an improved image in the world. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\27\story_27-7-2012_pg3_5