Lt.Gen(R) Askari Malik
Democracy is the only system of government that progressively promotes justice. If practised long enough it ultimately holds the promise of a just, civilised and virtuous society. Stability and progress are its natural outcome. The pursuit of such lofty ideals demands perseverance and single-mindedness. In short, the answer to present bad democracy is “more democracy.”
What is amiss today in our society is the rule of law, justice and equality. That is the only cause of looming gloom and despondency. Justice connotes across-the-board accountability. Equality means availability of equal development opportunities, and human rights for all citizens of the state without any distinction of colour, caste, creed and social standing. Islam stood for justice and equality that formed the cornerstone of Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) governance. That is why people “entered the religion [Islam] by throngs.” (The Quran;100:2)
Contrary to the popular perception, Islam stands for democracy and democracy alone. It is a historical fact that all the four pious Caliphs had sons who were as worthy of the Caliphate as anyone else. Hazrat Omar (ra) had Abdullah bin Omar, a saint in his own right, and Hazrat Ali (kw) had Imam Hassan, called by the prophet as his own son, and yet their fathers did not nominate them as their descendants. When Hazrat Omar (ra) had gone to take possession of Jerusalem, he found the Muslim army overawed by the pomp and show of the kings and nobles of the Byzantine Empire. He is known to have categorically condemned “their imperial ways” and insisted on his own traditional simplicity. By historical evidence, Islam is anti-dynastic politics and completely rejects imperialism, which is antithesis of justice and equality.
Emerging democracies need time to evolve. Even in India where democracy had an uninterrupted run and full opportunity to develop, the situation is far from being ideal as compared to the established western democracies. The people of the subcontinent had become used to being ruled by kings, rajas and nawabs, and dynastic politics seems to suit their mistaken genetic yearning. Indians appear to be slowly getting rid of the syndrome while it might take some more time for Pakistanis to attain that kind of political maturity. Dynastic politics cuts across the tradition of the Pious.
Politicians all over the world join the profession with the ambition to rule. It is considered to be and conceded as their legitimate right. One is sick and tired of Pervez Rashid, our information minister, who keeps constantly grilling Imran Khan for his ambition to become the prime minister of Pakistan. It is a ridiculous argument, and he must look for some sensible reasons to rag his political opponents.
Corruption and power go cheek by jowl. The men in power in the established democracies are no saints. It is the system of accountability that raises the stakes for them and makes the price tag look formidable. Politicians in emerging democracies are as corrupt as they can afford under the given environment of accountability. In Pakistan, to borrow a rather politically incorrect phrase from Ian Flemings, looking for an honest politician is like “looking for a virgin in a maternity home.” As an independent system of accountability takes roots, and courts learn to shoulder their responsibility towards the nation, corruption from not only politics but also the entire machinery of government will be ultimately rendered insignificant.
Before the failure of the military coup in Turkey, we saw banners in Islamabad and other cities inviting the army chief to take over. That could be dismissed as a one-man show. The entire social media was abuzz with expectations and arguments in favour of a military takeover. That is our familiar shortcut because of perpetual frustration with incorrigible politicians. If the military were to take over once again, and even if General Raheel Sharif were to remain honest in his purpose that the previous dictators forgot in the luxuries and glamour of power, he would be only giving a strong steroid shot in the arm to the patient. Steroids are a deadly prescription. If continued the patient develops immunity to them. If withdrawn the patient is left worse off. Any military intervention can do no more than administer a steroids shot to the ailing system.
That brings us to the role of the judiciary. In Maulvi Tamizuddin’s case, Justice Munir allowed an executive to dismiss the government of an elected prime minister, “a landmark judgement that altered the course of politics in Pakistan forever and sealed the fate of democracy.” Justice A R Cornelius was the only dissenting voice in the case. After that we saw a series of Supreme Court decisions that would shame any judge with a conscience. That saga is hopefully history now. Today the judiciary is free and respected. The Chief Justice appears to be an honest person, and it is hoped he would dispense his duties without any fear or discrimination.
The country is in the midst of a serious political row. Still it is worth little as no democratic effort is likely to unseat a prime minister with an absolute majority in parliament, and an opposition with rather easy virtues. On the other hand, it does not behoove a Chief Justice to be complaining of a corrupt police system when he has the power to alter any and everything he wishes to in the national interest. He can sponsor police reforms on his own, and then compel the government to carry out necessary legislation to give freedom to an important instrument of the system of justice. Justice, that is his sole responsibility.
The Chief Justice can alter government ToRs on his own, or order investigations in a manner that would lead to an equitable solution to the Panama leaks dilemma. He could muster the support of any other institution including media to spur the diffident politicians into action. He has to once decide to take up the gauntlet, and he would have written a new chapter in the history of judiciary in Pakistan, much more consequential than Justice Munir’s judgment.
He is the only one who can shepherd the system and lend the much-needed impetus to it without derailing it. He must act, and he must act now.