Unofficial Secret “Act”

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Andleeb Abbas

Take a bet. Make a guess. Open the tarot cards. Read the palm. Study the stars. Many in Pakistan are trying all these avenues. The game is “Kon banega COAS” (Who will be the next COAS). There is such an overkill of this discourse that it is almost reached OCD levels (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The talk shows cannot have enough of it. The politicians are commenting nonstop. Social media is making trends and memes galore. Analysts are making Vlogs every other hour. Astrologists are giving their star predictions. The public is hanging on it as if the country’s future is dependent on it. And, maybe it is.
To be the centre of discussions is inevitable as in the last nine months, the unspoken role of the establishment has become full-time vocal and speakable, to say the least. It shows how fragile democracy in this country is. It shows how personalities dominate merit. It shows how systems are non-existent. This time around, the noisy way in which this position is being discussed is also due to the controversy surrounding the happenings of the post-March political events. If the society being consumed by this one topic may seem odd it is also an exit from the comfortably numb zone of “yes it is there but I dare not.” This event has laid bare how laws, constitution, systems, ethics and morality are just academic. This up-close and front revelation may not be stunning but is certainly discomfiting. This discomfiture needs to be amplified to set up a course correction in the following areas:
1. Sharif Brothers and Sons- The country is being run like a family “limited” company. The prime minister has a huge cabinet of 75 ministers. The prime minister has a coterie of advisors. The prime minister does not take decisions based on this plethora of advisors. The prime minister runs to London to get approval from the elder brother. The prime minister also cannot move against the wishes of his niece. He went to Egypt for a conference that was just for a day but later re-routed himself to London and stayed over there for five days ostensibly to discuss and get the nod on the name of the new COAS. In these cosy family meetings, the sons and the nephew were also there. This has not just happened of late but as early as the cabinet was formed. The economic policy decisions were taken to London where the policies proposed by the then finance minister Miftah Ismail were to be approved by Ishaq Dar the father-in-law of the prime minister’s niece. This family enterprise system is even more ridiculous as this government is a coalition of 13 parties. All the other parties are just having a party it seems. They are given posts, ministries, and perks and asked to agree with everything the man in the UK is asking for. The fact that the family members in the UK and in particular those who are sitting in these highly secret meetings discussing the highest postings in Pakistan are all fugitives wanted by the state of Pakistan seems to have no bearing on the terrible illegality and immorality of it.
2. Force in Forces- To prolong or not to prolong. That is the short-term game plan for the coming week or so. There is a tug-of-play between those who may be appointed and those who are going to appoint those who will be appointed. Why is it such a mystery? Why is it such an intrigue? Why is it the million-dollar question? Everything else like the economy tanking, the industry stalling, the governance floundering, and the law and order going out of control does not matter. This single-purpose focus is itself evidence of the lop-sided power balance in this game of thrones. The hush-hush secret of engineering regime change came out when instead of managing elections the establishment managed the parliament. The blatant horse and cattle trading of the MNAs and the obvious changing of partners by the establishment parties made the role so clear that hardly anybody dare say that it was anything else. This secret being open and obvious has forced many other under-the-table things to come out. For the first time, a sitting senator immediately came out and made public every private detail of custodial torture and family harassment. For the first time, names were made public. As it is the first time, the forces do not know how to deal with it. The can of worms is really pouring out.
3. Rule of law Vs rule of the ruler- Never has the rule of law been so exposed. Never have the people on top come out in the open to express that rules are just a stroke of a pen. The pen is the lawmakers’ weapon. The amendments made in NAB laws, Electoral laws and now being planned for the Army Act laws are a great example of how you can make laws for the powerful to become above law. The Official Secret Act of 1923 prohibits Pakistan’s matters to be disclosed to persons violating Pakistan’s constitutional and legal sanctity. Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz and Suleman Shahbaz are all state-declared absconders and wanted by the State of Pakistan on various crimes. To constantly refer to them, the state policies for consultation is a direct breach of the Official Secret Act 1923. This constant “approval seeking in classified Pakistan matters” from State declared absconders is also a violation of the Pakistan Penal Code 186 Section 172, 216 which includes aiding and abetting state-wanted accused rather than aiding and abetting the state to capture them for prosecution.
A prime minister’s oath includes the following promise “That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.” This is an oath but unfortunately, these are just words to many. They know that the value of the oath is much less than the value of the position and even lesser than their connection to the people in higher places. Our democracy is based on the UK Westminster democracy model. The UK democracy doesn’t have a constitution but works on ethical values and traditions. Three British Prime ministers had to go not because there was a legal or constitutional violation committed by them but because of the ethical and traditional values that guard the British parliament. In Pakistan, ethics is a far cry. Laws and constitution are bendable, moldable and ignorable when seats of power openly use and abuse the secrets of the country, positions and personalities for personal interests rather than national interests.