Pakistan’s democracy – apparently takes a step forward after Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, a veteran politician and loyal to ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as the nineteenth premier of the country but dark clouds of uncertainty and chaos still hovering around, as country’s parliamentary system is constantly under threat from hidden forces in and outside the boundaries.
Though current set-up of ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) will considerably complete their constitutional term of five years the party has not fully absorbed the jolt after country’s Supreme Court verdict about their leader’s disqualification, accordingly, the review petition filed and equally accepted by the apex court.
Nawaz Sharif was third-time democratically elected prime minister of the country, but first the presidential constitutional sword of [article] 58(2)b, then sword itself and now double edged sword beheaded the head of government and same happened with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader, late Benazir Bhutto during 90’s and afterwards.
It’s not entirely a coincidence that Nawaz Sharif [PML-N] was all right, when he was in political rivalry with late Benazir Bhutto [PPP] but became evil when enters in agreement to save parliamentary democracy from aggressors. In reality, after back-to-back soft coups against both [Nawaz and Benazir late] and unfortunately with involvement of both, The final military coup of 1999, set [ostensibly] the last example, not only for Nawaz Sharif but also for late Benazir Bhutto to join hands to strengthen democratic parliamentary system and block the way of military interventions.
Charter of Democracy (CoD) and then?
Pakistan was historically under the international radar and when-ever started progressing, something happens that hamper its social, political and economic growth. History suggests that every internal change or crisis has links abroad but in association with actors at home.
In a country, where three military dictators engulfed half of the nation’s entire life and judiciary, as an imperative pillar of the state, has never paid heed to the military coup’s rather taken oath under un-constitutional measures like provisional constitutional orders (pco’s), validated the dictators, endorsed them and only punished politicians under a notorious notion of “Nazriaa Zaroorat” (Ideology of necessity).
It was on May 14th, 2006 – when the charter of democracy (CoD) signed between both main stream political parties PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a document for political co-existence, flourishing democratic norms, strengthening parliamentary system, rule of law, civilian supremacy and end military interventions in a country. CoD was for the end of mockery of constitution, marginalization of civil society, growing poverty, unemployment and inequality, vilification campaign against the representatives of the people, in particular, and the civilians in general, the victimization of the political leaders/workers and their media trials under draconian laws in the name of accountability, in order to divide and eliminate the leader/representative political parties.
Both political leaders were in exile and self-exile but at that time intend to an economically sustainable, socially progressive, politically democratic and pluralist, federally cooperative, ideologically tolerant, internationally respectable and regionally peaceful Pakistan.
This was the high time, when country was ruled by the third military dictator General (retired) Pervez Musharraf and soon after CoD, a political struggle started against dictatorial regime and got more pace, initially, due to judicial turmoil by removing then chief justice Iftekhar Muhammad Chaudhary and afterwards because of imposing 3rd November 2007, emergency.
Meanwhile, this CoD factor was a lynch-pin for many in and outside the country. Many quarters have shown concerns that both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto (late) were under constant threat of life because the division of political parties and elimination of political leaders/representatives were on the cards.
After CoD and a political struggle, both democracy and judiciary revived, things apparently were getting better – but at the cost of the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto (late) in mysterious circumstances, and perceived threats after CoD became truth. After achieving the first milestone – elections held, PPP’s government came into power but beside corruption allegations, again different controversies were ignited like memo-gate and yes, never moved an inch regarding the murder investigations of their own leader, amazing and really surprising.
It was after Osama Bin Laden (OBL) episode in Abbottabad that former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, vowed to investigate the matter the how OBL managed to live in Pakistan, for six long years.
According to BBC on 22 December 2011, in a speech at National Arts Gallery, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, said “There can be no state within a state [a symbolic statement towards real power center]”, and “Conspirators are plotting to bring down [pack-up] Pakistan’s civilian government”.
What an interesting account that after May 2nd, 2011 – US OBL Abbottabad Operation, former PM Gillani’s criticism and then the emergence of November 2011 – Memogate Scandal and finally in the very next year, on June 19th, 2012 ex-Prime Minister disposed-off. These all were might be the isolated events but have strong connections with each other. Mr. Gillani was also sent packing from apex court in contempt of court proceedings for not writing a letter to the Swiss government to reopen latent alleged fraud investigations against [that time] President Asif Ali Zardari. It’s another interesting fact that the case, in which, many others set free after submission of unconditional apology into the court.
It was a very difficult time for PPP, first because of their own alleged acts of nepotism, corruption, misconduct, using political influence in purely state’s matter and then real power center’s undue interference in political process but after the sacrifice of one prime minister, PPP government managed to get their five year’s term completed [apparently same like current PML-N tenure].
As a result of 2013 elections, Nawaz Sharif assumed third-time premiership and started driving the country through extremely difficult circumstances. The PML-N leader has made some blunders during his tenure but the combination of external and internal factors lead him to a point, where, he got deprived of being a head of country’s democratic government. It’s unfortunate that PML-N government’s head was kicked-off but, it’s another fact that despite court continuous relaxation for providing credible evidence of their innocence, Sharif family has never provided anything in their own favour, what was the reason behind, whether they intend to become political martyr or in reality they don’t have anything? But, the debate that Nawaz Sharif was outwardly disqualified but in reality removed or ousted in very suspicious circumstances; was somewhat true in a sense that several other prime ministers had faced the same fate including former and the first-ever female premier Benazir Bhutto late.
Once, late Benazir categorically said, “Corrupt people make such charges against elected leaders to defame parliament and to defame politicians.” She further elaborated that, “I wanted to know, I have presented an accountability bill, the president didn’t like my accountability bill because I said everybody must be tried. Yes, she literally means everybody and further added, “[Everybody means] the president, the bureaucrats, the judges, the businessmen, the private citizens, he said [president replied] how can you tried judges, I [Benazir late] said, why? – A prime minister can only be removed by the vote of no confidence [with majority] if two judges can remove a prime minister, why can others not remove. I [Benazir late] said, if you [president] don’t like the bill, I’m prepared to change it, I’ll give-up my personal immunity but [then she categorically responded] I will not give-up the immunity of future prime ministers, because prime ministers cannot be held hostage by traps time and again”.
At that time, Nawaz Sharif was in main stream politics but playing in the power corridors without thinking that what Benazir Bhutto was referring to, was a reality and that he would face the music afterward, but he lost the opportunity.
What’s next in Pakistan?
It’s not much difficult to understand that after Nawaz Sharif’s ouster, many projects within CPEC including power sector, infrastructure, industrial and others will suffer a setback in the long-term perspective. Though after road show, Nawaz Sharif announced a campaign against court’s decision and situation might create political turmoil but many have opinion that his party [PML-N] under severe pressure, fissure is emerging and many senior leaders are against Nawaz Sharif’s hard stance and not on the same page, so Sharif’s campaign will not make much difference.
Next general elections 2018 are at door step and apparently, all developments lead to the same, even the by-elections in NA-120 Lahore III would also be a litmus test for ruling PML-N and PTI because the influential authorities are taking it much vital and experts are of the view that NA-120 will decide next course of 2018 action. Political wizards draw a red-line that PML-N ranks experiencing major dent in the party after Nawaz Sharif especially among senior leadership, final results of NA-120 will also create some difference while some other political parties will see some unforeseen changes within their ranks as well.
It’s an ultimate try to fragment PML-N, add some winning horses in PTI, PML-Q, All Pakistan Muslim League [APML – a former dictator converted politician Gen. (r) Pervez Musharraf’s party]. This will ultimately flourish mostly PTI, PPP is also trying to do the same but on its own, Punjab’s ground will be the ultimate battle field.
In Sindh, another type of same old formula is in making, earlier PPP’s majority was deliberately compromised by erecting some new parties like Muttahidha Qaumi Movement (MQM), then it was splintered with minus-one. And, now again a plan to unite all factions Pak-Sarzameen-Party (PSP), MQM (Haqiqi), MQM (Pakistan) and others from MQM (London), to either have political alliance among them or merge them all, with new leadership and an ideal candidate for leadership [of United alliance or merger], possibly under consideration is Gen. (r) Pervez Musharraf, who holds his own APML.
Power corridors are trying their level best to revive Muthahidha Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which ultimately give tough time to PTI and its alliance, while Awami National Party (ANP) will only find their grounds with PPP or might be PML-N. Balochistan is also experiencing turmoil because of security situation and political uncertainty, the mix response is expected from the province with some share for PPP, PML-N, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (Pk-MAP), Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman’s Jamat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and National Awami Party (NAP) while Jamhuri Watan Party (JWP) and other hardline nationalists still looks in isolation.
It’s a general observation that next 2018, elections would be in an environment of political chaos and most probably to achieve the goals, independents will have more weightage as they have first emerged victorious in large number in 2013.
Democracy; the only way out?
Though many are concerned with the current political situation and rumors of Presidential with technocrat form of government are on but it’s a bitter fact that threats to democracy and political uncertainty go side by side in Pakistan. It’s more ill-fated than fodder to derail democracy was always available within political ranks with strings in the hands of masters in and outside the country. This has constantly maintained chaos, anarchy and then take over like situation, where a rule and the ruler look justified for the people at large.
Today, in order to strengthen democracy, first of all, constitution, parliament, and constitutional bodies must have to be strengthened. Stern and across the board reforms are needed, political parties must conduct free and fair intra-party elections. There should be the public access to the party budgets and account books, stern laws to demoralize corrupts with a lifetime ban and black listed from holding any public office in future. Discouraging dynastic/monarchic politics or one man show, across the board electoral reforms, fully empowered, free-fair and totally independent election commission is required, stop interference of so-called establishment into the main stream politics as the right to rule is only limited to the people at large and not with some public servants.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Faisal Raza Khan, a senior journalist, famous for his research based innovative work, while Foreign policy, defence, strategic issues and climate change are his main areas of interest.