“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”- Abraham Lincoln
This perversion has been on the high for the last three months which has displayed a very horrific picture of the value of the constitution in our society. 3rd April, 2022 was the last date for the speaker of the National Assembly to call a vote on the motion of no confidence submitted by the then opposition, but this did not happen. The deputy speaker gave an unconstitutional ruling, and what followed was a chain of unconstitutional acts.
Now we may consider what the former deputy speaker did unconstitutional, but many lawyers and law professors all over the country consider such moves constitutional. Even if the Supreme Court considers the former deputy speaker’s ruling unconstitutional, which it did, a considerable section of the country still does not care.
They see these acts as legitimate and think they were necessary to thwart a ‘foreign conspiracy’. Their argument is that when it comes to the defense of the country, any action can be taken, be it an unconstitutional one. They believe that the constitution is nothing more than a mere piece of paper that can be easily disregarded.
The idea of having a law and constitution in the first place is to provide a system and order through which institutions and different organs of the state can operate. It seems like a blind ultra-nationalist wind is slowly (but surely) intoxicating every other person it finds in the open. Those supporting these unconstitutional acts are quick to advocate for their rights and liberty, but they forget that it is the very constitution that secures these rights and prevents them from being coerced by ‘foreign powers’ or those who are ruling them at home.
Even children are not protected from these villainous ideas. Their schools and colleges have become a hotbed for such volatile notions to nurture, as they are forced to support a political party’s narratives to prove their patriotism. Then these same kids are being exposed to disinformation campaigns and fake news, which is not only widespread on social media but also on mainstream television channels. Under such circumstances, blatant constitutional violations should not surprise us.
Normally, countries that have been able to draft a constitution have usually done so after waging a war and bringing a revolution against their autocratic authorities/monarchies. The United States of America and France are two key examples. Their constitution-makers were envisaged as heroes, and the act of making the constitution was considered an act of glory. However, in Pakistan, the first two constitutions did not survive for long, and the promulgation of the third constitution did not follow a victory or a successful revolution, but rather a setback in the 1971 war.
The people involved in drafting our constitution were either executed or have been stamped as traitors. This perception about the framers of the constitution has been floating around in our society ever since and has severely damaged the legitimacy of the constitution. A large section of the population does not view the act of constitution-making as a moment of victory or splendour, but as a document that was drafted by ‘traitors’ to meet their political purposes.
Then after its promulgation, there has been no whole-hearted attempt by the political parties to connect with the people based on the constitution (except when they are not rejoicing in the pleasures of Islamabad), which has left the constitution as a plant without any roots. Rather than teaching tainted Pakistan Studies books in schools and colleges, details of the constitution and its importance should be taught in schools. Starting from the preamble and the basic structure in primary schools to more advanced parts in Secondary and High Schools.
It is high time that the political parties also realise that the only way forward is the path constructed by the constitution. They should take the lead by withdrawing their support from any unconstitutional idea(s) or approach(es). This will set an example for the rest to follow and will gradually enlighten the masses about the value and worth of this document.
The job is not an easy one and it may take years, but if we are somehow able to achieve this, there will be no flagrant constitutional violations. If someone still finds a way to dump its provision, they will not be seen as liberators or heroes but as traitors. There will be no need for legal experts to sit on primetime shows and explain how the constitution has been murdered. The people will find their own way.