In any parliamentary form of government, political parties and leaders demonstrate flexibility — they strike deals and make compromises to prioritize policymaking.
The system of parliamentary democracy encourages diversity. Every parliamentarian has equal vote and say. The prime minister is a member of the lower house. In case of Pakistan, members of the lower house (National Assembly) represent diverse constituencies — Urdu-Speaking, Sindhis, Punjabis, Baloch and Pashtuns and more. In some constituencies Shias are a predominant majority, while in others Sunnis. A parliamentary democracy is supposed to accommodate all of this variety.
It is precisely for this reason that those in control of the system must adopt a flexible approach to politics.
Pakistani political classes do not have any institutional memory. Their political processes are devoid of rules of the game to resolve conflicts that may arise in any political system from time to time. And because they don’t know how to peacefully resolve their differences, they often seek the arbitration of non-representative institutions within the system. Nothing demonstrates their shortsightedness more than the fact that when one of the non-representative institutions decides in their favour, their celebrations are boundless. They think the victory — a court decision to be precise — guarantees their dominance forever. Soon after such a decision or ‘soft intervention’, the losing sides start accusing the non-representative institutions of partisan behaviour.
Undoubtedly, in such a situation, the winner is the non-representative institution. It gains more turf in the political arena. What could be more satisfying for a non-representative judge or a general to have a final say in the making or breaking of governments. They become the ultimate wielders of state power and begin to influence the public imagination.
In the absence of any rules of the game, which are framed or formulated independent of these non-representative institutions and which are agreed upon among the political players, the Pakistani political system is extremely vulnerable to the machinations of non-representative institutions. The lesson of our history is that the military has staged a coup against the representative governments (of one or the other type) four times, and each time the judiciary has endorsed the military takeover.
The lesson of our history is that the military has staged a coup against the representative governments four times, and each time the judiciary has endorsed the military takeover.
Pakistani society is once again highly fractured on the political level. Hypothetically speaking, a breakdown or an intervention could attract the support of one segment of the public opinion if it is directed against the other. In such a situation members of non-representative institutions advertising their role and political piety in the demise of one government or the other is a bad omen for the system as a whole.
The time is running out for the political class. They are standing on the edge of an abyss and they have reached this point on their own. The ground they have so far conceded to non-representative institutions has taken the initiative away from them. What’s the point of coming to power when the non-representative institutions could send you home with one stroke of the pen?
The political class should realize that they need to reach an understanding on rules of the game — based on two principles, a) constitution is adhered to in letter and spirit, b) the political forces will not turn to non-representative institutions in case of a conflict between them. Their political differences should be resolved through negotiations, compromises and give and take deals. For this to happen political forces should re-establish their credibility in the system and stop putting their inaptness on display before the whole world. It is better to lose an election or court case than to look like clownish supplicant before every manipulative state institution.