The current legal crisis in Pakistan is indicative of so many foundational problems we have as a nation. We have the entire Supreme Court of Pakistan hostage to one case on the docket that concerns when to hold elections. More troubling is that the entire Supreme Court is also in effect one unelected man deciding the fate of 220 million citizens – without even a semblance of a debate with his 15 colleagues.
We call ourselves a democracy. In a society and polity which disregards rules, laws and therefore, lacks any semblance of justice, for the average citizen, this should be par for the course. The crisis is that is now becoming too transparent, too in your face, and with malice.
Recent shenanigans in our highest court have shown how deep the divides run in Pakistan. These differences of opinion could be seen as a healthy diverse understanding of our laws, principles enshrined in the Constitution, but the rigidity shown by not allowing differing opinions to be heard or considered has cracked open this festering resentment.
Nevertheless, the honorable Justices are privileged. They can show their dissent with little consequences. The average citizen does not have that power or privilege.
A recent judgement by two of our honorable Supreme Court justices thought it prudent to raise the matter of whether taking notice of the delays in the election date, was even maintainable, as an issue the Supreme Court should even entertain. There is enormous merit in this articulately presented position.
But it is equally important to recognize the intent of what we choose to dwell on, and when we want to dwell on a point of law, or a principle enshrined in the Constitution.
We have witnessed too many honorable Justices, selecting parts of the Constitution or procedures of their office as a justification of suspending the principles which make the foundations of our governing rules. What would be in the interest of the citizens of Pakistan? If this alone does not become the raison d’etre of a position taken, then how can it be maintainable?
A question of when to go for elections and legitimize the governing system of Pakistan cannot be an unmaintainable matter. Similarly, when the parliament and various bureaucratic support systems, refuse to act in aid of the welfare of the citizens, we have seen the overreach of institutions or individuals step in to ‘save the day. We are again faced with that kind of chatter.
An abdication of responsibilities by those responsible for such crisis management results in paralysis in governance which in turn opens spaces for power brokers to take control in the name of absence of governance. Unfortunately, we have repeatedly seen the consequences of such undemocratic regimes and periods in our history as even more disastrous.
Undemocratic forces must not interfere in the business of governance, they are not legally or morally mandated to, even if the arguments made focus on the welfare of the citizens and the country. But then how does Pakistan move forward. Are we to witness chaos and spiraling out of control stagnation? What happens to millions of people starving who require the government to function to live?
We have seen this moment creepingly grow over 75 years. How many laws and principles of justice have been violated, no one punished, mistakes never rectified; the cycle of complete injustice has become a permanent state of normal. We are in a state of chaos with no rudder navigating a deeply divided, non-literate, unskilled and above all an exhausted and starving nation.
Today, we have a crisis which has been boiling for 75 years. We are faced with a crisis where there is no trust in any of our governing institutions of the State, whether it is the army, Parliament, or the executive, nor a single individual in either of these power centers. Who has the trust of the people?
In the backdrop of this dangerous scenario, we continue to obsess over the single story consuming the national airwaves. One case on whether we will hold elections in October or not and whether the Chief Justice of Pakistan will enforce his decision through his tiny coterie of two justices. The fate of the nation in the hands of 3 men – unelected, and now deeply distrusted – has become the leitmotif of how the state of Pakistan has been governed these past 75 years.
All the criticism of the men in black aside, the bottom line is our elected members in Parliament are the real culprits of this mess. If we had representatives of the people in parliament with the people’s welfare at the core of their agenda, we would not be witnessing this mess.
The permanent powers in uniform have used Pakistan’s unelected governance machinery to selectively usher in these incompetent ‘elected’ representatives, who in turn have never seen the welfare of their constituents as the primary goal of holding elected office. The outcomes of this governance model is upon us. The original sin is upon us.
The future can only be bright when the disenfranchised citizenry of Pakistan begin to realize their fate is in their own hands. What that fate emerges is yet to be determined.
Thank you Nilofer for drawing attention to what should have mattered most for the poor people.
Here what we find is a basic inability of institutions and people (and their representatives) in Pakistan to play the democratic game to bring happiness and joy to both stakeholders.
Let me explain to the readers with a very simple model. Rock-Paper-Scissors is a playground hand game, usually played between two children, in which each simultaneously forms one of three shapes with an outstretched hand. These shapes are “rock” (a closed fist), “paper” (a flat hand), and “scissors” (a fist with the index finger and middle finger extended, forming a V). A simultaneous, zero-sum game, it has three possible outcomes: a draw, a win or a loss. A player who decides to play rock will beat another player who has chosen scissors (“rock crushes scissors” or “breaks scissors” or sometimes “blunts scissors”, but will lose to one who has played paper (“paper covers rock”); a play of paper will lose to a play of scissors (“scissors cuts paper”). If both players choose the same shape, the game is tied and is usually immediately replayed to break the tie.
It can lead to hours of fun, happiness and fair play for children. Rock paper scissors is often used as a fair choosing method between two people, similar to coin flipping, drawing straws, or throwing dice in order to settle a dispute or make an unbiased group decision.
Now try to imagine Rock for Pakistan and it’s Paper and scissors. Of course you guessed it right. Military is its Rock, Parliament is its Paper and Judiciary is the scissors.
Now imagine a bully enters the playground and to every move raises a fist with middle fingers and yells I win you lose. This disrupts the whole equilibrium and all joy and happiness leaves the playground. This has happened by military collusion with judiciary for last 75 years in this playground we call Pakistan.
There is another simile hidden here. Three stages of human development. The age of rock or stone followed by the age of Iron followed by modern era of enlightenment and constitutional democracy. If this game had been played with regards to its simple rules it would have moved us to the age of paper but we are stuck in Stone Age. We note that only way to develop is to believe in the laws of this simple game and happiness, welfare and FairPlay will be ours.
It’s known that 4 year old child takes average of six attempts to get the hang of it. Chimps can also learn and take average of 107 attempts. We have had five attempts at it and failed to grasp it. This is our institutions and representatives sixth attempt at it.
Waiting to assign a species name for ourselves on the basis of this social experiment.