Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Real Issue in Pakistan

February 16, 2010
The Real Issue in Pakistan
By Saeed Qureshi

The real issue in Pakistan is whether this country should have a presidential or parliamentary form of government. Veritably, at present, it is a presidential form because the prime minister by all indications is rubber stamp and dependent upon the strings pulled from the presidency. With the president having absolute powers, the existing government is patently an extension of the system of government that was in vogue under General Pervez Musharraf. The so called draconian caveat called 58/2-B injected in the constitution of Pakistan by Pervez Musharraf as part of the 17th Amendment in 2004, with the help of certain poltical parties, empowered the president to dissolve the National Assembly.
The Seventeenth Amendment also validated all actions and proclamations of former president Musharraf from date of his assuming the office until the passing of the amendment. That made the head of state a virtual autocrat with sweeping powers over the prime minister and the national assembly.
The countrywide movement by the civil society in Pakistan spearheaded by the legal community and the impeachment move by the coalition government of PPP and PMNL resulted in the exit of Pervez Musharraf from the power citadel on August 18, 2008. The political forces that joined the lawyers’ movement aimed primarily at restoration of chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and other deposed senior judges publically vowed to dismantle the 58-2(B) and revise the 17th amendment so as to bring the constitution to its original form.
It was agreed between the two stalwart parties namely PPP and PMNL via accords known as the Charter of democracy and Murree declaration to revive parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. President Zardari before taking over the presidency of Pakistan also in a televised categorical statement vowed to surrender powers invested in him through the 17th amendment and hand over these to the prime minister for the sake of parliamentary democracy. But, thereafter, till now he or the PPP government has not taken any practical steps to fulfill their pledge of returning Pakistan to a parliamentary form of government. Neither the 17th amendment has been rescinded or amended nor the controversial 58-2(b) expunged from the constitution of Pakistan. Even the main demand of PMNL to reinstate the sacked judges, was ignored by the PPP government. The two main poltical parties that earnestly joined hands to usher Pakistan into an era of unalloyed democracy parted their ways. The PMNL left the government barely after 40 days blaming PPP for not honoring its promise enshrined in the accords reached between them. The PPP forged coalition with MQM and ANP at the center and three provinces, thus turning its back on the former coalition partner.
After watching two years of PPP at the helm and president Zardari as a powerful president like his predecessor, it is pretty difficult for an impartial or discerning observer to draw a line between the system of government run previously and now. Media was modestly free and independent even during the Musharraf era. It is still free but the government is not treating all the media at par. There are sycophants and cronies of the government who are showered with favors of foreign junkets and government advertisements. The incumbent government of PPP has bent over backward to divide the media as well as the judiciary and the civil society by intrigues and questionable tactics.
The restoration of the constitution to its original form of 1973 remains an elusive goal although umpteen promises have been hurled by the leadership now ruling the roost. The perfunctory way the government is being run without any tangible results on the ground, it might be difficult for it to last long. A government whose ethos is to side with the downtrodden classes, stand by the free media and the independent judiciary and the flowering of a civil society is proving itself worse than the former dispensation in suppressing all these symbols of a civil and civilized society.

The poltical jugglery and petty controversies in which the whole country has been thrown in by the government and its blatant digression from its promised goals and manifesto is deplorable and was least expected of it. Now for a commoner and an ordinary citizen, the most pressing issues for a government saddled in power after a decade of authoritarianism, should be to provide good governance that takes care of the miserable plight of the people, the worsening economy, the breakdown of law and order, the soaring cost of living, the scarce jobs, the poor civic faculties and need for a genuine parliamentary form of government.
Instead, the government is busy in browbeating, and trouncing the opposition and creating fissures along provincial, ethnic and party lines. The ministers are up to the neck in involvement of kickbacks and self aggrandizement, nepotism, favoritism and immoral and illegal gratifications. The yawning question is where is the accountability? The government was under obligation to try Pervez Musharraf for breach of the constitution, his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for selling Pakistan’s assets for peanuts and destroying its economy.
They should have sternly and urgently pursued Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and captured the callous culprits. They should have repealed the 17th amendment and given powers to the parliament and the prime minister. They should have faced the courts after overturning of the NRO by the Supreme Court. They should not have meddled in the appointment of judges and refrained from withholding their quick placements.
An effective and forceful accountability and justice system and far reaching economic charter should have been the priority of the government that calls itself the party of the impoverished masses. But nothing of the sort has been done so far. It should have issued a revolutionary and watershed social contract that would put Pakistan on the road towards attainment of the coveted goals of progress, liberalism, civil society, modernity, democracy, equality, vibrant economy, accountability, justice and a unity. They should have set the stage for exemplary governance and closed the loopholes for military dictators to sneak into power. They should have strengthened the democratic institutions and promoted the civil society.
The lawyers are again boycotting the courts and planning to throng the streets in support of the courts. The laboring classes and the jobless are clamoring vociferously for their right to survive. Ordinary citizens are wasting their precious time for flour, sugar and necessities of life. Hospitals are like garbage with piled up human bodies. Educational institutions are understaffed and underequipped. The schooling system is subject to countless lacunas, from faulty syllabus to the antiquated teaching techniques to turning of schools’ premises into shelters for cattle.
Pakistan should stop forthwith fighting in its territories for others. Even if we fight, we should not fight for money. Religious extremism is a home grown phenomenon and those who did not stem it at the beginning must be declared as traitors and enemies of this nation. Pakistan can survive only as a secular nation, with hands free from foreign dictations. The incumbent Pakistan’s government which is humblest of all the previous governments should have refused to accept the so called charity being doled out under Kerry Lugar bill. When would Pakistan assert itself as a sovereign, independent and honorable nation? Domestic cohesion is vital to our survival. The least Pakistan can demand for putting our army in harm’s way is to get its back breaking debts remitted. That should be the starting point of our cooperation with the countries wanting us to fight against the global terrorism. Short of that, let them fight and we watch from the sidelines.

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1 comment:

  1. PPP Leaders have put the country on the right path, and approved the National Finance Commission Award with consensus, a poverty survey of the country was being conducted to help the poor by implementing Wasila-e-Haq and through other such initiatives. The issue of loadshedding could not be redressed because of the campaign launched by the opponents of the rental power plants, as there was no other short-term solution of the issue with the government. Providing political backing to the armed forces in the fight against terrorism and making the country a peaceful place were among the important achievements of the government. Government is fighting to eradicate the crop which the thoughtless rulers and their supporters had sown in the past by spilling the blood and misusing the resources of the country.Many of such people did not have the courage to openly condemn the terrorists. I had never before seen such a courageous President as Asif Ali Zardari, who bravely defended his institutions and the Army in front of the president of the United States during his visit there and thus convinced him to acknowledge the sacrifices the soldiers had rendered in the war against terror.