The article, Defeatism – A New Factor, discusses the ‘post-long march’ moment of lull in the rule of law movement. It contends that after eight years’ dictatorial rule the democratic dawn has proved false.
by Dr. Khalil Ahmad
For a country’s leadership, if its constitution is just worthless, in other words it means it has no regard for the country either.
Now it seems that the February 18 elections were actually two steps backward, not a step forward. Before that there was only one power, General (retired) Musharraf’s camp, which comprised top military brass, intelligence agencies, in-service civil and military bureaucracy, Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement. They openly resisted the supremacy of the constitution, restoration of the thrown away judges, independent judiciary, and rule of law in Pakistan. Others like Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F) were making it on the boundary line. Pakistan Peoples Party may be dumped in this category also as it was deliberately playing coquet with General Musharraf since his 2nd election to the parliament. At the same time, they were in attendance in the lawyers’ protests and processions.
But the silver lining that appeared on the horizon after the elections did not stay long. The Murree Declaration that manifested the spirit of the February 18 mandate evaporated in the political jugglery of Asif Ali Zardari, the new chairperson of PPP. With every passing day, the bird of hope continued losing its wings. Until the day came, when it was just unable to flip, and while attempting a flight fell on the earth exhausted.
After eight years’ dictatorial rule, the democratic dawn proved false. Rather, it is resulting in utter disregard for the constitution, aversion to the restoration of the judges, abhorrence to an independent judiciary, and an inherent distaste for the rule of law. More than that, the democratic government is turning out to be a part and parcel of the dictatorial/elitist set-up. By not restoring the judges and the constitution, it is failing the birth of an independent judiciary and disavowing supremacy of the constitution. By not moving towards rule of law it is letting down the ordinary people of Pakistan. On the other hand, by bringing an inflated ‘constitutional package,’ it is up to distorting the constitution, killing its spirit, and legitimizing the unconstitutional acts of a dictator. This is just un-democratic!
This politics of PPP and its “democratic” government has created a vacuum which is fast giving rise to frustration, desperation, and consternation in the lawyers, civil society and both conscious and un-conscious activists. Under the circumstances, utter dismay and uncertainty prevails. As if life is in chains and there is no way out. The state of affairs we live in and feel now is worse than an imaginable hell.
However, what is more dangerous and should be of great concern to us is a new factor that is entering the first and the greatest rule of movement in Pakistan. It is defeatism. It does not emerge from those who from the very beginning were trying to impose a defeat on the lawyers’ movement. Among other things, they had been appealing to the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his fellow judges to resign and to live a life of grace and honor like Nelson Mandela, and let the other party entrench its unconstitutional rule. They were of the view that it was the only way to resolve the judicial crisis.
But what is ironic and bitterly surprising is that the outspoken supporters of the restoration cause and rule of law now seem fatigued. They have started talking of defeatism. They are advocating defeatism. They say it’s just enough now. The Chief Justice should step back or step down and let the coalition government do its job. I won’t like to say that most of such people have a soft corner for the PPP, and they in fact want lawyers and the judges to give PPP an un-refereed space to rule Pakistan. Let them make their case. The argument I want to put forward and would like them to counter is entirely different in its tenor.
Another factor that is strengthening the sense of defeatism is the down-the-hill politics of the Pakistan Muslim League (N). Though up till now, it has been the most ardent advocate of the restoration cause and had put all its eggs in the same basket, however, there are clear signs now, such as the enhancement in the number of Supreme Court judges and its involvement in it, it is backtracking. The same signs of fatigue are conspicuous in its ranks. At every step, it was and is being bitten and stabbed in its back by the PPP, but it keeps on running after it. First it was somehow intelligible that it had a cause to pursue and take care of the judges’ restoration. But now it is quite incomprehensible why it is licking the PPP’s feet. Obviously, in case it is sincere with the cause of the judges, it must quit the coalition. A coalition that is incapable of restoring the constitution of the country, rather is up to destroying it ‘in a constitutional way,’ what is it worth?
It is now seven months that the sitting judiciary was thrown out of the courts, and it is now three months that the democratic ‘coalition’ government is in power. Despite all that had been said and done in good sense by the coalition leaders, what we see now is that there are more enemies of the constitution, thrown out judges, independent judiciary, and rule of law. General (retired) Musharraf’s camp is stronger now more than ever. It has more and more supporters on its side. It has won some of those who were in the restoration camp, and are hatching conspiracies now as ‘inside traitors.’ In the face of a democratic government, they want the restoration and rule of law movement to accept its defeat. They argue it should wound up now.
The wisdom has it that dangerous are the enemies who are amongst us than those who are open and declared. It is a very crucial time for the rule of law movement as it is facing enemies from within. In its initial phase, though there were some defections like those of PPP’s men, but that did not make any difference. This time it is really different. In the past, the movement fought back its declared enemies, the camp of General (retired) Musharraf, triumphantly. Now for it, it is now or never sort of thing. This movement is facing the most difficult time of its life since it has now undeclared enemies in its ranks who pose as its friends. Their argument ultimately serves the interests of those who are strengthening the establishment of Pakistan.
We need no genius to understand this simple thing that supporting and fighting for the supremacy of the constitution of one’s own country is not shameful, fatiguing, and a hurdle in the way of any government or country to move ahead. It is the most precious thing for which any cost is but cheaper. No prime minister, president, or parliament, coalition matches its value. It is moral, principled. It is for the constitution of the country which we are above all morally bound to protect in any case. What is that has more value than the stance that people of Pakistan must have an independent judiciary; that the independent judges who were thrown out of the courts just for the whims of a man to be fulfilled must be restored to their status with grace and honor; that the constitution of the country must be supreme and not a parliament of crooked self-seekers.
More than that, it must be on our minds that this movement needs to be kept alive till the last. Speaking truth and fighting for the truth is the most courageous thing and is the lot of moral and courageous people only. Can anyone get fatigued while speaking truth and fighting for it? Keeping this banner up and high can never cause any weariness. Rather, a moral and truthful resolve reinvigorates unrelentingly. It is itself life and gives life.
Here it must be pointed out that the honorable judges, who were stopped from working in their courts on November last and were detained in their homes, are the virtual though silent vanguard of the rule of law movement. They must not show any weakness or flexibility and hold fast to their moral and constitutional position. They must remain uncompromising without an iota of doubt. Their coming back to their courts with grace and honor parallels nothing in this world however costly it is. Any compromise whatsoever is just fatal not only to their moral gains but to the rule of law movement also. In case of their fatigue, the movement may not be lost altogether, but it will be a forlorn soul in an endless desert then.
The rule of law movement needs these honorable judges and only them to remain alive and continued. It may leave behind all the extra baggage as it did let the PPP men wither away from its ranks, as it is letting others whisk away from its fold in this hour of need. However, these honorable souls ought not to betray this movement to which they are indispensable. For them, it is only do or die. Restoration or no restoration! They must not submit to any other solution. They are just like a lighthouse for us ordinary people in the endless elitist sea of Pakistan. Without them, this movement will be like a motherless child.
We require these judges inevitably holding fast to their principled position because we the people of Pakistan want to live with dignity and honor. We do not want subsidies, utility cards, ration cards, and Benazir Cards. It is we who create wealth and our own wealth. We just want this or any other government not to take our wealth in bulk and then return a tiny chunk of it to us in the name of developmental expenditures and subsidies. We do not want to knock at the doors of MPAs, MNAs, federal and provincial advisors, ruling party men, influential bureaucrats to have our fundamental rights secured and ensured to us and to seek justice. We want independent judges to be arbiters of our affairs and that under the law. We want rule of law. We want to be equally treated by the law. We need neither more nor less than that. For this, we will never abandon our moral, principled and peaceful fight. We will never be fatigued. We will remain steadfast. Also, we do not want our military men to mediate or interfere or do any of such acts they have been doing in the past. We want them to stick to their constitutional role. We will deal with our civilian rulers on our own.
Finally, it is in light of above that lawyers and civil society activists urgently need to take stock of the rule of law movement, and redefine their goals and strategies therewith. It is need of the hour that the rule of law movement must take off anew once again and with no luggage of fatigue and defeatism on board. It has to go a long way into the future.
Dr. Khalil Ahmad is president and founder of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free-market think tank.
This article appeared in The Post on July 4, 2008.