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From the Electoral to a Real Victory

The News International on March 09, 2008, published an article, From the Electoral to a Real Victory, by Dr. Khalil Ahmad. The article argues that only by restoring the pre-November 3 judiciary and making the fundamental rights ensured in the Constitution of 1973 inviolable the electoral victory of February 18 elections can be transformed into a real victory.

by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

It was the same day last year when the CJP laid the foundation stone of this movement for the liberation of ordinary people of Pakistan from the yoke of elite classes. I dedicate this article to all those extraordinarily valiant lawyers who are continuing the movement unrelentingly. KA

Now after the 9th general elections, there is much lure and a sort of euphoria among the intelligentsia even beyond Pakistan to dub the results as unprecedented, historic, revolutionary, and what not. In addition, a revived belief in populism is gaining strength. This needs to be clearly analyzed and understood because we as members of civil society ought to be aware of correctly recognizing and meeting our responsibility. That’s my part of euphoria.

It is being argued that the mandate that PPP, PML (N), and ANP have got would have been weightier had the elections been free and fair. Sure, it could have been so, but the fact is that minus the pre- and post-poll rigging, and the poll-day rigging, in 2002 it was these same people who voted the PML (Q) into the government. It was the same people who voted for ‘Roti, Kapra aur Mkaan’ (Food, Clothing and Shelter), in 1970, and came through various elections (including the trickiest local government elections) voting for this or that thing or for nothing serious.

This must clear the fog of populism. As we know, and as many surveys and studies suggest, people vote this or that candidate or party, and then they change their loyalties, for very different reasons. To lump them together and say it is this or that type of vote is a mistake. It is deliberate drifting into a populist rhetoric and amounts to self-delusion. For myself, this time I voted the party that commits itself to the restoration of deposed judges, while when the elections were announced I had decided not to vote at all; but then not to let anyone misuse my vote I thought of casting it but to none. Prior to this, I had been voting for the party which was considered business-friendly.

No surprise, there is almost a consensus that this time it was an anti-Musharraf vote which is alternately being termed on the one hand as anti-military-interference, anti-dictatorship, anti-PML (Q), anti-violence, anti-terrorism; and on the other hand, as pro-Chief Justice of Pakistan vote. At best, among other things, it shows our utter discontentedness with the regime and its policies. To my part of dubbing it and I am not alone in that, this time it is an anti-system vote.

But let me make my position clear and stated: we do not know whether all the people who voted, voted for a change in the system. Or for that matter how many people who voted want some change in the system. Or we do not know whether the number of people who voted for a change in the system is greater than those who voted for other reasons. Or, if somehow we have answers to the above questions, even then the most pertinent question we need to face concerns with the nature and quality of change people want.

Ah, but these are the delicacies of a democratic system the complexities of which are multiplied by the factors specific to the Pakistani situation, such as personality-worship, party loyalty, provincial, tribal, ethnic and other affinities, and a host of other internal and external interventions. Another most disturbingly negative characteristic of a democratic set-up is the period for which a party or parties are mandated. No matter it is five, four or three years; what matters is that once a party is mandated, it is free to do whatever it wishes to do despite its manifesto/agenda that helped it win votes, even it plays havoc with the Constitution. But that’s another story what their manifestos are worth. Presently there is no way to rein in a mandated ruling party. Only that it is to be judged by the people when after five years it will be again in the field to ask for another vote provided its life is not cut short by the Pak Army’s arbitrary actions.

Thus, what we need to focus on is that the results of February 18 elections under particular circumstances especially followed by last year’s March 9 NO of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, have provided us with a rare opportunity to change the system in Pakistan. Regardless of the debate on the nature of the present mandate, we in any case must not let go this moment not taken advantage of. In other words, we in a proactive manner must turn this opportunity into long term benefit of the people of Pakistan. That’s my argument.

This long term benefit is none other than the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan. No doubt, within a year it has acquired an uncontroversial status to an extent that those to whom it is absolutely fatal have come to pay lip service to it. Whether it is civil and military establishment or their cronies, political and religious parties or their beneficiaries, or their other allies such as feudal lords, industrialists, traders; in sum, the elites of Pakistan which have subjugated the state, judiciary, parliament, and the Constitution of the country to their maximum profit, will never tolerate the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan. In other words, will they never let the people enjoy security of person; protection to their property; freedom of trade, business and profession; freedom of movement, speech, assembly, association; freedom to profess and practice their faith; and above all equality before law, all ensured in the Constitution.

However, the fate has it that the same elites have been burdened with this great responsibility. In that sense, the present vote has a tragic side also. We know how PPP has been and is dodging the issue of restoration of the deposed judges; how cautious is ANP; how PML (N) is doing future politics by taking up the issue of the judiciary’s restoration; how precarious is the APDM grouping, and as regards its member JI, how sincere it is with the cause, and how lacking in political acumen is TI. We can never take them on their face value; they are difficultly unreliable.

But what we can do is we must take the elections results as a strategic advancement towards our goal and keep exerting our civil society’s pressure on them to restore the deposed judiciary. This will be the first step towards the dismantling of the rule of dictators and fake leaders. We know the next steps such as supremacy of the Constitution, not of the parliament, and rule of law will follow of their own. It is these steps that will prove to be the greatest checks not only against the overarching parliament and executive but political parties’ irresponsible governments also.

Now if these political parties restore the judiciary, well and good; but if they don’t, we the members of civil society, lawyers, media persons, NGOs, teachers, students and disgruntled political parties’ workers must keep on with the movement for the restoration of deposed judiciary. Though the path from the electoral to a real victory is strewn with every type of seen and unseen hazard and ever newer forms of dangerous pro-establishment species, but this struggle must continue. We must realize that after the sufferings of a whole 60 years, we have this opportunity to break the unholy alliance of elite classes which kept the people of Pakistan deprived of their fundamental inalienable rights and freedoms by making the state and its institutions subservient to their interests.

However, this electoral triumph will transform into a real victory for the ordinary people of Pakistan only when the fundamental rights given in the Constitution of 1973 are made inviolable. This will fatally weaken the elitist state in Pakistan, and help emerge a state ruled by laws respecting every individual citizen and his rights. We must keep on.

This article appeared in The News International on March 9, 2008.