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Sense Of Direction

With JUI (F), MQM, and PML (Q) once again out to test their gamesmanship, and ANP, PML (N), the Army, and the political-religious parties outside waiting in the wings, it seems Pakistan is all set to brace for another bout of political crisis – leaving us the people bewildered what the hell is the direction they are all moving Pakistan into!

By Dr. Khalil Ahmad

With JUI (F), MQM, and PML (Q) once again out to test their gamesmanship, and ANP, PML (N), the Army, and the political-religious parties outside waiting in the wings, it seems Pakistan is all set to brace for another bout of political crisis – leaving us the people bewildered what the hell is the direction they are all moving Pakistan into!

That there is no sense of direction in what is happening or cooking to happen is not far from the truth. An 18th Amendment, a 7th NFC Award, autonomous status for Gilgit-Baltistan, or the Reconciliation mantra appear like in-connectible jots on a maze of unattended urgencies.

This is an attempt to refresh memories of us all, especially the politicians and the Armymen, with the sense of direction reached in 1973.

A constitution is never a political document. It is not to be used, or manipulated politically. Nor is it for the politicians to amend or suspend at their will. At best, a constitution is a theory of conduct both for individuals and institutions. In this sense, it is a moral document. Taking it otherwise is fatal to the soul of a constitution.

Thus, if a constitution is used and manipulated for political purposes, its moral tenor is lost. Likewise, if a constitution is amended and suspended at will, it is reduced into a political statement. This is the case in Pakistan.

Historically, in the sub-continent Muslim and Hindu communities’ leaders could not agree on a theory of conduct to rule their people. That constitutional failure led to the making of Pakistan and India.
In Pakistan, again its leaders proved they lacked moral insight and could not reach a theory of conduct. Instead, they continued fighting for political interests. So much so that in 1971, the chronic fighting of individuals and institutions dashing all the hopes to reach an agreed theory of conduct to rule both the wings finally resulted in the formation of another country out of Pakistan.

The period from 1947 onward witnessed ‘constitutional’ anarchy let loose. After about fourth of a century and an unhappy separation of half the Pakistan, the rest of the country came to have a Constitution in 1973. In this case, it was always late to mend.

But, the ruling party that gave (West) Pakistan a Constitution is the very party that disfigured the same constitution most. The constitution that was adopted on April 12, 1973, from May 8, 1974 to January 4, 1977, underwent seven amendments, six by the same assembly and the seventh by the next short-lived assembly of the same party. Obviously, from the very start the constitution could not achieve the status of a moral document and a theory of conduct as well. The acts belied the intentions.

Then, there was the Army, an all powerful institution, which never subscribed to any theory of conduct whatsoever. They created a moral vacuum in the country. The greatest damage they caused to this nation is not through the suspension or partial/total abrogation of the constitution; it’s the destruction of moral and social values. They are the perfect immoralists.

After them, it was leaders of the political parties who used their parties as pressure groups to achieve their motives. They were the political agents of various Pakistani elites who were out-and-out immoralists. They used the constitution to further their political and elitist interests.

Another party to this crusade against the constitution was the judiciary. They were the thoroughgoing immoralists and champions of a new theory of misconduct. For them, under necessity everything could be validated. No theory of conduct or no moral code could stop them from fulfilling the demands of the immoralists. The moral document was immorally brutalized by its very custodians.

However, with the emergence of an independent judiciary, supremacy of the constitution, rule of law, and fundamental rights were dug up and started to be upheld. Not only the theory of conduct but the code of conduct also became a matter of everybody’s concern. Somehow, if that awakened a civil society from its “directionless” slumber, on the one hand, on the other it did resuscitate the moral conscience of the people also.

Many a coalition made and broke after the February 2008 elections. These or any other coalitions are not an end in-themselves. What matters is whether this practice strengthens the constitution or weakens it as a moral statement. If a coalition breaks down such as the recent one, quitting of the JUI (F) from the government, there is little for the constitution to gain. In fact, all such moves trash the constitution into political triviality.

Though, the rule of law movement set the constitution of Pakistan to emerge as a moral document embodying a theory of conduct for all individuals and institutions strictly to follow, but no political party or no state institution and especially the Army sees it as such. Old habits die hard!

In view of this sense of a direction, the conduct of political parties and the Army is going to decide the fate of the constitution as a moral document is a misreading. It is for them to realize that it is the constitution which is going to decide their fate in the long run. Willy-nilly they will have to revert to the constitution as a moral document to compass their sense of direction if they want to survive. Their politics should have to be subservient to the theory of conduct the constitution represents.

The last three decades, especially, of trampling the constitution by the civilian and military usurpers prove that politics without a theory of conduct and without a moral code is worse than robbery and murder, and more than what was condoned under the National Reconciliation Ordinance. Hence, in order to prove their worth, political parties and the Army must check with their political sense of direction. Otherwise, they are in a moral vacuum and may meet moral death!

The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.