Essay Democracy Is The Best Revenge

While the political crisis that has beset Pakistan is seen as do-or-die for its civilian government, the country's powerful army is also feeling the heat amid signs of public opposition to any explicit military intervention.

Despite "provocative" albeit well-placed "state-within-the-state" comments by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani referring to the army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) or the sacking of the defense secretary, the military leadership so far has not attempted to intervene directly.

Instead, analysts suggest, the generals are behind the scenes pushing an "interventionist" Supreme Court not to let the civilian government off the hook.

The case in point is the murky memo addressed to former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, appealing for help to prevent Pakistan's generals from an attempted coup in light of the May 1-2 raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) introduced by former President Pervez Musharraf granting amnesty to all political leaders, workers, and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, or misuse of authority from 1986 to 1999.

In recent weeks, the hydra-like crisis in Pakistan has become the focus of both Pakistani and international media, who are following every turn of events with the utmost interest.

Notwithstanding media criticism of the civilian government over a host of issues -- including governance, economic woes, law and order, energy, and perceived timidity in the face of militancy -- many leading analysts, newspapers, and television commentators say they're averse to the kind of extraconstitutional measures seen in the past.

So despite the drawbacks, many commentators appear to favor the existing civilian set-up -- which could mark a positive trend in Pakistan, where portrayals of the army are frequently those of the hero, whether through conflict with India, the overthrow of civilian governments, or efforts to counter militancy.

In a commentary in Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper, journalist Muhammad Hanif argues that the Pakistani army is responsible for virtually all the troubles buffeting that nuclear-armed country and its 180 million people.

"Pakistan's army is as corrupt as the politicians from whom it wants to save the country," Hanif says. "It's just better at paperwork."

In each of the past three major coups -- in 1958 (General Ayub Khan), 1977 (General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq), and 1999 (Musharraf) -- political leaders, civil society, and even a majority of media outlets welcomed the change in the hope of a brighter future.

Such feelings are less prevalent now -- even among the staunchest opponents of the government within the political milieu, civil-society, and media circles.

Citing the army's press release in response to Prime Minister Gilani's interview with a Chinese newspaper, a leading Pakistani newspaper, "The Express Tribune," poses key questions to its readers about the army's role in the country's politics:

The first question that comes to mind as one reads this is did the military's actions in 1958, 1977 and 1999 also reflect an "allegiance to the State and the Constitution?" Is not a former army chief on record as having said that the Constitution was a mere piece of paper? Hasn't Pakistan been ruled for over half of its existence by military dictators and did it come out any better during the time they were in charge? Does not the Constitution clearly state that the military is to be subservient to the elected government and that its constitutional mandate is to guard the country's physical boundaries and to act as directed by the executive organ of the state?

And going a step further in an editorial titled "Not Another Coup, Please," the newspaper says:

It has to be said that the military's practice of playing to the gallery by issuing seemingly self-righteous press statements, to assert its independence from the executive, is unfortunate.

On the same subject, another leading newspaper, "Dawn," writes:

One thing in particular bears stating: if Pakistan had been a more developed democracy, the authors of the ISPR [the army's Inter-Services Public Relations body] statement this week would have been summarily sacked. To directly challenge a prime minister duly elected by the public under the letter of the law and the constitution in such a public and blunt manner would amount to, in more advanced democracies, an intolerable challenge to the democratic dispensation. Alas, Pakistan is a very different country.

Discussing the existing crisis in Pakistan and the key players and factors responsible for the present situation, "The New York Times" calls intervention in a democratic system disastrous.

This disastrous pattern could be repeating itself as the current civilian government comes under increasing pressure from the army and the Supreme Court.

Characterizing the government-army clash as byzantine infighting, "The New York Times" draws clear lines for each side:

The army should focus on what it can do best: fight the militants working to bring down the state and destabilize the region. For its part, the civilian government needs to deal with Pakistan's severe economic troubles and repair a political culture in which voices of moderation are increasingly snuffed out.

Media types in Pakistan appear more aware of their role with respect to democratic institutions this time. In a commentary in "The Express Tribune," analyst Nasim Zehra writes: "Had there been an independent electronic media in October 1999 there would have been no coup."

Referring to the present state of affairs in Pakistan, Zehra calls it tragic, mainly because the democratic system failed to take root in Pakistan:

Had it taken root, we would have evolved a credible and effective national management within which Pakistanis could lead secure lives and have hope for progress, and where those exercising executive and bureaucratic authority were held accountable for their actions.

In the past, the tussle had been primarily between the army and the civilian governments. Now, Pakistan's Supreme Court is in the fray. Questions are therefore being raised about the role of top judges once they are fully backed by the media and civil society against a dictator.

Discussing the Supreme Court's recent questioning of the "honesty" of Prime Minister Gilani in light of Koranic injunctions, "Daily Times" columnist Dr. Muhammad Taqi argues in a contribution titled "Judicial Hubris":

In a country reeling under the effects of radicalization, the last thing needed is the industrial-strength moral certitude and virtual proselytizing from the bench.

Taqi goes on to say that "the NRO was a person-specific regulation and repugnant to the universal principles of justice and equality. It could have been quashed without recourse to a full treatise in theology and theocracy. It is most unfortunate that the honorable judges have repeatedly resorted to religious rhetoric to establish the case against the NRO beneficiaries.”

Another columnist, Kamran Shafi, in a piece called "The Pox On Everything Else" in "The Express Tribune," asks the Supreme Court why judicial commissions are silent over the role of intelligence agencies in their failure to track down bin Laden in Abbottabad and the culprits behind the tragic murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad:

What is of utmost import today; what is a matter of life or death for many Pakistanis; what will determine whether we are a civilized people or a horde of wild brutes is the shamefully non-conclusive report on the brutal and savage beating to death of journalist Saleem Shahzad.

Shafi poses some questions for the judicial commission assigned to investigate Shahzad's murder:

Now then, a few questions to the Commission: Were all of Shahzad's telephone records recovered? WHO disappeared them in the first place? Were the “credible sources” who stated that Shahzad was in the custody of an '"intelligence agency'" questioned?

Like several other analysts, Ilyas Khan of the BBC suggests the army is supporting the Supreme Court behind the scenes in order to push the government into a corner:

Instead, the military are thought to prefer to let the Supreme Court use "constitutional" methods to go after the government.

There is a widespread belief among Pakistani analysts that President Asif Ali Zardari has never been the generals' favorite but that any urge to remove him by force is tempered by the majority his party enjoys in the country's elected parliament.

The BBC's Khan writes:

In the past few weeks, the powerful military has heaped pressure on the civilian government by participating in a Supreme Court inquiry which could see President Zardari condemned as a "traitor."

Khan goes on to ask two key questions:

If the government continues to resist the Supreme Court, will the judiciary call in the army, which it can do under the constitution, to implement its decisions? If it does, will the army -- already in confrontational mode with the government -- make a move?

Though Pakistan's future appears fraught with uncertainty, it's all but certain that the removal of the civilian government -- through either the Supreme Court or direct army intervention -- would set back democracy and further weaken international trust in an already reeling Pakistan.

So optimists might point to a cautiously optimistic reading of the situation -- after four years of uninterrupted democratic rule -- wherein the army has remained in its barracks and the generals have held back because the notion of army rule is so unpopular among Pakistanis.

Perhaps the late Benazir Bhutto had such a scenario in mind when she said that "democracy is the best revenge."

-- Daud Khattak
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Friday, July 27, 2012
Democracy is the best revenge...!!!

Democracy is the best revenge...!!!

by Shama Junejo
Saturday, July 21, 2012

“First they will ignore you, then they will laugh at you, then they will fight you and then you will win.” I was only nine years old when my father told me these words of Mahatma Gandhi during a walk when I cried and complained about some class fellows, who used to make fun of me, suddenly started fighting and beating me before securing first position in exams. He persuaded me to follow the quote of Gandhi and take the insult as a key to win. I still wonder that was my first position later in exams was due to that insult or hard work. The purpose to write that incident of childhood and mentioning the quote is Multan election. Because, after decades those words started blinking like a bright flash light when the nation saw the most interesting and tough electoral contest in Pakistan after 1990’s. Although it was a by-election contest on the vacant seat after the dismissal of Pakistan’s another ELECTED Prime Minister by a controversial decision of only three member bench (out of 17) of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan. However, it captured the attention of whole country and media to see the response of public after that dismissal.

Former Prime Minister Gilani’s own son Abdul Qadir Gilani contested against an independent candidate Shaukat Bosan in a nerve wrecking election. Mark Twain has once said that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog. Therefore, nobody took the contest as a single seat by-election but it was taken as PPP’s worth after the grave charges of corruption, poor governance and the rage of public according to media and survey reports. Although, it was obviously likely that Gilani’s son would win as the seat belonged to the areas which are traditionally the stronghold of the Gilani family. Nevertheless, the hype created by the media, the support of all opposition parties and the impression that people would not support PPP after SC’s decision really made the election as one of the great contests in Pakistan’s history of elections. Although Bosan apparently fought as an independent candidate but it was crystal clear that PML-N, PTI, JI, DPC openly supported him and the most surprising thing, which is beyond imaginations that Mr Bosan even used name and photos of Chief Justice during his campaign. Pakistan, where anything is possible in politics, has left another surprise for the critics and lawyers that under which law any political person can use the name and posters of a serving Chief Justice during an election campaign, that the people who support Honourable Chief Justice should vote for him. Not only this, the most surprising thing that why no court took any suo moto action for that action as a contempt. In addition, the major groups of media played a key role to provoke people of Multan, also, opposition parties persuaded them to SAY NO TO GILANIS due to the corruption and scandals charges. Therefore, it was not only a contest of PPP v all, but also a test case for coming elections that what would be people’s mood after a massive media campaign. However, as Gandhi said that when they will fight you then you win, so he won, though with a narrow majority of almost four thousand votes. But he won.

Now, the matter to discuss that why people of Multan did not consider the media propaganda. Why charm of Imran Khan, the romance for honourable Chief Justice and the magic of Nawaz Sharif could not work? Why they again elected a corrupt person? Why PPP won again? Benazir once said that People of Pakistan see her as symbol of democracy, my question that why still charisma of BHUTTO factor overwhelms his followers when no Bhutto is leading the party. Unfortunately, the dilemma of critics and political actors remained beyond repair when they blamed people of Multan for a wrong decision. It was really interesting to see media tycoons biting lips, and ridiculing the people that why they again elected the corrupt. Wonder, if they would really understand the mind set of a rural man and not the surveys of urban organisations. An ordinary person of Multan, Dadu, and Mansehra has nothing to do with the elite class and technocrats. They watch programs, they discuss programs, they like programs, but when it comes to vote, they would not only go to the Biradri system but they would also judge that who is more helpful and influential to solve their problems. Jamshed Dasti is bright example to understand the mind-set of rural voters who thrashed the orders or disqualification of Courts, people elected him again, and may re-elect him again. That is the basic mentality, which is not grasped by an intellectual of Lahore or Islamabad who has never been in the Otaq of any Wadera or Sardar. No matter he belongs to PPP , PTI or PML, but the local influence in rural area would always play key role in winning the constituency. Perhaps that was the basic formula, which compelled Imran Khan to change his policy of change by induction of large number of SIYASI LOTAZ to secure more seats in assemblies. Although in urban areas situation can take any turnover at anytime, although in the battle of “Untouchables” a common man is left empty handed having no electricity, security and peace but the role of impartial media and civil society can play a vital role for the defeat old players. I still remember the reaction of Pindi voters with Shaikh Rasheed, however, Churchil also said that in war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times. Similarly, one can again rise as a TITAN if once defeated. However, for such results, it is necessary to let the system go accordingly.

The main reason of whole disturbance and chaos is the vigilant role of some media people and unelected parties to provoke courts and hidden forces to derail the democracy. We are perhaps the only country where our judges make up the mind after watching talk shows, and the echo of boots starts haunting within few years of a democratic process. Let the people decide their fate as democracy is the best revenge. It is not the prophecy of media to dictate or the non-political actors to overcome for the change of system and leave it with more wounds. The filtration or accountability is only possible by a true and fair process of elections, not by laughing, and then fighting because it would end up only in another victory.

Waseem Ullah Marwat
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