Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq
The country during the last many days remained in the grip of severe despair and disillusionment. The sit-ins, demonstrations, political confrontations, killing of the innocent, denial of justice and economic vulnerabilities damaged the civilian rule substantially. The clash of interests between the ruling classes once again proved that the real malady faced by Pakistan is unholy anti-people attitude of the ruling elites and their cronies—military-civil-bureaucracy-complex, higher judiciary, landed aristocracy, industrialist-turned politicians, Mullah-Mushaikh [clergy], media tycoons and their powerful anchors. The members of these elites flout the rule of law with impunity as for them, vulgar ostentation of money and power is sine qua non to prove their control over the State. In the name of azadi (freedom) march and inquilab (revolution) march, the way was paved for unchallenged control of the power that really matters in the Land of the Pure.
In post-colonial Pakistan, the people have been denied their fundamental rights as the money-power-hungry elites have treated the country as their personal jagir (property) and consider themselves above law. The most recent evidence of it surfaced on June 17, 2014 as Model Town Tragedy—after brutally murdering 14 people and injuring about 90, the police was not ready to register the case what to speak of brining the culprits to justice. Both the judiciary and the executive failed to provide justice to the affected parties and ultimately First Information Report (FIR) was registered on August 28, 2914 at the command of Chief of Army Staff as a precondition to act as arbitrator between the government and leaders of the marchers. This is the real tragedy of Pakistan—the elected-representatives in power do not care a damn about the rights of the people and want unquestioned submission from them as “subjects” and not as “citizens.” Many have criticised the order of the apex court issued on August 25, 2014 to “clear Constitution Avenue for us.” For them, this is a classic demonstration of what George Orwell satirically stated in Animal Farm that “…some are more equal than others”.
Denial of justice and tyranny are rampant in Pakistan, consequences of which are right before us. After March 16, 2009, everyone—political parties, media, legal fraternity and civil society—was taking credit for the successful restitution of judges after a two-year long struggle. Now a number of beneficiaries in judiciary are themselves calling demonstrations, marches and sit-ins as unconstitutional! It is worth mentioning that as soon as the masses joined the movement, the then military chief snatched the entire credit—call from him was confirmed by Aitzaz Ahsan, the man at the forefront of the struggle, who later was highly disillusioned. Nawaz Sharif, who suddenly appeared as hero of the movement, secured every decision in his favour after restitution. Lawyers, the forerunners of the campaign, also started asking favours for personal gains. This has led to the deformity in the entire judicial system and the decline is continuing unabated.
The dream of a new Pakistan that captured the nation’s imagination on 16 March 2009 was short-lived. Now, the majority of people view it as yet another illusionary “achievement.” Since then the successive governments have openly defied orders of judiciary e.g. implementation of instructions/directives regarding law and order in Karachi, missing persons, oil and sugar prices, rental power cases, just to mention a few. Soon, the powers that matter reminded the citizens that they were the “real” masters and judiciary was just a subordinate body. Judiciary—as part of elite—accepted it as fait accompli and in return secured many benefits like unprecedented increases in pay and allowances, pensions etc.
People of Pakistan got nothing. No reforms in judicial system. There was great disappointment for all those who thought that the restitution of judges heralded a new dawn of a true democratic era—for them it was a day ushering in a new era of hope and a better Pakistan for generations to come. The ensuing events proved that Judiciary was more concerned about preserving and protecting its own interests—to secure absolute power for appointments etc. Judiciary came under fire from Zardari who blamed it for hatching conspiracy of the “pen.” Apex Court was accused of selective accountability. The men in power, especially with guns, were not obliging at all—nothing practical happened in the wake of Asghar Khan’s case or in the missing persons’ matter. Despite tall claims about rule of law, the judges themselves provided a different legal procedure for the trial of the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s son—making the judiciary controversial and partial—even criticised by some senior lawyers and members of Supreme Court Bar Association.
The rich and mighty having control over state apparatus resisted every move that could empower the general masses. In the aftermath of 18thConstitutional Amendment, no effort was made to establish local governments to provide education, health, housing and transport at the grass-root level. Supreme Court till today has failed to secure implementation of many of its orders including holding of local government elections under Article 140A of the Constitution. Since the powerless are now as disillusioned as they were under Musharraf-Shaukat or Zardari era, they are now sitting in front of Parliament. The one-year rule of the present government has again proved that in the Land of Pure one needs connections, money and/or political power, to “survive” and that State is totally indifferent towards addressing the pressing needs of the poor.
In the wake of March 16, 2009, the nation was very enthusiastic that from then on administration and dispensation of justice would be for all. They were expecting establishment of representative democracy, but instead they witnessed mounting tension amongst different organs of the State. Administration and dispensation of justice in Pakistan till today is a distant dream. In view of decisions, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry v President of Pakistan PLD 2010 SC 61 and Dr. Mobashir Hassan & Others v Federation of Pakistan & Others PLD 2010 SC 1, the hope for rule of law, social justice and economic equality did temporarily emerge but was ruthlessly throttled by the ruling elites, including the judiciary. The same fate has been met to freedom march and revolution march on the night of August 28, 2014.
The country will now in the grip of utter disillusionment and multiple crises—fast deteriorating law and order situation, economic collapse and what not. The governments—federal and provincial—and political parties instead of working for enforcement of fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 8 to 28 of the Constitution and paying attention to achieving goals mentioned in Articles 29 to 38, have been feverishly engaged in petty mudslinging and power politics. They are not interested in a democratic Pakistan. They want to win the elections by luring people through favours and gains using their money and power and then exploit the national resources for self-aggrandisement. Majority of them cannot justify their life style vis-à-vis incomes/resources declared in tax returns and wealth statements.
Rulers could have avoided the present chaotic situation by giving the people their due rights under the Constitution, but they have even violated the constitutional command of establishing local governments under Article 140A. People pay taxes and get nothing in return—even essential services like health, education and transport facilities are given to them more as charity rather than as rights. The civil and military governments never bothered to initiate fundamental reforms in State institutions. The armed forces, principal target of the home-grown militant groups, are also totally perplexed—they are now fighting the very forces they were protecting and promoting in the past. Of late, military leadership accepted that it was a grave mistake and that internal security threats pose a major challenge for the country.
The common people are rightly disillusioned and dejected. Responsible government and sustainable democracy cannot be established unless masses are empowered through local governments as provided in Article 140A of the Constitution. Elites and intelligentsia are completely alienated from the masses. Elites exploit the masses ruthlessly, and the so-called intellectuals and revolutionaries use the “myth of people power” for their catharsis and self-interest. Political parties need the people only for electioneering to grab power. Nobody is sincere about people’s rule and prosperity for all. The prevailing anarchic situation may subdue after intervention of army chief, but will keep on recurring unless elitist structures in Pakistan are dismantled.
The writers, tax lawyers, are members of Adjunct Faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).