Ultimately, like just about every civilian government in Pakistan, the current set-up too may fall, but it is not going to go down without a fight. In his speech to the Senate on December 14, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, never before known as a fiery public speaker, got his point across rather well. He accused anti-democratic forces of being behind the memogate scandal and said that parliament should never accept military intervention in the democratic system. At a time when the government is at its most vulnerable, it was a stirring speech. In the past, civilian governments have given way too easily to military adventurists. If Gilani’s speech is any indication, the PPP government will not make the same mistake. But words alone, no matter how powerful, will not be enough to ward off a possible military coup. That Gilani felt the need to go to the Senate and deliver this speech was a strong indication that the government’s position is precarious. It still remains to be seen if this was a last-ditch stand by a prime minister who knows his days are numbered, or a warning to the military that it must back off. We now know that the PPP will not give up without a fight. However, it will not be successful unless it has the support of everyone else too. The other political parties, particularly the PML-N, must stand behind democracy, no matter how much it would like to see the PPP out of power. So far, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has been the foremost critic of the army; now that there’s a chance he could be the beneficiary of its meddling, he should not abandon civilian rule
Even more than the political parties, the fate of democracy in the country may rest on the shoulders of the Supreme Court. Surely, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the other justices remember the treatment that was meted out to them by the previous military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. The court’s obvious distaste for the PPP government should not cause them to forget that they are the final guardians of the Constitution. Back in 1977, political forces in the country openly preferred a short period of military rule to the PPP government and thus, we were given a decade of Ziaul Haq. There is still time for a similar mistake to be averted now.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.