Delicate balancing act

Published: January 13, 2012
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Actors who should be working to protect the democratic system may well end up undermining it.

Actors who should be working to protect the democratic system may well end up undermining it.

The threat of an overt military coup may have waned a bit over the last couple of days but that does not mean that the government, and far more importantly, democracy is now safe. If anything, the dangers have become more acute and actors who should be working to protect the system may well end up undermining it. First, there is the Supreme Court. The chief justice has been admirable in his continued insistence that he would not countenance military rule, but his court’s decisions are providing the military with its biggest opportunity to thwart civilians. In a meeting with his top commanders, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to throw the full might of the military behind the court, and is now willing to use his soldiers to enforce any possible anti-government verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance. So, in the end, there may be a situation much like the one that is being discussed as a possibility, with the government eventually being made to yield through a court order.

Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N seems to be equally blind to some of the dangers they are posing to the democratic system. Among the options that the opposition party is weighing include introducing a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, mass resignations from the assemblies and street protests. Despite being the party that has been most cognisant of the military’s designs on political power, the PML-N has now decided that its own thirst for power is a more vital cause than a full-throated support of democracy. For the PML-N, early elections are crucial to arrest the PTI’s growing rise in popularity and if that means unintentionally doing the army’s dirty work for it, then that is a cross the PML-N is willing to bear.

The PPP, for now, is on the offensive against the army but on the defensive against the Supreme Court. Removing Nadeem Lodhi from his post as defence secretary was a bold move, one that may have precipitated a coup in years past. But taking the fight to the military means that the PPP has to back down on the NRO case and give in to the wishes of the Supreme Court. It is a difficult balancing act, but if the PPP can pull it off, it will save not only its own government, but it might just end up shifting the balance of power between the military and the civilians in favour of the latter for years to come.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Adnan
    Jan 13, 2012 - 11:26PM

    An excellent analysis of the present situation!! Can’t agree more !!

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  • Falcon
    Jan 13, 2012 - 11:39PM

    Good article. A balanced and thoughtful analysis.

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  • Disco
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:00AM

    Make sense , now when the coalition partners of the government are acting maturely and putting their weight behind the government the opposition is acting the other way round. Last two years the coalition partners , specially the MQM was moving in and was going out and was giving a chance to the opposition for an in house change. Secondly PPP also needs to act maturely and should stop flirting with institutions in future, in past they actually did, by giving out a whole new term to the Army chief and also by disqualifying the sharif brothers from doger court, they had also been making blunders , instead of performing. Saying Sharifs are better then Zardari or the other way round does not make sense, both are politicians and both have skeletons in their closet , what is important is that democratic system continues, after 2, 3 elections it would deliver.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jan 14, 2012 - 1:26PM

    A very balanced Ed. This is the last chance for Nawaz and if he undermines the elected govt he would get nothing at all. He would be a proverbial “na ghar ka na ghat ka”. In the next election there is no way he would get more seats even from Punjab if he acts against democracy. Please do not throw the baby with bath water.
    It is a great suggestion that the govt should show some flexibility toward SC and write to Swiss. It would make no difference but the hanging sword which its opponents are mercilessly using would be gone.

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  • Salman Khan
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:25PM

    Let us consult to the constitution of Pakistan. What does it say about immunity of President.
    (1) The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, the Chief Minister and a Provincial Minister shall not he answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions:
    Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the Federation or a Province.
    (2) No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.
    (3) No process for the arrest or imprisonment of the President or a Governor shall issue from any court during his term of office.
    (4) No civil proceedings in which relief is claimed against the President or a Governor shall be instituted during his term of office in respect of anything done by or not done by him in his personal capacity whether before or after he enters upon his office unless, at least sixty days before the proceedings are instituted, notice in writing has been delivered to him, or sent to him in the manner prescribed by law, stating the nature of the proceedings, the cause of action, the name, description and place of residence of the party by whom the proceedings are to be instituted and the relief which the party claims.

    I just want to ask who is violating constitution, President of Chief Justice of Pakistan?Recommend

  • sharifL
    Jan 15, 2012 - 10:31AM

    what happened to my comment? All comment should be published unless they violate basic facts.

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