Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul
— William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”
Every scandal that is brought to limelight brings with it some sign of hope. The Arsalan Iftikhar scandal is no exception. It is true that it raised some serious questions about the need for oversight over the conduct of the judiciary, the media and big businesses. Also true that it has brought our unceasing hypocrisy to the fore. Amazingly, many among those who insist that Arsalan was acting alone, even if he was not actually a victim of a conspiracy, also believe that since Abdul Qadir Gilani, the prime minister’s son, called Mubashar Lucman during a staged interview with Malik Riaz, it proves that the PPP government is involved in a plot to malign the judiciary. But what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, sirs. If you can readily believe that the chief justice’s son kept his father in the dark about his corruption, what is the harm in believing that Abdul Qadir Gilani, too, might have acted alone?
Then where is the silver lining in the dark cloud? Pakistan, of late, has witnessed nothing but a steep descent into chaos. Can this abysmal entropy be reversed and order restored from chaos? Why, of course, this is possible. And that precisely is the silver lining. When all fault lines in a system are exposed, it becomes easy to overcome them. But we are so engrossed in our myopic, Lilliputian wars of ego, that often sight of the bigger picture is lost. So polarising are these times that the fact that we are, after all, one nation is simply forgotten.
Take for instance the critics of the chief justice. So annoyed are they with the man that they actually want him to go. It does not matter if his term is already nearing its last year, or for that matter, the fact that he has repeatedly stated that democracy would be protected at every cost. Using the new scandal as an excuse, his critics are insisting that he should be sent home. Hence, if the judiciary and the executive keep clashing all the time, it means that one of them will have to suffer. But such a point of view ignores the true essence of the evolutionary stage the country’s democratic system is in. At this early stage of institution-building, some tensions over boundaries are simply unavoidable. But they do help in establishing a stable system eventually.
When the prime minister was convicted in the contempt of court case, this scribe had strongly advocated that he be allowed to complete his term in office. Likewise, today, it is incumbent upon us that for the sake of institution-building, we should not let the chief justice become a casualty of the new scandal. And this does not stop here. It is also important to protect the freedom of the media despite all its shortcomings, the army’s new role in supporting democracy and a healthy business environment in the country regardless of the actions of a business tycoon like Malik Riaz.
We have wasted the last 65 years in trying to bring about an overnight change. All such attempts have failed miserably. It is critical that we now learn a lesson. And the lesson is that nations are not built in one day. It takes a lot of patience and time for institutions to become strong and learn to work in harmony. That is the only way to bring order from the chaos of corruption, bad governance and intrigues.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2012.