For the good of democracy

Published: June 23, 2012
The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

“Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.” — Gilbert K Chesterton

At a juncture when the propinquity of a truly democratic order was almost being taken for granted, Pakistan suffered the biggest disaster since the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who has vowed to protect democracy, sacked a democratically-elected prime minister on a matter of constitutional interpretation.

The sacked man, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and his party accepted the ruling with grace and nominated another candidate. But the day the prime ministerial nominee, Makhdum Shahabuddin, was to file his nomination papers, an anti-narcotics court issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest, on a case that had been pending for weeks. Imagine, a court waking up on that precise day. The powers that be in the Islamic republic do not seem to care much for democracy. I have previously expressed hope in the growth of democracy and the institution building process. With the prime minister removed through an undemocratic, albeit legal method, that optimism cannot be sustained. It is clear that this is not the case of institutions clashing over boundaries, but disputes concerning other matters. Of course, the ruling party, too, is responsible for this sorry tale.

In Islamabad’s drawing rooms, it is being speculated that a government of technocrats backed by the army will soon be installed through a soft coup. Those who make these claims, carry a list of candidates for each ministry. Another theory is that the judiciary-executive tussle will result in the announcement of early elections and when the assemblies are dismissed, names in the aforementioned list will be adjusted in the caretaker cabinet, which in time, will be granted two to three years of extension. As the sacking of a prime minister and embarrassing an elected government by asking it to write a letter against its own head of state can be considered akin to protecting democracy, there is little doubt that this would also strengthen democracy.

Change may come in any shape, but if it comes through any means other than fresh elections, it will be detrimental. And change will definitely come. But let us fix responsibility for any undemocratic development. It should be remembered that the current democratic dispensation was founded on an intricate masonry of checks and balances. One function of the independent judiciary was to protect democracy. While it might have protected it from a military takeover, it has not been able to protect it from its own wrath. You can foresee the entire system collapsing. Some would say that the protectors of the Constitution have plunged the nation into another crisis-ridden bog.

If any undemocratic change comes, our armchair theoreticians assure us, it will not be limited to the cabinet and parliament alone, but will affect the judiciary as well. Perhaps, our judicial custodians have forgotten that they are part of the very democratic order that their recent verdicts seem to have so negatively impacted.

Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Falcon
    Jun 23, 2012 - 12:51AM

    Mr. Pitafi-
    There is a very strong pro-government slot in your narrative. Sorry to say, this was not just a matter of “constitutional interpretation” and writing against the very graceful “Head of the State”; rather it was blatant disregard for the sweat and blood of ordinary folks who pay taxes and govt. chooses to squander their funds. You know what will strengthen democracy? Delivering on governance, which is what we have elected these people for. How about few words on that???


  • pmbm
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:59AM

    If everybody did his/her job with integrity and honesty within the law,the courts would not need to get involved.


  • ali
    Jun 23, 2012 - 5:36AM

    a typical paid attempt, army is silent and took this stance that lets see what good ppp or other parties bring. army is busy on fighting war, where ppp and all associates are minting money, only CJ and SC of Pak is trying to hold them back. Poor economic management, law and order, and no responsibilities or ownership is taken by this govt. and if next election engineering is also happening now… i pray that ppp should win that election as well so they see how they fix things ….other wise the new come will say past governments have not done any thing and same story goes and goes…

    come on.. i think next time writer should disclose that he has been paid 200K by abcd to write in favor …


  • Usman
    Jun 23, 2012 - 6:31AM

    I can’t take any guardians of democracy drum beaters seriously. What cry about when the courts have woken up, are you not glad that they have? Do you not want any change in Pakistan ever? Don’t think so.


  • Usman
    Jun 23, 2012 - 6:36AM

    Forget about what the common citizen is going through, you go save your democracy and be happy.


  • newsense
    Jun 23, 2012 - 9:08AM

    You didnt mention the weaknesses of the govt.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:04AM

    Great Op Ed, keep it up. Even though the urban elite may not like it but you are representing silent majority of the rural heartland of Pakistan. The women, minorities, smaller sects and smaller provinces have always voted for a more progressive and secular parties and they would continue doing so much to the chagrin of the elites.


  • Jpy
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:23AM

    Very thougt provoking article. Pakistan Institutions are not aware of the delicate balancing of powers within the three major pillars of the democracy namely Executive,Judiciary & Legislature. If one plays oversmart over the other the entire system will collapse and country will be in chaos. In a real democracy even military has no specific role other then being part of the executive


  • R. Khan
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Fully agree with Mr. Pitafi! We love experimenting & failing every time.


  • Riaz Khan
    Jun 23, 2012 - 1:46PM

    Very few people truly understands what you are saying Mr. Pitafi since they are living in their own strange world of conspiracies of CIA+RAW+MOSSAD! It’s like banging your head against rock solid wall.


  • Hassam
    Jun 23, 2012 - 2:10PM

    having a convicted prime minister wasn’t a disaster and embarrassment.for this country?

    Why should the court sacrifice rule of law for democracy? Its job is to give laws in light of laws excluding everything even consequences of its decision, that is what the constitution requires from the SC.

    If the government wants to complete its tenure it should write the letter. The government does not have the authority to question the interpretations made by SCRecommend

  • T Khan
    Jun 23, 2012 - 2:17PM

    @ali “army is busy on fighting war”

    Hahaha! That was funny mate.


  • Beenish Ahmad
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Honestly speaking, I am glad Gilani is gone. I voted for him and later on regretted my decision. That was a sympathy vote for the late BBs party but now I figure you cannot run a country on the foundation of sympathy forever. He did not do anything significant to make life worth living for the common citizens. I stand with the decision of the SC.


  • x
    Jun 23, 2012 - 7:04PM

    “why dont they leave then, whats stopping them?” gilani’s immortal words when told that 1/3rd of pakistanis were so frustrated with life and hardships in pakistan that they wanted to leave. That’s democracy for you.


  • Jun 23, 2012 - 7:12PM

    @Falcon: Justice M. Katju, now chairman of press council of India says ” Gilani verdict shows Pak SC has gone berserk” ….. ” The constitution establishes a delicate balance of power among the three organs of the state. the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. each must respect the other, and not encroach inyo their domain, other wise the system can not function. It seems to me Pakistan SC has lost it’s balance and gone berserk…….. the PM holds the office as long as he has the confidence of the parliament and not the confidence of the SC.” Mr FARRUKH KHAN PITAFI has spoken the facts and not pro govt views.


  • Raza Khan
    Jun 23, 2012 - 8:21PM

    I salute our ex PM Mr. Gilani!


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