For too long in our history, the military and its intelligence agencies have pulled strings from hidden corners. These actions, in turn, have determined several political events at home and abroad. In many cases, we as citizens do not know how they have gone about this task or what events they have manipulated. But some things have risen to the surface from time to time, like scum over standing water.
It has become clear that the ISI played a part in influencing the results of the 1990 general elections through a mysterious political cell. The Ministry of Defence told the Supreme Court bench hearing the case — commonly called the Asghar Khan Case — that it was unable to find in its files a notification said to have been issued in 1975 while setting up this particular cell. Given the evidence put before it, the Court has declared that the political cell of the ISI stands null and void from the start. It has also made some strong remarks in its ruling in favour of the democratic order, criticising intervention of outside forces, welcoming the appointment of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as constitutionally correct and commenting that no model of a long-term interim government made up of technocrats should be put in place in the country.
The Court, of course, has spoken wisely. We need to do all that we can to push the ISI out of politics so that it can play its designated role fully and is made accountable to parliament for all its activities,so that the notion of civilian supremacy and democracy is upheld. The ISI has been able to alter the shape of events in the country through various means for far too long. This is essentially both unconstitutional and has inflicted tremendous damage on our democracy. The question now, however, is whether the clear-cut Court order will be implemented but there is a danger that this may not happen.
Let us hope that the military establishment and all the bodies that form a part of it are willing to follow the verdict delivered in good faith and ensure that the political wing of the ISI, in whatever form it exists, is genuinely shut down so that the Constitution can be adhered to.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.