In an apparent reference to an assertive judiciary, the president has vowed that parliament’s voice will not be silenced by ‘new forms of assault.’
“Parliament is the voice of the people. Their voice cannot be silenced. It will not be,” he asserted, addressing a special ceremony at the Presidency to mark the 65th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence on Monday.
While promising to defend democracy in the country, President Asif Ali Zardari also announced a step to further its roots – through a system of local governance in Pakistan’s no-man’s land, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), which has long been ruled by draconian and authoritarian system. President Zardari said that laws will be passed later this year to give Fata a local government system – which, he said, will be implemented in accordance with the wishes, customs and traditions of its people.
Congratulating the nation on Independence Day, President Zardari said: “We owe it to the people and to the peace and stability of the country, and the region, to bring these areas into the mainstream of national life.”
Presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the introduction of a local government system in the tribal areas will be gradual and the provision had been incorporated in a draft regulation. Last year on the eve of Independence Day, President Zardari had signed amendments to the century-old draconian law, the Frontier Crimes Regulation. The amendments gave the people of Fata the right of appeal against decisions of the political agent for the first time. The president had also signed the Extension of the Political Parties Order, 2002, which allowed political parties to operate freely in the tribal areas.
The president also struck a sombre note. He said that it was ‘natural’ to celebrate independence, but asked the nation to pause and ponder over whether the country has moved towards or away from the ideals for which it was created. “Our founding fathers saw Pakistan as a country where democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law would reign supreme. It was envisaged to be a country where ballot would determine the political choices of the people,” the president said.
Stressing on the incumbent government’s pursuit to complete its full-term in office, the president said that Independence Day this year was of special significance as it was not only taking place in the month of Ramazan, but was also being celebrated at a time when a democratically-elected government was about to complete its mandated term in office. “This is a historic milestone. It augurs well for democracy and democratic traditions in the country,” Zardari said.
Asking the nation to rededicate itself to the democratic ideals and principles of Quaid-e-Azam, the president said all forms of bigotry, extremism and militancy must be banished from the country. The president said that militancy posed the greatest threat to the country, adding that defeating the militant mindset was one of the great challenges. “For this, we must defend democracy and promote tolerance, discussion and debate,” the president said.
In his closing statements, the president urged the nation to seize the opportunities to make Pakistan more prosperous and stronger.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.