One of the saddest aspects of democratic politics in Pakistan today is how the very political parties who are supposed to be safeguarding are the ones posing the greatest threat. What’s even worse is that certain parties must know that Qadri’s sudden reappearance on the political scene has been engineered by anti-democratic forces and that his ‘solution’ for the country’s woes relies on decidedly extraconstitutional means. If the certain political parties are suddenly so convinced by Qadri’s demagogic rhetoric, then they have a moral responsibility to quit the government. If not, they should disavow Qadri as a dangerous threat to democracy.
Qadri’s proposal is to have a caretaker, technocratic government that would be selected by a combination of the political parties, the military and the judiciary. As pleasing as this idea of consensus sounds, it would be strictly in violation of the Constitution. The process for appointing a caretaker government is carefully laid out in the Constitution and the power to do so rests within the domain of democratic politics, with the responsibility lying with the president and not outside forces. When certain political parties ignore the limitations of the Constitution, they are doing so knowingly and should be roundly castigated for that.
Meanwhile, the Qadri phenomenon still needs to be explained. His appearance was too sudden to be explained as a natural reaction to disappointment in democracy or the performance of the current government. One popular theory is that the military, having first given Imran Khan a nudge, has now shifted its allegiance to Qadri since it realises that the PTI’s electoral prospects have dimmed. If this is the case, then it makes the actions of the certain political parties even worse since they are propping up the most profoundly anti-democratic force in the country and showing that they haven’t learned from their previous support for military regimes. All the chatter surrounding military backing for Qadri is also a worrying sign that the military intends to influence the upcoming general elections. This would be a death blow from which our nascent democracy may never recover.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2013.