In a country where democracy is an interlude to long stretches of military rule, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif wants to draw up a 25-year plan to address Pakistan’s problems. On the face of it, Sharif’s Meesaq-e-Pakistan is unobjectionable. It calls for all political parties and the military to accept election results and honour the constitution. This is a laudable but unrealistic aim and one that even Sharif has been unable to abide by. At a press conference in London on October 17, he said the 2008 elections were rigged against his party despite the fact that those elections were considered among the fairest held in the country. The plan consciously echoes the Charter of Democracy that Sharif and Benazir Bhutto negotiated during the Pervez Musharraf era. While the Charter of Democracy was massively over-hyped, it was more practical than the Meesaq-e-Pakistan. It signalled an alliance between the country’s two largest political parties at a time when a military dictator was ruling the roost and trying to marginalise democratic forces. Its aims were limited: mainly to restore the constitution in its original form. These challenges have now been faced and defeated. We have an elected government and many of the problematic amendments introduced to the constitution by Musharraf have been corrected with the passage of the 18th Amendment.
Nawaz Sharif’s Meesaq-e-Pakistan should be seen as a naked political gambit to box his political opponents in a corner. Just as he used the PPP’s tardiness at restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to claim that the Charter of Democracy had been violated, Sharif is likely to use the Meesaq-e-Pakistan as a cudgel to beat the government whenever he disagrees with it. Pakistan does not need more paperwork right now. It needs a competent government that is held accountable by a hawk-eyed opposition. If political parties can show that democracy works they will be able to banish the spectre of military dictatorships.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2010.
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