Two days after NYT warns that Pakistan is on the brink of “abyss,” the country sinks deeper into turmoil.
It was bad enough that after President Asif Ali Zardari paved the way for ousting Nawaz Sharif, the two time prime minister of Pakistan and his brother, ex-Administrative head of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, from contesting elections in the country or from holding government offices, but he also flowered the road for self-proclaimed secular capitalist, Salman Taseer to enforce Governor Raj in the Punjab province — Mistake after mistake, following the footsteps of General Musharraf in his second term, President Zardari is concerning behavior therapists around the world.
Benazir Bhutto paid the price of her life to get Pakistan towards democracy, the only legacy-bearer of her father’s iconic independent spirit. When she went down, so did the fearlessness and confidence left in the average Pakistani’s psyche: “if they can get to her, who are we then?”
With her down, Zardari stepped in as the nation unifier, the one who people thought would craftily glue up the country back together. But he turned out to be a sham and lack in basic management skills. He turned out to have no purpose, no principle to stand by and above all turned out that he didn’t believe in Pakistan. Or he would have restored the judges and stepped aside for the country.
Today the governor, Salman Taseer slashed all attempts toward mediation between the two major parties in the Punjab Assembly by launching a fresh verbal assault on Shahbaz Sharif, moving the conflict into a battle of egos. Consecutively the country’s writ is attacked in Swat, and Sri Lankan cricket players are shot at in the most popular commercial zone in Lahore.
Pakistanis who are actually working toward their founder’s Pakistan, toward Jinnah’s Pakistan had stopped expecting from their governments a while back, and in their lack of expectation grew a culture of complacency but now brews a culture of democracy, and a fiery fire to fight back and be counted.
There is a tyrant, and the alternates waiting in his shadows may be corrupt, even incompetent, but decades of politics have got them to make statements that they will have to stand by.
Not much can be said about Nawaz Sharif, had his law passed in 1999, Pakistan would have already become a socially and economically depraved Afghanistan by now, but he has been forced to take a more middle stance while he clutches democratic forces such as the lawyers’ moment to strengthen his political case.
Shahbaz Sharif has always been a good administrator, an undeniably just mediator and a fair judge in conflict resolution and no amount of corruption attacks on him by the governor will get people to stop wanting more liberty in the form of an independent arbiter and a free and fair supreme court. Now more than ever the restoration of Chaudhary Iftekhar is crucial.
When the United States constitution was drafted, among the shortest article was that of the Independence of the Judiciary. The founding fathers essentially outlined the importance of the common judge of society to be free from any influence from any interest group, but they let the vagueness of the Article allow congress to determine how to frame the judiciary.
The US Congress had a hard time determining a set standard, for instance, the issue of indentured slaved, black voting, woman’s rights, immigrant rights all evolved after long and hard perils of civil melt downs– Similar to the ones happening in Pakistan today.
Pakistan’s Dawn TV in an excellent piece of muckraking uncovered a closed-door meeting where the Law Minister haggles over key positions to hand out as other party members haggle for the hand outs. In this meeting, while cameras rolled, the Federal Law Minister, Farooq Naek says, “There are so many compulsions; there are so many other people to run the government.”
While Pakistan reverts to a Hobsian “state of nature” which is inconvenient, where the protection and amassing of private property or fortunes, in sports, in tourism in trade are so forcefully disengaged and disrupted, there is very little doubt that the fight has come to everyone’s front step, it is no longer just terrorism out there, it’s here, it’s not just girls schools being blown up in Swat. This is a war and we are its target, our livelihood, our children’s access to good education, and fair priced food.
In a mounting act of errors Zardari has cited security reasons to disallow the long march to take place in Islamabad. This brings the political conflict closer to a clash of petty egos on one side and a movement which may not be authentic but is certainly on the side of democracy.
Its time for Pakistan to understand and stand for democratic forces, we have suffered the consequences by not standing up and being counted.