A leading think-tank has underscored the need for the Pakistan Army and its chief to lead by example and work solely within their constitutional mandate, according to the State of Democracy in Pakistan 2022 report.

It would be the first crucial step towards elected governments and civil bureaucracy to take charge of their mandate and role in providing effective democratic governance to the citizens, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Develop­ment and Transparency (Pildat) noted in its report.

Describing 2022 as “a depressing year for democracy”, it says the fiddling with democracy by the establishment in the past seventy plus years “in partnership with power-greedy politicians, exposed one by one during the year culminating in the confession by the outgoing commander, the farce of democratic dispensation became all the more naked in 2022.”

“Pakistan, with the painful state of affairs in 2022, is reaping the bitter fruits of years old policy of establishment interfering in political affairs which nearly paralysed almost all institutions including parliament, political parties, judiciary and bureaucracy.

“Serious soul searching and developing zero tolerance for unconstitutional acts must start from the beginning of 2023, if we wish to stem the rot in body politic of the country,” it noted.

It said it was too early to form a firm opinion but so far there seems to be no evidence of establishment’s involvement in political affairs since the change of guard in the army in November last year.

“This policy of no interference in politics will not yield quick results but if the establishment stands by its commitment to stay aloof from politics, there is hope for long-term improvement in the state of democracy,” it noted.

The report said it was paradoxical that Imran Khan’s ouster from power both broke the control of unspoken authoritarian power in Pakistan as country witnessed an active assault on free media leading to attacks on journalists, divide-and-conquer tactics on social media forcing self-censorship across society and a political witch-hunt in the name of accountability during Mr Khan’s tenure. Yet the ouster negatively affected the continuity of democracy in Pakistan where no prime minister has been able to complete their five-year elected term in office so far.

“However, it is also a reality of the power of military in Pakistan’s political process that Mr Khan’s government ended just when the support of the army was withdrawn. It is also a reality that the coalition government could not have assumed power without the support of the army,” it observed.

Pildat noted that while the National Assembly was the house where the vote of no confidence originated and was passed, there is little that the assembly has seen during the year that has strengthened democracy in Pakistan.

Punjab Assembly witnessed even more embarrassing behaviour during the election of chief minister.

The election of chief minister could only take place as per the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on April 16 and was marred by disorder and violence on the floor of the assembly largely due to negligence by the staff of the assembly secretariat as observed both Pildat and Fafen.

About conduct of the Supreme Court, glimpses of holding up the Constitution was witnessed through the apex court as it set aside the ruling of the deputy speaker on April 7 and also ordered that PM’s advice to the president to dissolve the assembly was also contrary to the Constitution and of no legal effect.

But on May 17, while interpreting Article 63-A of the Constitution, the Supreme Court gave a verdict that votes cast by legislators in violation of their party’s stance must not be taken into account while determining the outcome of a motion.

The Supreme Court resisted to evolve and agree on a clear appointment and elevation criteria for judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan under the current Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial. Sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and other members of the JCP, had to resort to writing public letters to CJP Bandial calling for a transparent, consistent, well-defined appointment criteria for judges and the public, it noted.

Long-awaited assertiveness of independence by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and standing up to fascist attacks during the year was one ray of hope for democracy but as the year ends, some court decisions, especially the one reversing ECP action against the accused Polling Staff at Daska by-election, have raised serious questions whether ECP will be able to stay the course of independence.

The resistance shown by Pakistan’s leading political parties towards establishing administratively and financially independent local governments is depriving the people of their right to have elected governments close to them at their local level.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here