Revamp of Pakistan’s National Institutions in Crisis

The institutional strength is not gained in a day. However, the institutional decay begins when a sense of responsibility among institutions fades away. The institutional development is an evolutionary process that consists of a lot many troubled troughs.

The political horizon in Pakistan has never been clear and desirable during the last five years. There have always been dark and light shades shaking the roots of the naive democracy. However, the recent development seen in form of institutions showing their muscles and trying to undermine each other has been bizarre and can never be termed as a healthy sign for the strategic, political, social or economic growth and stability of Pakistan.

However, this shows only one thing that all institutions in Pakistan still need to learn how to operate in their own ambit without poking one’s nose into others’ matters. Parliament, judiciary, executive, media and military have all defined their roles to play and all are there for one reason — to strengthen Pakistan. There is hardly any room for a clash among the national institutions where the national interests are to be pursued.

The institutional strength is not gained in a day. However, the institutional decay begins when a sense of responsibility among institutions fades away. The institutional development is an evolutionary process that consists of a lot many troubled troughs. Strong institutions are one of the most fundamental things that are found common among the powerful and stable nations.

The United Kingdom (UK), the epitome of modern democracy, was once the home of absolute monarchy. It only became possible with the realization that all institutions have a specific role to play. Turning the world’s largest absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy was only possible when acceptance for other institutions was established and modern democracy took birth.

Our neighbour — the largest democracy and the second largest population cluster of the world — India never experienced any attempt by any institution to malign the independent operations of any other institution. This acceptance and maturity of institutions is a true guarantee of developed institutions and this is the first step towards a peaceful journey to prosperity.

The clash of institutions in Pakistan recently is most likely to occur sooner or later because whatever the military has been doing over the last six decades has never been part of its entrusted role. The toothless judiciary has been exhibiting biased and unconstitutional role. Similarly least can be said about parliament that is the supreme institution but has hardly found time to understand its role.

Tracing roots of the current imbroglio:
Let us deliberate upon how things shaped up in Pakistan that has led to the institutional crisis. The change in Pakistan in terms of power-sharing was triggered by enlightenment of media during the Musharraf regime. Paradoxically that was the critical reason behind his collapse too. The success of ‘Long March’ and the reinstatement of Chief Justice of Supreme Court Iftikhar Muhammad Chauhdry could never have been possible without open media. From there onwards an episode named as ‘Judicial Activism’ started in which judiciary played a highly unconventional role and judicial activism this time around was much different from what it used to be in the days of the ‘Doctrine of Necessity.’ That was the beginning of institutional rivalry. This time the famous truce signed in the Musharraf regime with political leaders of Pakistan that is the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was questioned by judiciary.

For the first time in history of Pakistan, the judiciary did not line with those sitting in the power corridors and their credibility was challenged. This gave a lot of encouragement to judiciary as if it is growing finally as an independent institution.

The unwanted ties of judiciary with police and the civil administration have been there since the Local Government Ordinance 2001 and the Police Order 2002 have been put in place. However, they remained under cover till Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chauhdry started taking suo moto action on the misappropriations of the executive. The judiciary summoning heads of law-enforcing agencies and the chiefs of civil administration became a routine and bad blood among institutions heightened. The Haj scandal case, the Steel Mill case, the missing persons’ case, the NLC case, the Ephedrine case, the Memogate scandal and several others projected judiciary as the saviour of people against the ills of the government. Most importantly the judiciary declaring the Balochistan Provincial Assembly ineffective has been a new point of law. While dealing with the case of missing persons and talking about the situation of Balochistan, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice declared that the provincial government had failed to establish its writ in the province and the federal government had been acting like a spectator. Hence, he declared the provincial government as ‘unconstitutional and dysfunctional’. That has brought the clash between the two institutions at a new height.

 Our neighbour’ the largest democracy and the second largest population cluster of the world’ India never experienced any attempt by any institution to malign the independent operations of any other institution.
 However, the most recent and serious of all the clashes has been a problem between the military with the government and later with judiciary too. The post-Osama bin Laden scene has been very shaky in terms of the army-government relationship. The Memogate scandal unveiled the ingrained mistrust of the government on army. The Royal Palm Golf Club case of railway land involving military officers is an incident of tightening of the judicial clutches on army men. Judiciary’s verdict on the Asghar Khan case calling in question the unwanted role of intelligence agencies and army in the political arena has been unprecedented too. Thus, in Pakistan institutions are at daggers drawn with each other.

Analysis:
Pakistan has seen over six decades of independence. However, the Constitution of Pakistan is only thirty-nine-year old. The nation continuously fail to realise that the Constitution is the supreme law of any sovereign nation under which all institutions operate and whose sanctity is most sacred. This country is still being governed as a state where whims and wishes of the lords have more sanctity than any piece of legislation. The rule of law is an unfulfilled dream and a distant reality. Where Pakistan today stands is because of the paralysed, biased and feeble institutions throughout its history.

Today, Pakistan is facing very serious domestic challenges that demand institutional harmony and internal strength. For instance, water, energy and food crises in Pakistan have created inexpressible unrest among people. The rising uneducated youth population and a high rate of unemployment are two most dangerous issues confronting Pakistan. The increasing urbanisation, the environmental and climate problems and the neglected agricultural sector have also added to the people’s worries and woes. These crises collectively are the rising inflation, dwindling health conditions, industrial decay, the law and order situation and serious economic challenges in the international market. However, these problems are not due to lack of resources; rather, because of the mismanagement of the executive authorities. To the government, it is more important to fight its case against the overwhelming effect of judiciary rather than addressing the price hike or non-availability of CNG and petrol.
 This country is still being governed as a state where whims and wishes of the lords have more sanctity than any piece of legislation.
 The situation of law and order is worsening with each passing day. Not only Pakistan’s sovereignty is often questioned but national integration is at high risk due to problems in Balochistan. High claims of law-enforcing agencies have proved a wall of sand in Karachi and Balochistan, the Abbottabad operation, the Salala checkpost attack, the Mehran base attack, attack on the Kamra Air Base, an attack on Bannu Jail and everyday suicide and drones attacks are among the few alarming incidents that demonstrate how fragile is Pakistan’s defence. These incidents point out another very important issue. That is, perhaps, the military establishment has different goals than that of the government and they are not known to the political leadership. This is the height of mistrust among the national institutions.

The regional political dynamics are changing. It is very important for Pakistan to understand that Iran, India, China and Russia are the main players in the region and they are eyeing the American exit from the region. That vacuum has to be filled somehow. If Pakistan does not put itself in a favourable position, it will be losing its ground not only in regional but also in the international political scene. And it is possible only if Pakistan ensures peace at the national institutions.

Suggestive note:
Realizing all domestic, regional and international factors it is easy to analyse that Pakistan is certainly not in a position where any coup is a choice; neither judicial activism is a viable option nor unbridled media is favourable. And the most important thing is that no rubber-stamp parliament can act as a saviour of the people of Pakistan.

What Pakistan needs is stable, active and efficient institutions with smooth functioning in all spheres. The rule of law and sanctity of the Constitution is very important. The defence-related institutions should have the right to be part of the policymaking whether they operate overtly or covertly. Intelligence agencies operate throughout the world and the acts of a few resound around the globe, and their existence can never be denied. So there is no point in criticising the role of intelligence agencies and military leadership in policymaking for national defence. However, no political manoeuvring should be allowed by any non-political, non-elected institution or actor. What judiciary did in Asghar Khan’s case is, in a way, a right thing. But the judiciary must not adopt a dictatorial role and allow the executive to strength its influence by implementation of the government’s policies as well as court orders; a judge cannot be an administrator.

By: Sikander Zishan

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